Oh, the places they'll go! Fri-Sun, 7/14-716, 2017

The first place we're stopping has been on our want-to-see list:   McArthur-Burney Falls State Park in Shasta County (northern California), and, by gum, it's only about 200 miles from Nevada City.  A few days before we left home, I tried online to get a campsite in the park itself, but no soap.  I found another campground right outside the park boundary called Burney Falls Trailer Resort, which brought the word oxymoron to mind.  That's unfair, though, 'cause it's a nice quiet park, and we wouldn't hesitate to stay here again.

The amiable proprietor, Laura, gave us instruction on how to get into the park an easy way 1.8 miles away via "the back door."  We jumped in Smartie for a look at the parking situation, found it acceptable, and returned to Tergel.  At that point, Jimmy unhooked the bikes and we hopped on them, back to the same place.  It was nice to know that Jimmy's knee gave him no trouble.  We rode a short distance from the parking area to the PCT.  Just then, Chayo came hiking up the trail.  She's a thru-hiker, going to meet her husband at the state park C/G.  We struck up a friendly conversation, and then she went on her way.

She had only a half mile to go to meet her husband.
I think she looks pretty good after hiking 27 dusty miles IN ONE DAY!

The next morning, Jimmy and I put on our hikers, packed protein bars and Gatorade and water in our packs, and prepared for a day at the falls, without really knowing what to expect.  We're always eager to explore new places.

Jimmy's at the view point above the falls, listening to the roar of 100 millions gallons per day surging over the falls.  We were immediately stunned by the view, and ready to hit the steps down.  We'd need tons o' water to stay hydrated in the forecast 94 degree afternoon heat, but we got an early start and we knew the park had water fountains.  The VC wasn't open when we arrived at 9ish, so we missed going inside altogether.

It's not the highest or largest waterfall in California, but it might be the most beautiful.  We saw lots of Black Swifts flying around the falls.  Needless to say, we had no plans to dip our toes in the water!


I posted this picture on Facebook, with the caption of:  I got a bit chilly sitting there, for which I was mighty grateful.  True words -- it's been so hot!  Light spray off the cold water felt heavenly.  As we climbed toward the rim, we could feel the temperature rising by degrees.  This really is an awe-inspiring waterfall.

The peace we felt at the falls, its strength and beauty, had us oohing and aahing.  Then, lo and behold, while we were quietly standing there, it seemed as though the "buses had landed, the buses had landed," disgorging scores of noisy tourists.  Sated with seeing the falls for the moment, we stepped to the Falls Loop Trail which would lead us to Lake Britton.  Burney Creek is in a deep gorge with pumpkin-size basalt talus rising up each side. We were turned around at a Trail Closed sign, "safety hazards due to winter storms," so retraced our steps, past the falls pool and up-up-up to the rim.

A parks sign reads:  "Relentless pounding by the waterfall has created a 20-foot deep pool filled with chilly 48 degree water.  California Parks recommends against swimming in the pool."  Not everyone agrees, I guess.  We saw way too many people testing or teasing nature by doing what I consider dumb and dangerous stunts or defying and defacing park property, with the attitude of HEY, this sign is for you and doesn't apply to me.  These same people are usually LOUD, and to me they're very aggravating.

Ahh, back we go, up to the rim.

At the top, we bumped into Chayo and her husband Dale.  She looked so different from yesterday! She and Dale had come to see the falls, just like us.  We talked for a spell and then learned he was moving his RV to our trailer resort that afternoon!  Long story shorter, they came over to our place after dinner and we visited till 10 pm.  The four of us are pretty sure we'll see each other again.  Sunday morning, Chayo was back on the PCT, heading north.  Dale would follow in their RV and see her again in about 80 miles. Amazing.

Neither Jimmy nor I expected to see an Osprey nest (high in an old pine), with a young'un trying his wings. We could hear it calling a long way off.  The Creek isn't deep enough for Osprey to fish, but the lake is....

Spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)

Burney Falls Creek is approximately at the same elevation as our house, but alas, NorCal's early summer heat has fried most of the wildflowers here, as well as at home.  We were too late to see all but a few in the state park.  Giant Ponderosa pines almost made up for it, though, kind of like the stately Ponderosa's at Ben Cartwright's ranch.  You know, where he lived with Hoss and Little Joe and the other guy ... what's his name?  (checking Google) Adam, and don't forget Hop Sing!  

We finally arrived at Lake Britton and sat in the shade to eat our bars.  Unfortunately the lake ponked big time, the culprit a blue-green algae bloom.  While we sat at a picnic table, a PG&E fella arrived to test the water for cyanotoxins.  On the pier, I watched him get a vial of stinky water.  The jury is still out, but I wouldn't either eat fish from the water or swim in it.  This kind of algae bloom happens every summer when lake water heats up too fast.

Again we retraced our steps, back to the top of the falls.  Funny how you see a trail differently going in one direction and then the other.  We didn't catch this crazy tree triangle on the way to the lake.

I zoomed in on these two (Mom 'n 'em) resting quietly in the afternoon heat.

At the turning point to get to the car, I spotted a sign that said, Burney Creek Headwaters, six-tenths of a mile (south).  We were already Capital H.O.T. and getting tired, but seeing a headwaters attracted me, so we continued on.  This section of the trail sported delicate purple aster-like flowers.  Burney Creek's water comes from underground springs above and at the falls, and we would see from whence the water came, so to speak.

Near the headwaters,
Jimmy watched this li'l fella swim across the shallow (frigid) water.

Here we are!  From the top of the falls, to the 48-degree pool, north to the lake and south to the Headwaters, we did it all ... seven miles worth -- wow -- quite a day!  We sat on a bench here and marveled at the little bitty amount of water springing forth that becomes 100 million gallons daily after only a short run.  A cool shower and A/C in Tergel fixed up our overheated, tired bodies.  So glad we were able to see and do so much at Burney Falls.

The falls were called "the Eighth Wonder of the World" by President Theodore Roosevelt, and were declared a National Natural Landmark in December 1954.  Thanks, Teddy.  Good move.


  1. We have never tried to camp there because of the crowds, but it sounds like you managed to work around them. Such a beautiful falls! I walked 3 miles today and that is it for me. I'll never keep up with you two. My knees are going. Sigh. Jimmy knows what that is like!

  2. Wonderful falls. We are still working on the we will find a campsite at the last minute. So far this trip it has worked out. Today we pulled into the Cabella's in Sidney, NE and got the last full hook-up spot:)

  3. Brr ... that's cold water, but I understand why the spray might have felt good on a hot day. That is indeed a beautiful waterfall. I love encountering wildlife, but I can do without seeing the slithery kind. We encounter way too many "rules don't apply to me" kind of people in our travels ... here and overseas ... makes me want to smack them, but I behave myself.

    1. Smacking some of the offenders is very tempting, but probably not wise! Like you, I behave.

  4. Can you believe I have never been to Burney Falls?? Neither can I!! Hey, if you like headwaters, have you seen the headwaters of the Sacramento River? Near Mt. Shasta City, you can google it. About the same size as what you found1. :)

    1. Neither had we till now; it's kind of out in the woods. Next post will show you the headwaters of the Sac River.


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