Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park


Travel a little further west into British Columbia, and you reach a turnoff for Takkakaw Falls.  The waterfall is about 13 kilometers away from Highway 1, along Yoho Valley Road, a narrow (and at times twisty — see below) 2-lane path.  I think the scenery along the way was beautiful, but it was hard to tell, thanks to the dark sky.  The rain held off until I arrived at Takkakaw Falls, then started to fall as if on cue.  There’s nothing like making the choice to use an expensive camera in the rain, knowing none of the pictures will be very good, anyhow.

Despite the ho-hum pictures, Takkakaw Falls is quite impressive, even on a dreary day.  It ranks as the second-tallest waterfall in Canada, although there’s some dispute over whether it deserves that title.  If you measure the largest single drop, Della Falls on Vancouver Island is first (440 meters), and Takkakaw is second (254 meters).  If you measure Takkakaw from the top to its base, it’s 384 meters (1,260 feet) tall — but when measured this way, there are a few other Canadian falls that are taller.

All the numbers aren’t important, when you’re standing at the base of the falls.  What matters is, this is a very tall, very impressive waterfall.

A short trail leads from the parking area, across a bridge, then a short distance further, to the base of the falls.

The water that tumbles down Takkakaw Falls has just melted off of the Waputik Icefield, and Daly Glacier, which are at the top of the hill (but unseen from the base of the falls).

When you get close, the trail becomes less obvious, and you have to select your own path across the boulders that are scattered around the base of the falls.  Other people were climbing quite a ways uphill, but I decided it wasn’t worth all the effort (especially on a rainy day when all those rocks were slippery).  Instead…

… I found a nice place to hang out and take some pictures at the rocky base of the falls.  Even in the rain, this was still a crowded place, so don’t expect solitude.

Don’t forget to turn away from the falls and look downstream.  That’s Wapta Mountain, towering over the Yoho River Valley.

Between Wapta Mountain and Mount Field (the mountains that separate Takkakaw Falls area from Emerald Lake), there’s a geological formation where scientists have made some remarkable fossil discoveries.  It’s called the Burgess Shale, and it’s famous for preserving the soft parts of fossils.  The fossil beds are so significant, they’ve been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  You can’t hike to any of the Burgess Shale quarries on your own — you must join up with a group and pay a fee.  The hikes range from 6 to 20 kilometers, round trip.  Check out the Parks Canada page for more information.
Across the valley from Takkakaw Falls, you’ll notice Whiskey Jack Falls, directly behind Whiskey Jack Hostel.  If Takkakaw Falls wasn’t around, Whiskey Jack would probably get more respect, but the truth is, it’s not very impressive.

The drive back to Trans Canada 1 is a beautiful ride, with big, rocky, snow-dusted peaks like Cathedral Mountain and Mount Stephen making appearances in the distance, from the other side of the Kicking Horse River Valley.

Earlier I mentioned that the road to Takkakaw Falls gets curvy.  Here’s the spot that proves it: a double switchback puts the road almost directly on top of itself, twice.  Be sure to watch the Drivelapse video at the bottom of this page, to find out what happens when you meet an RV on one of those hairpin curves.

Meeting of the Waters

There’s one more place that’s worth a stop, on the way back to Highway 1.  The “Meeting of the Waters” is the point where the Yoho River mingles with the Kicking Horse River.

The Yoho is milky, thanks to the rock flour from the Waputik Icefield, while the Kicking Horse River is more clear (it also comes from glaciers, but there are more opportunities for the silt to settle out of the water, before it arrives here).

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Kicking Horse Pass to Takkakaw Falls, then back to Highway 1 and Field, BC:

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