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

Valley Hideaway Guest House is open year round.

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Clearwater – A Restful Stop

Clearwater – A Restful Stop

Clearwater is a restful stop for those who are doing their Alberta/BC tour. One of the most common comments from our overseas visitor is “If we had known it was this beautiful and peaceful we would have booked to stay longer”.

Tourist come from around the world to explore the beauty and majesty of Canada’s incredible wilderness. Here in Clearwater, we have it all. Majestic mountains. Pristine wilderness. Breath taking waterfalls. Wildlife. Birding. Unspoiled lakes and rivers.

It is with good reason that Tourism Wells Grey uses the slogan “The Canada You Imagined”. We have the things you want to see without all the heavily commercialized tourism that accompanies some of the better known locations such as Banff, Jasper and Whistler. Wells Grey Park has more than 5,200 square kilometres (1.3 million acres) of alpine wilderness.

There are 39 named water falls in what many call Canada’s Waterfall Park. One of them, Helmcken Falls was named byReader’s Digest as one of “Canada’s 10 Most Beautiful Waterfalls”. There are waterfalls accessible year round for your viewing pleasure.

Our guests have called Valley Hideaway “like home, only better”, “a wonderful retreat” and a “restful place to stay”. After the hustle and bustle of packing up every night and driving several hours for the next sightseeing stop, only to repeat the process the following day, they have appreciated being able to have full use of the house and yard and just enjoy.

There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied, sightseeing, hiking, whitewater rafting, parasailing, horseback riding, kayaking and more. In season there are some unique and delightful restaurants. Even in the offseason, there is good food at fair prices although the number of restaurants is smaller. In the off season enjoy frozen waterfalls, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and more. There is never a shortage of things to enjoy.

 

Front view Valley Hideaway Guest House Clearwater

 

Edmonton to Vancouver (or vice versa)

Clearwater is strategically placed for a great stopover when traveling from Northern Alberta to the Lower Mainland. Break the driving in two. Take a stretch, enjoy a meal in one of the local restaurants and get a good nights sleep.

 

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

Valley Hideaway Guest House is open year round.

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Valley Hideaway Guest House is a non smoking property

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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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Dawson Falls – Waterfalls of Wells Gray

DAWSON FALLS

In our fourth instalment on the waterfalls of Wells Gray we look at Dawson Falls. What these falls lack in height compared to Spahats and Helmcken, they more than make up for in width. The Murtle River thunders nearly 60 feet (18 meters) across a 350 foot (107 meters) curved vista.

Sometime referred to as Little Niagara because of their broad, curved shape, easy access to the falls allows for an up close and personal waterfall experience. While at their highest levels in late spring or early summer, every visitor to Wells Gray Provincial Park should make a point of checking these falls out, no matter what time of the year.

Two different views of the falls provide very differing perspectives. Downstream by the canyon’s rim you can appreciate the width of the cascade. Up closer you can experience them in a more intimate way and almost touch them.

Dawson Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

GETTING TO DAWSON FALLS

The falls are located in the heart of the Clearwater Corridor section of Wells Gray Provincial Park. Take the Clearwater Valley Road 41 kilometers north from the Yellowhead Highway in Clearwater to the parking area and trailhead. The easy trail brings you to the falls in about ten minutes, with occasional sneak peeks along the way. Alternately it is accessible on the other side via a 20 minute hike from Pyramid Campground to a viewing area.

HISTORY OF DAWSON FALLS

According to the World Waterfall Database… “Its not entirely clear who first discovered the falls, but it may have been surveyor Robert Lee who was responsible for first mapping and naming the falls in 1913. The falls bear the name of George Herbert Dawson, who acted as the Land Surveyor General for British Columbia between 1912 and 1917.”

 

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The Birchleg

The Birchleg is coming February 3, 2018

What is the Birchleg?

The Birchleg is a family fun cross country ski event. It begins with a mass start at 10:00 AM at the Candle Creek Cross Country Ski Trails. You can expect expert skiers, families and novices out for a good time. Ski all 28 km of trails or ski just a bit, its up to you.

Its your chance to dress up like a viking or ancient Norwegian. There are prizes for the best costume. It’s followed by a hot Norwegian Style lunch (or vegetarian lunch). Its a fun filled community event.

Whats it all about?

According to the Wells Gray Outdoors Club (Clearwater, BC, Canada):

Rescue of-Haakon-Haakonsson-painted-by-Knud-Bergslien

Rescue of Haakon Haakonsson. Painted by Knud Bergslien

 “The Birchleg is a fun ski event in early February re-enacting a cross country ski trip made by two Viking warriors in the 13th Century. King Haakon of Norway was murdered in 1204 during a time of civil war. The King’s infant son was in immediate peril of the same fate. Two Viking warriors loyal to their dead king and his heir took the baby to safety in Trondheim. Their flight was in midwinter, skiing 55 kilometres across the mountains. Holding the child secure behind a shield, these warriors were armed with a battle-axe and spears. Young Haakon Haakonson grew to adulthood in safety, returning to Norway to claim his father’s throne.”

There was even a movie made recently about the rescue of King Haakon based on the mythic historical story. The Last King is worth watching, whether you plan to ski the Birchleg or not.

A scene from the rescue as depicted in “The Last King” – Image Courtesy Norwegian Film Institute

Follow this link for waiver and entry form.

