The lowest section of the Wagon Creek Cascades
One of my favorite sights of spring in Mount Shasta is the awesome Wagon Creek Cascades flowing down the east side of Mount Eddy. This striking ribbon of white water is visible from parts of the Everitt Memorial Highway or from spots around the Abrams Lake exit on I-5. Gazing up and watching the distant cascade fills one with a yearning to journey to it and enjoy its thundering power, to get soaked in the clouds of mist it kicks up and to witness its beauty. Yet, in spite of its allure and being easily visible, the upper section of Wagon Creek is one of the most obscure stretches of water in the Trinity Divide.
The Wagon Creek Cascades
I have written about the upper section of Wagon Creek in the past, but largely in the context of their obscurity and the difficulty accessing them. It did not necessarily take the time to recognize the singularity of Wagon Creeks wildness. Few waterways around Mount Shasta can match the sheer ferocity with which Wagon Creeks plummets of the flanks of Mount Eddy. For those who have seen them from afar, the most common response is appreciation and wonder. I am often asked about the waterfall visible on the side of Mount Eddy. As impressive as they are, the remain mysterious and largely anonymous feature.
Whether obscure or not, I would contend that the first 6 miles of Wagon Creek may be the wildest stretch of water in the Mount Shasta area. Some creeks on Mount Shasta, especially Mud and Ash Creeks certainly vie for this distinctions as well, crashing untamed through inaccessible canyons and plunging over spectacular waterfalls. However, neither of these creeks have the precipitous and dramatic descent as Wagon Creek. At its cascades, Wagon Creek drops an incredible 1,100 feet in less than 0.75 miles. It is an awesome display of whitewater raging down the mountain. This is crowned by excellent Wagon Creek Falls, one of the finest waterfalls in the Mount Shasta area. Below the falls other sections of the descent are not quite so steep but still descend at a rapid rate.
Once on flatter ground, Wagon Creek remains just as wild, only in more subtle ways. As the creek flows through large Mills Meadow, it is unchecked by flood control and regularly floods the meadow in the spring time. It is rare for a creek of this size to have the opportunity to naturally and regularly run over its banks in this manner. To the best of my knowledge, this is one of the only spots in the Mount Shasta area where this happens. I am confident Butte Creek, over by Orr Lake, does as well but i have not confirmed it myself. Nonetheless, setting itself apart from Butte Creek, Wagon Creek’s sudden transition from tremendous cascades and waterfall to gently flooding a massive meadow sets it apart from any other creek in the area. It is a wonderful set of contrasts that elevate Wagon Creek.
The next you are in the Abrams Lake area on I-5 or driving past McBride Springs on Everitt Memorial Highway, be sure to look up and appreciate the elegance and power of the Wagon Creek Cascades. Right now, as the snow melts out, they are at their peak and are a truly impressive sight. Even better, have a little adventure and make the journey into the falls themselves. You won’t regret seeing things up close.
Click to enlarge: