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backcountry

The Backcountry of Yellowstone National Park is filled with unique and seldom seen features.  Many day hikers and backpackers in-the-know will seek out their favorite waterfalls or explore new ones.  

The new book, "The Guide To Yellowstone Waterfalls And Their Discovery", will encourage hikers and seasoned waterfall seekers to check out waterfalls that just recently, were never even known.  These "hidden jewels" of Yellowstone have remained in tact as they were since the birth of this great ecosystem.  The following are just the tip of what you may find by just parking your vehicle and go exploring. 



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"The Wonders of Yellowstone"
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Two years in the making and just released, "The Wonders of Yellowstone" video has been highly requested, produced in DVD format and is only available through YellowstoneNationalPark.com. Take a complete tour of Yellowstone National Park as our Narrator Cathy Coan, guides you to all the wonders of the park including the geyser basins, wildlife, waterfalls and much more.

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More Info or Order Online


 


CAVE FALLS (On-trail, w/ road access)(photo by Paul Rubinstein)
This waterfall of the Falls River in the southwest corner of the park is only twenty feet high, but its spectacularity rests in the fact that it is 250 feet wide. It is probably the park's widest waterfall. It has an immediate upper step that is about three feet high and a lower step about 100 yards downstream that is around five feet high.  

Cave Falls is accessible by road from Ashton, Idaho and is quite popular with local Idaho residents. It is the starting point for many hikes in the Bechler Region as several trailheads are located here.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)TERRACED FALLS (on-trail)
Terraced Falls is perhaps the most striking waterfall of the entire Falls River. It is composed of six falls, which all together total about 140 feet. Members of the 1872 Hayden survey wrote of five falls here but geologist Walter Weed noted six in 1886 with heights of 35, 25, 50, 5, 10, and 5 feet respectively.

Terraced Falls is easily accessible via the Terraced Falls Trail from the Reclamation (Ashton-Flagg Ranch) Road along the park's south boundary. In two miles the trail passes six other small falls and cascades and we recommend it highly for anyone who wants an introductory taste of the Yellowstone backcountry.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)UNION FALLS (on-trail)
This breathtakingly beautiful falls is one of Yellowstone's tallest at 250 feet and is one of the most frequently named candidates for "most beautiful" of Yellowstone's waterfalls. Formed by the union of Mountain Ash Creek and an unnamed branch, it was named during the period 1884-86 by members of the Hague parties of the U.S. Geological Survey. It is a massive, imposing, and gorgeous waterfall. 

It is geologically unique in appearance with its twin streams falling mightily over its sheer face of rock. It ranks as one of the most popular employee day hikes in the entire park. Trailheads at Grassy Lake, Fish Lake, and Cave Falls will all lead to the falls. The shortest is the Grassy Lake trailhead with a round-trip of nearly 15 miles. It should be noted that this route is also the most strenuous with at least one large ridge to climb on the return trip. Consult any park trail guide for more information on this extremely worthwhile and memorable hike.


 

MORNING FALLS (off-trail)(photo by Paul Rubinstein)
One of the more recent waterfall discoveries of the Yellowstone backcountry is a stunning, sixty-foot falls located on the unnamed north fork of Mountain Ash Creek about two miles northwest of Union Falls. In addition its stature is further enhanced by its one hundred-foot width. The name was suggested in 1976 by guidebook writer Tom Carter from the fact that the falls faces southeast, while the rest of the stream faces southwest, and hence catches the rays of the morning sun.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)OUZEL FALLS (off-trail - to view up close)
Often touted as one of Yellowstone's tallest waterfalls, this elegant waterfall is 230 feet high and is located on the lower stretch of Ouzel Creek. It was named in 1885 by the Hague Survey for the water ouzel or American dipper, a small slate-gray bird which feeds underwater by diving and walking along the bottoms of streams. Ouzel Falls is best observed in the early season as it loses a great deal of its water towards the latter part of August.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)COLONNADE FALLS (on-trail)
This double-plunge of the Bechler River was named in 1885 by members of the Hague Survey. A colonnade is a series or row of columns placed at regular intervals, or a double row or avenue (as of trees). The reason for the name is undocumented, but it probably referred either to the nearby columnar basalt layers which resemble columns or to the fact that there were two waterfalls, or perhaps to both. The upper falls is 35 feet tall while the lower is 67 feet.


 

Photo by Paul RubinsteinIRIS FALLS (on-trail)
A 45-foot-high falls of the Bechler River, Iris Falls was named either for its irised spray which often creates a rainbow here or for Iris, a Greek and Roman female goddess of the rainbow. Regardless, rainbows seem to have been forefront in the thinking of Hague Survey members who named it in 1885.


 

(photo by Mike Stevens)ALBRIGHT FALLS (on-trail)
Albright Falls, a 260-foot sloping cascade on an unnamed southerly tributary of the Bechler River, was named in 1986 by park superintendent Bob Barbee following the death of Horace Marden Albright. Albright helped to found the National Park Service in 1916, served as Yellowstone's superintendent for the decade 1919-1929, and was an advisor and mentor to the Park Service for the rest of his life.

Albright Falls can be readily seen from the Bechler River Trail. Unfortunately, trees today obscure some parts of its whitewater cascade from nearly every angle.


 

RAGGED FALLS (on-trail)(photo by Paul Rubinstein)
Ragged Falls is located on the Ferris Fork of the Bechler River about 200 yards above Three River Junction. Characteristically named because of its ragged appearance, this 45-foot waterfall was named in 1921 by park photographer Jack Haynes.

