I think what is confusing for folks when trying to find Big Falls is the fact that you can't see the river down thru the trees from the trail. On our 1st trip, Harry and I heard a lot of noise that sounded like it could have been a waterfall. One noise really caught our attention just before that surveyed area I mentioned on the previous page. In 2000, it looked like the survey had been very recent and looked like it may have been a trail, so we took it. It was steep, but there were a lot of rhodos and trees to hold on to on the way down. When we got to the river, there was nothing - just the wild river. We thought Big Falls was up river, so off we went. It's a total bushwhack over rocks, boulders and fallen timber and wading in the river, but the river route looked easier than 'shwacking along the bank. Big Falls wasn't up there, but we found waterfall #2.
On our 2nd attempt to find the falls in 2001, Joann decided to join us so we brought her GPS along, programmed with the location of the falls. We passed the previously mentioned survey boundary and when we got to a point on the trail we knew was below the falls, we began our decent. We still didn't find the trail Adam's mentions, and the way we went was very difficult. We ended up about 1/4 mile below the falls at a really nice spot on the river, so we decided to eat lunch and take a break. Then, here come 2 guys - tennis shoes, no shirts, no water, no nothing - bookin' it up thru the river from down stream. They had come from the Foothills Trail and confirmed that Big Falls was up river a ways, then headed off up a small cascade, over some boulders and out of site. This appeared to be the best path, so we packed up our stuff and headed up river. This is when it dawned on us that the river was sometimes the best trail. The Thompson is like a lot of other rivers and streams in the mountains - littered with rocks, boulders, and fallen timber, but yielding rewards like seldom seen cascades and small falls. There were some deep pools along the way, but we managed to stay in water knee to barely-getting-our-shorts deep. I think it took us about 30 minutes to finally get a glimpse of the falls, and I'll never forget the excitement we all felt as the falls came into good view for the first time. By this time, we were on the right side of the river and were able to climb up the boulders to the big rock area to the right of the falls. It was a great day.
When it got to be time to leave, Joann said there was no way in hell that she was going back the same way we came. So we opted to try heading up the right side of the waterfall (away from the waterfall), then up river. This was no picnic either and is only for experienced adventurers, but in the end we decided when we returned to Big Falls, we would go this way instead. If you want to see the waterfall above Big Falls and are already at Big Falls, this is maybe the best way to go. Remember, this was 2001 and we hadn't found the Kevin Adams' trail. We headed into the woods to the right of large rock area, away from the waterfall. Too far right is a rock wall, too far left is too close to the waterfall. It kind of looked like others had gone this way in the past, and sure enough, we found a rope that helped us up the last 10' to the level even with the top of the waterfall. Just up river from this is a chute area where the river narrows just before it plunges over Big Falls. If you slip here, you'll die. We didn't know at the time that the next waterfall is just around the bend from the chute. In Kevin Adams new waterfall guide, he calls this waterfall #3. We continued on the right through the woods and passed above the falls. At a point not too far above this falls, we hit the river again and waded up to the survey line Harry and I had previously found. There was a red mark sprayed on a boulder indicating the boundary.
I've been back to Big Falls several times over the past few years with a variety of people. We've been both ways and these next photos are a combination of all the trips. The next shot is the chute area above Big Falls. The second shot is looking up river from the chute. There's a cascade above the chute, but the waterfall is around the corner to the right.
On the trip in 2002 where we found waterfall #3. This was the time I first met Dana, Kenny, and Jan. Water flow was low on this trip and we were able to safely wade the river above the chute up to below the waterfall. The river flows mostly over bedrock at this point. Just around the bend in the above photo is a huge monolith guarding the waterfall in the background. Dana thought we should call this Standing Stone Falls, so this is our unofficial name for this falls. It might look like it would be easy to get a closer view of the falls, but it's not. The boulders are huge and it's steeper than it looks. You can see KT down there and Dana trying to climb up the log in the 2nd photo. The waterfall is a free fall followed by a cascade down the rocks.
Next is a shot of us bushwhacking up the river. If you've never done this, you really have to think hard about it. You need good arm and leg strength, good knees, and good balance. I give warnings in various places on the site, but you can get in serious trouble fast with one slip. Then other people have to risk their lives to come in and try to get you out. I don't recommend sandals, especially flip-flops, and Dana now wears river shoes. On warm days you can almost always find a nice pool to relax and cool off in before the steep ascent up to the main trail.
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