Whiskeytown Waterfall Challenge

One of my new favorite places is Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.  Within the park, are four wonderful waterfalls, accessible year-round.  The National Park Service, in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle and get families outside, encourages visitors to take part in a waterfall challenge.  You can download their colorful waterfall passport (or use a nature journal of your own) to document your visit to each of the falls.  Along the trail to each of the falls is a metal pedestal with a relief carving perfect for crayon rubbings.  If you are taking part in the challenge, you are asked to do a rubbing at each of the waterfalls.  Visitors who complete the challenge are awarded a free “I Walked the Falls” bandana.

Crystal Creek Falls
Crystal Creek Falls

Crystal Creek Falls is the only “man-made” waterfall in the park. When the Central Valley Project was designed in the 1920s, an important component was the diversion of a large portion of the Trinity River to Whiskeytown Lake and from there to the Sacramento River. A 17-mile tunnel was excavated to transport the water underground from Trinity Dam to Carr Powerhouse and the tailings were dumped in the area near Crystal Creek Falls.  When it is necessary to shut down Carr Powerhouse for maintenance or to enter the tunnel for cleaning, the valve is turned and the excess water from the tunnel spills into Crystal Creek.  When the overflow structure was built, the Bureau of Reclamation rerouted Crystal Creek. The creek was moved about 50 feet to the left to make a shortcut over the cliff, creating this picturesque waterfall.

Whiskeytown Falls

For over 40 years this 220-foot waterfall was only a secret to the few that knew it existed. For a variety of reasons, some people decided not to share the falls’ existence with others. Today, people from all over the world have heard about the hidden secret.

Brandy Creek Falls
Brandy Creek is noted for five large cascading falls that sweep down across the polished granite rock in the upper box canyon. Upper Brandy Creek Falls plunge in a unique split formation through the steep vertical walls. The trail to the falls was improved in 2005 with hand-hewn rock steps and a metal railing to help hikers safely reach the top of the waterfall. 
Boulder Creek Falls

At over 138 feet high, Boulder Creek Falls was thought to be the tallest waterfall in the park until Whiskeytown Falls was re-discovered in fall of 2004.  The three cascades of Boulder Creek Falls are tucked into a dark, shaded box canyon filled with moss and ferns. 

Old Time Holidays :: Field Trip

Each year in early December, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Old Shasta State Historic Park team up to offer numerous holiday activities for families. Ever intrigued by living history opportunities, we were eager to take part.

 Our first stop was at the historic Camden Tower House, built in 1852, the Camden House is the oldest house in Shasta county.  Here, the kids cooperated together to create a Christmas wreath of evergreens. We then toured the inside of the house (though it is furnished minimally in only two rooms).  It was fun to imagine living here in the late 1800s and looking out upon the orchards.  Upstairs, we enjoyed listening to a Christmas story read aloud by a volunteer in modern clothing.

Returning outdoors, the kids selected a old-style picture postcard and used a feather quill and ink to write a seasonal greeting to a family.  We had tried to make our own feather quills some time ago … the directions had stated to bury the feather in an aluminum pan of hot sand.  We did so … but apparently the sand was too hot and the feathers blistered, warped, and burned.  The kiddos were thereby very excited to give this a go.

We then made our way to Old Shasta where we were able to walk along the row of old, nearly-ruined brick buildings.  Once the “Queen City” of California’s northern mining district, these ruins and some of the nearby roads, cottages, and cemeteries are all silent today.  Volunteers dressed in period attire introduced the kids to numerous children’s games – Hoop & Stick, Game of Graces, and Jacob’s Ladder.  Sweetie asked if perhaps we could volunteer here, “I miss dressing up and pretending I lived in 1880.”  I promised I would inquire, but sadly the park is one of several state parks slated to close in May.

We then walked down to the Blacksmith shop where kids could try their hand at forging a piece of iron into a wall hook.  Sadly, we arrived late in the day and the last visitor they would have time to tutor was just getting started.  Buddy was fascinated … as I’m sure any young boy would be … and he begged to come back another day.

We were able to dip candles, however.  As there weren’t many children at this late hour, they were even able to get back in line a second time.  Each of the kiddos brought home two hand-dipped candles.

Everyone had a great time and it was a fun way to kick off the holidays.  We hope that funding or alternatives can be found to keep the museum accessible.   

Becoming a Junior Ranger at Haleakala National Park

While we were in Maui, Sweetie completed several activities at the Haleakala National Park to become a Junior Ranger. When we arrived, the ranger at the counter gave her a booklet and explained that for her age, she would need to complete 4 booklet activities (as there were no talks scheduled for the time we were there). The activities we selected were:

#1 What is Wilderness?
Whereby she learned about what activities are permitted in the wilderness area.

#2 Who is Native to Hawai’i?
Whereby she learned about the species that are native to Hawai’i and those that are not.

#3 What Animals Live Here?
Whereby she learned about habitats.

#4 Where is the Volcano?
Whereby she learned about volcanic rocks.

#5 Ancient Ways and Words for Today
Whereby she learned two Hawaiian words: malama ‘aina (to respect and care for the land) and alu like mai (pull together, work together)

Upon completion of the activities, Sweetie sat down with a ranger and was interviewed about what she had learned. I videotaped the interview and hope to post it here as soon as I can figure out how to download it off the video camera. During the interview, Sweetie described to her what she had learned about invasive species before our arrival. “I want to go to a luau so that I can eat bad pig!” (We didn’t explain to her that the kahlua pig isn’t likely the wild pig that is destroying the forests.)

Sweetie also told her about a snail that she had helped get across a trail so that it wouldn’t get stepped on. The ranger asked us to describe the snail and in doing so, we learned that based upon it’s size and color, it was likely the invasive African Cannibalistic Snail. “The native tree snails are found higher in elevation.” Sweetie was distraught, “Oh no! I should have stepped on it then!” The ranger got a chuckle out of that.

Most National Park Service sites that have a Junior Ranger program award participants a plastic badge for completing the program. Some award a patch; a few award a lapel pin. Some do both. Haleakala awarded a badge. However, they had patches available for purchase so we bought one as they are our preference. As she completes future Junior Ranger programs, I’ll make a banner for her to display her badges & patches.

Click here for more information about the National Parks Junior Ranger program. Another very informative site was created by a teen… Sam Maslow’s Junior Ranger Site.