When John Muir Visited the Falls

John Muir, noted Scottish-American naturalist, had the opportunity to visit the Falls while writing Steep Trails. In the chapter “Puget Sound” he discusses the crown jewel of the region, our own Snoqualmie Falls. 

“..But the chief attractions here are not found in the hops, but in trout-fishing and bear-hunting, and in the two fine falls on the river. Formerly the trip from Seattle was a hard one, over corduroy roads; now it is reached in a few hours by rail along the shores of Lake Washington, through a fine sample section of the forest and past the brow of the main Snoqualmie Fall. From the hotel at the ranch village the road to the fall leads down the right bank of the river through the magnificent maple woods I have mentioned elsewhere, and fine views of the fall may be had on that side, both from above and below. It is situated on the main river, where it plunges over a sheer precipice, about two hundred and forty feet high, in leaving the level meadows of the ancient lake basin. In a general way it resembles the well-known Nevada Fall in Yosemite, having the same twisted appearance at the top and the free plunge in numberless comet-shaped masses into a deep pool seventy-five or eighty yards in diameter. The pool is of considerable depth, as is shown by the radiating well-beaten foam and mist, which is of a beautiful rose color at times, of exquisite fineness of tone, and by the heavy waves that lash the rocks in front of it.

Though to a Californian the height of this fall would not seem great, the volume of water is heavy, and all the surroundings are delightful. The maple forest, of itself worth a long journey, the beauty of the river-reaches above and below, and the views down the valley afar over the mighty forests, with all its lovely trimmings of ferns and flowers, make this one of the most interesting falls I have ever seen. The upper fall is about seventy-five feet high, with bouncing rapids at head and foot, set in a romantic dell thatched with dripping mosses and ferns and embowered in dense evergreens and blooming bushes, the distance to it from the upper end of the meadows being about eight miles. The road leads through majestic woods with ferns ten feet high beneath some of the thickets, and across a gravelly plain deforested by fire many years ago. Orange lilies are plentiful, and handsome shining mats of the kinnikinic, sprinkled with bright scarlet berries.

From a place called “Hunt’s,” at the end of the wagon road, a trail leads through lush, dripping woods (never dry) to Thuja and Mertens, Menzies, and Douglas spruces. The ground is covered with the best moss-work of the moist lands of the north, made up mostly of the various species of hypnum, with some liverworts, marchantia, jungermannia, etc., in broad sheets and bosses, where never a dust particle floated, and where all the flowers, fresh with mist and spray, are wetter than water lilies. The pool at the foot of the fall is a place surpassingly lovely to look at, with the enthusiastic rush and song of the falls, the majestic trees overhead leaning over the brink like listeners eager to catch every word of the white refreshing waters, the delicate maidenhairs and aspleniums with fronds outspread gathering the rainbow sprays, and the myriads of hooded mosses, every cup fresh and shining.”

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