Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nooksack Falls in Whatcom County Washington

A few miles east of the town of Glacier, on the Mount Baker Highway you'll come to a sign pointing you to head south about 2/3 of a mile to find Nooksack Falls.

Nooksack Falls is on the North Fork of the Nooksack River. The river moves fast through a narrow valley then falls 88 feet. 88 feet does not sound like much of a fall, but it is.

You can sit on big boulders above the falls and watch the water rush by and then drop over the falls. You must be very careful. A fall into the Nooksack River above the falls would not end well.

There are trails to viewpoints along the side of Nooksack Falls. Cedar railings act as a very minimalist safety railing. This is not for the faint of heart or acrophobes.

I have been to Nooksack Falls countless times. In all the times I've climbed around the falls I did not know there was a hydroelectric plant generating power from force of all that water falling fast. I learned this when I went looking for a photo of Nooksack Falls.

The Nooksack power plant was built way back in 1906. The project was begun in 1899 by an entity called Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, which was a group of weathy Californians hoping to turn Bellingham into a boomtown. BBIC had all sorts of troubles trying to build the power plant. It was a logistics nightmare moving heavy equipment into a rugged wilderness zone. By 1905 BBIC gave up and were bought out by Stone & Webster who finished the power plant construction and started sending electricity to Bellingham on September 21, 1906.

The Nooksack Power Plant operated for 90 years, then shut down due to a fire in 1997, then started up again in 2003 when the generator was replaced.

As you can see in the picture at the top, the Nooksack Power Plant was a large complex of buildings. Before it became automated workers had to live on site, with their families. There was even a school. The Nooksack Power Plant is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

I am assuming the reason I have never seen the Nooksack Power Plant is that it is downriver from Nooksack Falls, out of view around a bend in the river. Maybe I have seen the big pipe that brings the water to the generator and just assumed it was a water pipeline or made no note of it.

The last time I was at Nooksack Falls was in late winter. Myself and a couple friends were in the area gold panning. And looking for Great Excelsior Mine, which is close to Nooksack Falls. And Lone Jack Mine which was about 10 miles from the falls.

The Lone Jack gold strike happened in 1897. By the time it closed, in 1924, a half million dollars worth of gold had been mined. Over 5,000 claims were staked during the mini-Mount Baker Gold Rush, in what became the Mount Baker Mining District.

If you are visiting Washington, in my opinion, the Mount Baker Highway leads you to the best mountain scenery in Washington. And don't drive by Nooksack Falls without stopping.

And if you are hungry, my favorite place to eat when heading up to or returning from the Mount Baker zone is Carol's Coffee Cup, a short distance east of Deming, just past where Highway 9 intersects with Highway 542, with 542 being the Mount Baker Highway.

I hope Carol's Coffee Cup is still in operation. It has been a few years.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to work with Carol's daughter-in-law, Debbie and she used to bring in the yummy cinnamon rolls that Carol made, also salads a time or two.

Durango Northwest said...

I forgot about the cinnamon rolls. The roast turkey dinners and their chef's salads were my favorites at Carol's Coffee Cup.

Anonymous said...

I live in the area, Carols is now some type of Italian place but i think you can still get the cinnamon rolls at the Hungry Bear in Deming

Durango Northwest said...

That is terrible, Anonymous. Carol's Coffee Cup is no more? Stopping in at Carol's was always one of the highlights of going to Mount Baker.

James Everbeck said...

I recently retired and live in the area. Anyone know much about prospecting? I'd love to join a group or find a prospecting bud. Any ideas?

Durango Northwest said...

James, years ago, back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when the price of gold soared people returned to panning for gold in Cascade Mountain streams. I was one of them. I recollect trying to find an old mine by Nooksack Falls. Doing gold panning was fun for a couple hours, but then it started seeming to be a waste of time, with no gold found.

Oscarphone said...

Just a memory brought back while visiting this page: Back in the middle 70's, on a trip to Nooksack Falls with some friends, I ended up adopting the cutest little Black Lab mix puppy. After a few days of contemplation, I named her Nooksack.