Whitney Creek flows through a canyon of ash and aggregate.
Flowing off the north side of Mount Shasta, Whitney Creek is the largest watershed on this side of the mountain. It originates as meltwater from the Whitney Glacier and flows through a barren volcanic landscape before it plummets off a 200 foot cliff at Whitney Falls. It then races through a deep canyon before being joined by Bolam Creek, the northside’s other significant creek. Other than when the creek passes through lava flows, nearly its entire journey the terrain is composed of ash, loose rock and layers of glacial till. It is an unusual and beautiful landscape to see a water running through.
Something was nagging at me when I posted my recent article on Whitney Creek. Something about the creek just didn’t click in my memory the way it should have. I started sifting through old pictures of the creek until I found what I was looking for. Hidden away in my collection of old images I have taken of Mount Shasta, I knew there were old images that showed Whitney Creek from the same place the pictures in the article were taken. When I found them, I was able to confirm what had been bothering me. I had subconsciously realized that the creek’s channel was significantly different from the way the creek was fixed in my memory.
The images are not from the exact same perspective but they do show the same stretch of the creek. Whitney Creek has cleared away a substantial amount of the debris that fills its channel. I have passed the creek here numerous times and never payed much attention to the fact that its appearance has been altered considerably. I think I recognized this now because I have been tuned into the changing landscape of the Sacramento River at the inlet of Lake Siskiyou. I have written about this subject ad nauseum, but it really has made me more sensitive to how water continues to alter the land that channels it.
Of course, this was not a new phenomenon on Whitney Creek. Not only was there the infamous glacial outburst of 1997, but I have witnessed and written about these changes myself. I suspect the result of the flooding I documented in 2014 was responsible for the same changes I noticed on this stretch last week. These weren’t connected in my mind however and the changing channel went unnoticed. That will be a lesson to me to heighten my observation of these areas even more. To my knowledge, the trail has not been repaired since it was washed out. This unfortunate, since the Whitney Falls Trail has the easiest access of all the trails on Mount Shasta that are not on Everitt Memorial Highway. Perhaps it is time to organize a crew to get out and fix it!