#59 – Castle Falls

#59 – Castle Falls

July 14, 2018 – After a short stop at Lundbreck Falls (see previous post http://albertawaterfallchasers.com/2018/08/09/58-lundbreck-falls/), next on our list was Castle Falls.

First step is getting to Castle Falls Campground.  Here are the directions from Lundbreck Falls…

Once you get to the campground there are two trains of thought – where Google, the campground, and every Albertan says Castle Falls are…or where the World Waterfall Database says they are.  Unfortunately for us that means we had to check out both as I feel obligated to verify the Database’s coordinates just in case.  Here was a map I did up showing both locations…

So they were roughly 1.5 km apart, one at the campground and one further downstream.  We started off with the “recognized” Castle Falls right at the campground.  At the main hub before the road branches off to the campsites is a main parking lot…

The trailhead is at those rocks.  Here’s what the information sign had to say…

With a 1 minute hike you’ll find yourself at the proclaimed Castle Falls.  Here is the river coming in…

Then down their version of Castle Falls…

Nice water, but not much of a drop…

But down into a gorgeous pool…

Here’s a quick video…

We asked a fisherman there if he knows the area and if he knows of another waterfall further downstream.  He said he’s been fishing this area all his life and there wasn’t another waterfall.  Dana seemed content with his answer, ready to get in the truck and head to the next one.  But we run into unaware locals all the time, plus if we’re going off the Database we need to go to the coordinates I’d say (although these ones were “unconfirmed” so could very well have been off by 1.5 km).  They did steer us wrong in Siffleur (what a nightmare that was!) but I knew we could not leave the area without verifying for ourselves.

We left the campground and went up the road.  We hoped to drive a little further but there was a gate…

Here’s a closeup where there’s a gate (as far as we could drive)…

We parked there and tried accessing the river, as it was the closest point to the river just ahead.  I learned that the closest point isn’t always the best or easiest point, as it was a cliff!  Dana suggested we walk further down the road and then cut in, but there was significant longer distance through bush if we did that, and I knew that about 100m in she’d be worried about bears.  In her defense she would have been right though, as dealing with bush and bears would have been much better than dealing with the cliff.  Between the cliff obstacle and the fisherman saying there wasn’t another waterfall this way, Dana opted out of going further (haven’t we mentioned there’s always a little feeling of “hopelessness” in our adventures?).  Also in her defense our truck’s engine light just came on so it was definitely a low point in the day 😉

Slightly stubbornly – or let’s say persistently – I thought I should quickly get to the coordinates,  most likely just to disprove them.  The cliff was a little menacing, but there were some trees and brush that I figured I could use to help me down or at least break my fall.  Unfortunately I only made it down about halfway before the trees and bush could go no further and was replaced by steep dirt and sheer rock, at which point I had to either climb back up and find an alternate route or take my chances falling down the cliff.

I looked back up the hill which didn’t look like a very inviting climb.  Then I looked down; the river was so close!  Although it was a sheer drop-off directly below me, if I could just make it across the no-man’s-land suicide slope there appeared to be a nice looking dirt slide that I could potentially take to the river.  Not wanting to add another half hour to this adventure, I decided to proceed sideways and downward.  As I muttered “No guts no glory!” to myself I jumped to a dirt patch that I hoped would hold me, but it was thinner than it looked and I slipped, falling on my back.  The slope was too steep and I slid down the cliff, making a starfish pattern hoping to stop.  I managed to stop just as part of my body was on the last little lip before a sheer dropoff, thinking “Whew, that was close!”.

I slowly and carefully got off my now-tweaked back and got up to a crouching position.  I was about 15 feet away from the dirt slide I was aiming for.  I inched my way here, I jumped to a seemingly-safe spot there, and was one hop away from the slide.  I looked up again and thought “There’s no way I’m going back up this way!” and leaped to the slide.

Well the nice looking dirt slide again wasn’t as deep as it looked, and instead of a being a nice cushion of protection it turned out to be a light sprinkling on jagged death rock.  Much to my dismay I slid and scraped down, but at least finally made it to the river.  I was in rough shape with scrapes and a tweaked back, my fishing rod I was carrying got banged up, and I muttered “There better be a waterfall at the end of all this!”.

This was sure panning out to be a lot of work in what would probably end in unconfirmed coordinates being wrong, but I proceeded on.  Next obstacle was trying not to get soaked.  With cliff on my side it was hard to stay out of the river, but I didn’t want to walk in soaking shoes the rest of the day.  I jumped from rock to rock, tried to sprint through muddy patches, did everything I could to keep dry…but eventually I came across cliff patches that made it inevitably unavoidable.  Into the icy cold water I stepped, and it seemed the further I went the deeper I had to go.  By the end I was close to my waist.  There were stretches where I’d have to find a rock island just to get a temporary relief from the freezing water.  Then it started to rain.

With a fisherman confirming Castle Falls was only that one at the campground, engine light on in the truck, Dana in the truck, a tweaked back, scrapes all over, thistles where the sun don’t shine, soaked shoes and pants, a half-broken fishing rod, rain…oh, and now no cell service…this was turning from Mission Improbable to Mission Impossible.  I couldn’t even call for help at this point, so I did the thing that can relax a man – fishing!  My rod wasn’t working properly but I managed to get out a cast and whammo!  Fish on!  Sure enough I caught a little cutthroat trout, completing my weekend side-goal of catching one fish.  At least I wouldn’t have to carry my fishing rod around anymore, assuming I made it out alive.

Rejuvenated, I tried rushing downstream to get to the coordinates.  Although I didn’t have cell service there was enough map function to see where I was.  Carefully looking at pictures of the coordinates I had taken in comparison to where I was, it should just be another 5 minutes further.  I didn’t hear the normal rushing of water like other areas, so was quickly realizing this would just be a case of disproving the Database’s coordinates and confirming that Castle Falls was exactly where everyone said they were…back at the 1 minute hike campground location that took no wear tear time or effort at all.  Maybe I need a new hobby?

Then a miracle happened…there actually was a waterfall!  It wasn’t much of a drop and I wouldn’t really have classified it as a waterfall, but it was just as much of one as the one at the campground.  Perhaps over the years it dwindled or who knows…but there was an actual drop at the coordinates!  Here is what it looked like; there were actually 3 different points…

Here’s a quick video…

So there actually is Castle Falls there after all!  Not sure how the discrepancy occurred between this and the campground one, but we saw both anyway (well Dana didn’t see this in person but that’s okay…close enough!).  I won’t count the campground one a bonus, although it should be.  Instead of going back the same way I decided to just go straight west through the bush until I hit the road.  It wasn’t very fun, but slightly better than the cliff.

And so concluded Castle Falls, our 59th waterfall of Alberta we saw together 🙂

Stay tuned for the next waterfall of the day – York Creek Falls.


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