Monday, August 19, 2013

Frazier Falls Trail: a stroll to a canyon and waterfall overlook

Top section of Frazier Falls, Plumas County, California

Frazier Falls Trail is a short, paved, foot-travel-only way—open to hikers and wheelchairs—leading from a picnic area through open, bedrock-exposing forest across upper Frazier Creek to two small railing-enclosed viewing platforms. Half-way, a beautifully situated bridge crosses the creek, just south of where its water plunges over the rocky edge, step-falling down the Frazier Creek canyon cliffs for 176 feet. You are not going to see the waterfall until you are getting close to the viewing areas at the trail dead-end. From there, you can enjoy views into the canyon and a complete overlook of the falls. At the top the water is streaming downward over the terraced rockscape (top picture) and then rushes down along more vertically extent stretches into the bottom debris and pool (below picture).

Bottom part of Frazier Falls, Plumas County, California

Along Frazier Falls Trail, interpretive panels inform visitors about Frazier Creek's natural history. The ice-age past is described as follows:

Glaciers were formed when more snow fell during the winter than melted in the summer. The snow compressed and crystallized into ice. As the glacier moved over land, it removed all vegetation, soil and loosened rock in its path. This  process took tens of thousands of years.

Today, there is much less snowfall—although the Lake Basin Recreation Area still turns into a snow-white wonderland in winter. The lakes in this area were carved and formed by glacial activity. Gold Lake, for example, which is feeding Frazier Creek. At this lake and the ridges around it, the snow can be over ten feet deep in winter. When this snow cover melts in spring, Gold Lake fills with the snowmelt and the water flows out at its northeast corner (next to the campground) creating Frazier Creek. A panel description is tracing the downcreek path of the lake water:

As the water tumbles down Frazier Creek, trees and other plants absorb some of the water into their roots. When the snowmelt starts in April, the creek rushes down the canyon and you might find these plants standing in the middle of high water. Frazier Creek travels almost five miles and drops nearly 2,000 feet in elevation. It meets the Middle Fork of the Feather River by the town of Graeagle. After the spring snowmelt ends, the water at Frazier Falls becomes a thinner stream of water and rarely reaches the Middle Fork.    

Location keywords: Plumas County, North Sierra, Sierra Nevada, Gold Lake Highway between Bassetts Station and Graegle.

Getting there
See the section “Getting there, getting around, staying safe” in my previous Frazier Creek post.

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