Spring has sprung on the summit…
Unlike a year ago, this year we are having a normal spring after a mild winter. Spring on the summit is all about water and its change is state from solid to liquid. The sound of water flowing is everywhere with every creek and river running at full speed as the white landscape returns to brown and green.
In this transitory time, the summit puts on an amazing aquatic show as the sun melts the snow and gravity steals the water from the high ground. For just a few weeks the summit is the home of one of natures most beautiful displays as water crashes down rocky canyons in the form of cascades and waterfalls. Now is the time to get out the hiking boots and do a little walking to enjoy these short lived wonders. Here is a guide to some of the more prominent falls you may want to visit.
View Donner Area Waterfalls in a larger map
Donner Pass Falls
About half way down the pass on old Highway 40 there is a steep drop in the canyon that creates a beautiful mountain waterfall this time of the year. See the exact location on the map above. You can park off of the highway and walk across rocky slabs to the remnants of the old highway 40 bridge. Here the spring waters drop down a series of falls. A short bushwack down through the scrub along the creek will give you a view of the entire series of falls.
Van Norden Dam
Technically this is not a natural feature, but as Van Norden lake drains over the the dam overflow, it forms a wide flow of sparkling water that fills the Yuba River. It can be easily viewed from the large open area at the start of Van Norden Lake Rd just off of Soda Springs Rd. A short walk up to the top of the dam gives you a great view of the entire Van Norden lake and meadows.
Yuba River Cascades
If you follow the Yuba river down along old Highway 40 (or just get off 80 at the Rainbow lodge exit) you will come upon a long stretch of rocky river bed that form a roaring cascade when the spring melt is in full swing. These cascades can be seen right from the road. A short drive further west past Big Bend and the Highway 80 bridge gives you a great veiw of a long stretch of white water as the Yube makes the turn at Big Bend.
Serena Creek Falls
As Serene Lakes rises with snow melt, it feeds into Serena Creek and overflows the dam at the head of the creak to form a picturesque waterfall cascading down into the narrow gorge over lichen covered volcanic rock. It is only a short drive down the Soda Springs dirt road at the south end of Lake Dulzura to observe the falls. Be careful however, because the sides of the gorge are very steep and covered with loose rock and soil.
I hesitate to mention these falls because unfortunately they are on private property and the owners do not take kindly to any trespassing. While I do not want to encourage anyone to encroach on private property, I would be remiss in not at least sharing the beauty of these wonderful falls here in this post. These falls last only for a couple of weeks in early spring and as you can see from the pictures and video, they are spectacular.
And what is a waterfall without the sound
Technically these falls are in the Tahoe National Forest and not really on the summit. However, they are probably the largest falls in the area and certainly worth a visit for waterfall enthusiasts. It is a bit of a drive up Highway 89 and then over on Jackson Meadow Rd and then on to Henness Pass Rd. It is also a bit of a trick to actually find the small turn off for the falls themselves because there is no signage. All I can say is study the Google map and do some exploring as you drive west on Jackson Meadow Rd and then Henness Pass Rd. The falls are less than a mile from Webber lake. If you get to the lake, you have gone too far west.