This falls is easily seen from the Bechler River trail, which passes next to its brink. However the superior viewpoint is from the opposite (eastern) side of the stream.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)TENDOY FALLS (off-trail)
Tendoy Falls, located on Ferris Fork of the Bechler River, is thirty-three feet high. W. C. Gregg and Jack Haynes named it in 1921 for Tendoy, a chief of the Lemhi Shoshones, who lived near Yellowstone National Park in eastern Idaho.

This waterfall is quite pleasing. It is set between gray, 40-foot cliffs that line both sides of the creek for some distance downstream.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)WAHHI FALLS (off-trail)
This two-step waterfall on the Ferris Fork of the Bechler River has heights of 28 feet (upper) and 18 feet (lower). The name Wahhi Falls comes from a Shoshone Indian term (wahat hwa) meaning "two step" or "double." The falls themselves are both plunges.


 

TWISTER FALLS (on-trail)(photo by Paul Rubinstein)
There has long been confusion between this falls on the Gregg Fork of the Bechler River and another one a short distance upstream. Many recent maps show the name Twister on the wrong feature. The true Twister Falls as mapped in 1921 and named by explorer W.C. Gregg that year is three-quarters of a mile downstream from the other, and closer to the mouth of Littles Fork. This original Twister Falls makes a characteristic twist as the water drops and has a height of 55 feet.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)DUNANDA FALLS (on-trail)
This exquisite falls, located on Boundary Creek, is 150 feet high. A plunge-type falls, it has always been credited with discovery in 1920 by explorer W.C. Gregg. It is a nine mile hike from the Bechler Ranger Station and and is a very popular backcountry hike. It also has the distinction of gracing the cover of this book.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)SILVER SCARF FALLS (on-trail)
Located only one-quarter mile east of Dunanda Falls, Silver Scarf Falls is on an unnamed branch of Boundary Creek which hikers must cross three times on the trail from Bechler Ranger Station before reaching the falls itself. This falls is only two hundred yards southeast of Dunanda Falls.

The unnamed stream on which Silver Scarf Falls is located originates many miles north in a large, open valley containing massive number of unmapped, unnamed thermal springs there which contribute to the water of this warm stream.


(photo by Paul Rubinstein)FERN CASCADES (on-trail)
A series of cascades on Iron Spring Creek can be viewed only a few short miles southwest of Old Faithful Geyser. Its name, Fern Cascades, is characteristic of the luxuriant ferns which grow in this moist area. The feature is a three-step cascade with drops of 10 feet, 20 feet, and 70 feet.

Portions of this lengthy stretch of whitewater can be seen from the Fern Cascades Loop Trail. Unfortunately good views are only available of the 10 and 20-foot sections.


 

Photo by Mike StevensMYSTIC FALLS (on-trail)
Located on the Little Firehole River, Mystic Falls has a height of about seventy feet. Originally called "Little Firehole Falls" by the 1872 Hayden survey, its present name, given in 1885, is probably merely fanciful and imaginative. It has long been a favorite short hike of Old Faithful area visitors and employees, and 1930s visitors often swam at its base.

The short trip to Mystic Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Yellowstone. An easy well-maintained trail leaves the boardwalk at the far end of Biscuit Basin and winds through lodgepole pines for a short mile before reaching the falls.


 

(photo by Mike Stevens)FAIRY FALLS (on-trail)
Located on Fairy Creek south of Twin Buttes, Fairy Falls plunges 197-feet from the Madison Plateau. Captain J.W. Barlow named it in 1871.

The two-mile hike to Fairy Falls is another of the park's more popular. An inviting plunge-pool at its bottom seems to beckon to bathers, although the water is usually quite cold.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)SILVER CORD CASCADE (on-trail)
Perhaps Yellowstone's tallest waterfall, this extremely high waterfall (or series of steep cascades) plummets some 1200 feet. It is located on Surface Creek at the point that stream enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from the south. Hikers can view it from the Glacial Boulder Trail near Inspiration Point, roughly one mile east of Glacial Boulder. If one is so inclined, the Ribbon Lake Trail leads to the brink of this falls, but here much caution must be used.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)OSPREY FALLS (on-trail)
This 150-foot waterfall of the Gardner River was named in 1885 by members of the Hague parties of the U.S.G.S. for the osprey or fishhawk which frequents Yellowstone Park. Although it is on a major park stream, hikers only occasionally visit it. It can be reached via the Osprey Falls trail, which is accessed by the Bunsen Peak loop drive (no longer open to motor vehicles but available for bicycles and foot travel). Hikers should be aware that this is a steep trail with many switchbacks as it descends over 700 feet into the heart of Sheepeater Canyon.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)HIDDEN FALLS (on-trail)
Nameless for many years and appearing on maps only as "falls," this twenty-foot falls was first documented by Captain John Barlow in 1871. Over 100 years later the falls reappeared under the name "Hidden Falls" in the 1984 publication Ribbons of Water. It is easy to miss this falls even though it is only a short distance from the Blacktail-Yellowstone River trail.


 

(photo by Paul Rubinstein)PLATEAU FALLS (off-trail)
This extremely remote, 80-foot waterfall of Plateau Creek was named around 1896 by members of the Hague parties of the U.S.G.S. It can be found high on the Two Ocean Plateau in the park's Thorofare region, making it Yellowstone's most distant, officially named waterfall. It takes a minimum of three days just to hike to this distant and rarely visited locale.

 

 


For more information on Yellowstone National Park and
the surrounding communities visit these helpful sites:

YellowstoneNationalPark.com
- YellowstoneLodging.com
YellowstoneFlyFishing.com


Copyright @1999-2013 Yellowstone Media

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