Busy BirchLeg day? No problem, there’ re still lots of opportunities to cross country (nordic) ski here through the rest of the winter.  More than 25 km of groomed trails at Candle Creek await you at. There are still more groomed trails at North Thompson Provincial Park and there are miles upon miles of unbroken trails through the wilderness.

If you are looking for a place to stay while here, book your stay at Valley Hideaway Guest House, we are open year round.

Valley Hideaway Guest House is a non smoking property

No Smoking inside the guest house or on the premises

 

Wells Gray Park Open

WELLS GRAY PARK OPEN

Update From Wells Grey Tourism … Wells Gray Park Open ….

“OPEN!!!
Wells Gray Park is fully open tomorrow morning (September 12, 2017) at 8:00 AM. This includes Moul Falls, the flower meadows, and the West Lake Loop. See you on the trails! Hooray!”

Wells Gray Park Open

 

The back country of Wells Grey Park, in Clearwater BC has been closed for much of the summer due to fire hazard. Access to some of the Falls (Spahats Falls, Dawson Falls, the Mushbowl, and Helmcken Falls) has been available but most of the walk in falls were inaccessible. The entire park is open.

That all changes tomorrow. The park is reopen. That’s good news for everyone.

Time for a hike? Come to Clearwater. Hike the Trophies. Explore to your heart’s content.

Want to stand under a waterfall? Come to Clearwater and hike into Moul Falls. It’s an experience you will never forget.

Come check out the salmon at Bailey’s Chute. They are still running.

Come and see the sights that people from all over the world journey here for. Come be amazed at the wonder of it all.

Clearwater BC and Wells Grey Park are worth seeing for the first time or once again.

You might not realize that much of the park is open year round. I think that some of the falls (particularly Helmcken Falls) have a special majestic beauty in the winter season. See ice cones at the bottom of the falls several hundred feet tall.

Come cross country ski or snowshoe. Try your hand at ice fishing.

BOOK YOUR STAY WITH AT VALLEY HIDEAWAY GUEST HOUSE. Like the Park, we are open year round as well.

Clearwater is for more than summer. Winter, summer, spring and fall, it takes all year to do it all in Clearwater.

Valley Hideaway Guest House is a non smoking property

No Smoking inside the guest house or on the premises

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

 

Be sure to book your guest suite at Valley Hideaway Guest House B&B. We are open year round.

Valley Hideaway Guest House is a non smoking property

No Smoking inside the guest house or on the premises

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.

 

Looking to Retreat, Rest, Restore, or Explore? Book your stay at Valley Hideaway Guest House.

Valley Hideaway Guest House is a non smoking property

No Smoking inside the guest house or on the premises

 

Volcanoes and Waterfalls

Volcanoes and Waterfalls

Volcanoes and waterfalls and more, oh my!

Pyramid Mountain. Surrounded by other volcanoes and waterfalls.

Pyramid Mountain

VOLCANOES

Did you know that experts believe that Wells Gray has more types of volcanic phenomena than any other area of earth? It has often been called the “Land of Fire and Ice”.

When travelling in the park be sure to look at the many volcanic features. You can see columnar basalt, rock rodeo, volcanic pillows and more. Pyramid Mountain is a Tuya (sometimes spelled Thuya) — a volcano that formed under the ice of a glacier. You can see Pyramid Mountain from the Green Mountain Lookout or hike in.

Forged by glacial ice and volcanic activity, the Clearwater River Valley  is renowned world wide for its waterfalls. The steep drops between the edge of the lava flows and the Clearwater River far below for incredible viewing. There are more than 40 named waterfalls in Wells Grey Park. All of them are beautiful and some of them are simply stunning.

WATERFALLS

Check out Helmcken Falls, one of the highest free falling waterfalls in Canada. This incredible falls is more than 2.5 times the height of Fiagara Falls. according to the world waterfall database, “Helmcken Falls is the centerpiece to Wells Gray Provincial Park, one of the most powerful waterfalls on earth”

Just upstream, from Helmcken, Dawson Falls is more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide and has been called little Niagara by many.

At Spahats Falls, there are integrative signs detailing much of the unique volcanic and glacial history of the area. Spahats is one of the most accessible falls and is a wonder to see.

Hike into Moul Falls and stand beneath a 40 foot waterfall. Moul Falls, though not quite as high as some of the other local waterfalls, is one of the best kept secrets of the Clearwater Valley.

 

Check our local Visitor Centre for maps and directions to some of these fascinating geological features.

 

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Wells Gray Star Gazing Festival 2017

On August 4, 2017, check out the Wells Gray Star Gazing Festival 2017 (hosted by Tourism Wells Grey)

When?  Friday, August 4 at 7:30 PM – 10 PM

Where? 25 kms up the Wells Gray Park Road, (Across from the Thompson Rivers University Education and Research Station)

 

Come out during the Perseid Meteor showers for an evening of Star Gazing in Wells Gray Park.

Presentation by Bill Burnyeat, Resident Astronomer at the British Columbia Institute of Technology where he operates the 75-seat planetarium star theatre.

Set your sight on stars and objects near and far through the 16″ reflector telescope.

Admission by donation.
Gates open at 7:30 pm
Presentation at 8:30
Bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. No dogs please.

 

Star Gazing Festiva, Wells Gray Park, Clearwater BC

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Valley Hideaway Guest House is a non smoking property

No Smoking inside the guest house or on the premises