Helmcken Falls – Jewel of Wells Grey Park

Helmcken Falls – The Jewel of Wells Grey

It is no exaggeration to call Helmcken Falls the “Jewel of Wells Grey Park“. Rated by Readers Digest as one of “Canada’s 10 most Beautiful Waterfalls”. Helmcken Falls is the centerpiece to Wells Gray Provincial Park, one of the most powerful waterfalls on earth and one of BC’s prime tourist draws,” says the World’s Waterfall Database. This is truly a must see when you are in the area.

The Murtle River narrows from 300 feet wide just a few kilometres upstream (Dawson Falls) to 75 feet and roars over the lip of the canyon. The water hurtles 462 feet to create a large amphitheatre (one of North America’s largest natural amphitheatre). The bowl is more than 500 feet wide and carves back over 100 feet into the cliff behind the falls.

Further downstream there is a second 50 foot drop which isn’t counted in Helmcken’s official height. The two drops make Helmcken over 500 feet. The volume of spray is sufficient that under the right conditions it can be seen well above the canyon rim.

The view point is some distance from the falls making it difficult to truly appreciate the power and size of the falls. Still, the view is nothing short of awe inspiring. The World Waterfall Database says, “Simply put, Helmcken Falls is unquestionably one of the best waterfalls in all of North America.”

Helmcken Falls, Wells Grey Park, Clearwater BC

Helmcken Falls

 

Helmcken Falls in Winter

The water plunges over the canyon rim year round. The spray bowl in winter can exceed 200 feet tall. In recent years ice climbers have discovered the falls and it is rated as the world’s most difficult mixed climb. The falls are accessible year round.

Helmcken falls - Winter

Helmcken falls – Winter

Helmcken – the name

The falls were discovered in the summer of 1913 by by Canadian Government land surveyor Robert Lee in July of 1913. The falls were named for Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken who was active in the early governance of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

Getting to Helmcken

Take the Clearwater Valley Road (main park access road) 42 kilometers north from the highway in Clearwater, then turn left at the signs for the falls and follow 4 kilometers to the end of the road. A short well maintained trail will take you to the viewing area from the parking lot (approx 5 minutes).

 

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall … it takes all year to do it all … in Clearwater

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Moul Falls a hidden gem

Moul Falls

We continue our exploring the waterfalls of Wells Grey with a look at Moul Falls. Neither as tall as Helmcken Falls or Spahats Falls nor as wide as Dawson Falls, Moul has a unique charm is should be on every visitor’s must see list.

Moul Falls, Grouse Creek, Waterfalls of Wells Grey

Pouring from Grouse creek, spanning 40 feet with a vertical drop of 115 feet, Moul is pretty year round. The crown in this hidden gem is the undercut behind the falls. It is possible to actually stand behind the falls or traverse the creek from behind them.

Accessing the undercut ledge (cave) will mean crossing some slippery, wet rocks and you will likely get wet from the spray. It is worth it (especially on hot summer days), there are few places you can stand behind a real wilderness waterfall. You can photograph the falls from front and behind, just be careful on those wet rocks.

Moul is a little less accessible than some of the other front of park waterfalls as it requires a 6 km round trip hike from the parking area, but is well worth the hike. Like many of the falls in Wells Grey, Moul cascades down where the lava has been eroded to the underlying basalt.

ACCESSING MOUL FALLS

The parking area for Moul falls is approximately 20 km up Clearwater Valley Rd on the south side. After parking, hike through the gate and down the old logging road following the signs. The trail eventually swings to the left and takes you to the falls (distance from trailhead to falls – approx. 3km each way). Note that while the bulk of the trail is a gentle slope, there is a steep set of stairs to access the base of the falls.

Moul Falls, waterfalls of Wells Grey

Stairs to Moul Falls

 

 

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Canyon Falls

In the second instalment of our series “the waterfalls of Wells Grey”, we examine the trio of Canyon Falls. Rather unimaginatively named, the canyons are named as they appear on the park road. First, second and third canyon all have waterfalls. You will likely drive past these falls without ever knowing they exist. Only one of the three is visible from the road.

First Canyon Falls

According to the world waterfall database “The first of the three Canyon Creeks along the Wells Gray – Clearwater corridor holds a small waterfall at its head, but because of the angle of the gorge and the crumbly substrate, viewing the falls is exceptionally dangerous and not recommended. The falls can be heard from the road, and partially glimpsed from the left side of the bridge, but getting close would warrant being in a harness. First Canyon Creek flashed in 1997, wiping out the bridge spanning the stream and in the process, deepened the canyon considerably. There is supposedly a second fall downstream a short distance that can be accessed from the First Canyon Creek access to the Clearwater River Trail. First Canyon is crossed 13 ½ km up the Clearwater Valley Road from the Yellowhead Highway in Clearwater.”

Second Canyon Falls

Another set of falls not visible by road. The upper falls were destroyed some time ago in a flash flood. This canyon has proved troublesome by damaging or destroying four bridges and causing many problems with the culvert system  with serious flash floods and erosions. Apparently another falls is still to be found somewhat downstream although we have not visited it. It is possible to hike up from the Clearwater River but be cautious as the trail is not great and flash floods are dangerous.

Third Canyon Falls

At least part of these falls are visible if you park and walk out onto the bridge. The canyon snakes around quite a bit so it is not possible to see the full falls clearly. Trying to walk out and get to see the falls better could prove dangerous.

While not spectacular like some others, Third Canyon falls are pretty enough to warrant a stop and see. Be certain to stop before or after the bridge and park safely.

There is another falls downstream but it is not visible from the bridge.

Third Canyon Falls, Wells Grey Park, Clearwater BC

Third Canyon Falls

 

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Wells Grey Park Reopens

Wells Gray Park Reopens

It’s official, Wells Grey Park reopens tomorrow morning (July 25) at 7:00 AM. While the park was not directly affected by any of the wildfire, it was prudent to close it. None the less we are glad that its open.

During the closure it was business as usual in Clearwater BC. At Valley Hideaway Guest House, we had guests who wanted to visit the world famous falls but could not. That changes tomorrow.

Once again we can go into the park. We can enjoy the magnificent waterfalls and unspoiled wilderness. Visit Helmcken Falls, one  of the highest in Canada. With a drop of 462 feet, Helmcken is rated by World Waterfall Database as “one of the most powerful waterfalls on earth”.

Check out the many other easily accessible falls on your way up. Hike into Moul Falls and walk behind them. It’s definitely worth the trip.

Stop by the third canyon bridge and see Third Canyon Falls. Check out Spahats Falls, just minutes from the Wells Grey Information Centre.

See Little Niagara (Dawson Falls) and be astounded at the raw power of the river at the Mushbowl as the river narrows. Plenty of other falls to explore as well.

Check out the lakes in Wells Grey Park. Marvel at some of the old growth forest. Hike some of the beautiful trails.  Be astounded at the vista from Green Mountain Lookout. There is enough to see and do to keep you occupied for days.

Watch for wildlife, there is plenty of it.

WHITEWATER AND MORE

Interior Whitewater Expeditions has announced that with the Park reopening they will be resuming their trips on the Clearwater River. No doubt the other companies will be announcing the same. Be sure to check them out. Enjoy wild white water or a gentle float trip.

IWE, Whitewater rafting, Wells Grey Park

Riding the White Water on the Clearwater River, Wells Grey Park, Clearwater BC

 

WELLS GREY INFORMATION CENTRE

The staff at the info centre have been great through the wildfire problem. Be sure to stop by and get the latest updates on tours, sights to see and activities. They can direct you to all the sights in Wells Grey Park and many of the other things to see and do in Clearwater.

 

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