Saturday, March 7, 2009

Potential For Another Accessible Bay Area Waterfall

I came across this article discussing the recent acquisition of once private land that included a seasonal 60ft waterfall called Tehan Falls. While the acquisition was more strategic than anything, if the approval to build more park infrastructure and improved access succeeds, it appears Bay Area residents will have another waterfall to check out.

Below is the article from the Silicon Valley Mercury News:

Park District buy seasonal gem in Tehan Falls
By Denis Cuff
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/06/2009 09:01:38 PM PST

Park ranger Dave Gorges waited a long time this winter for signs of life from a hidden, inaccessible waterfall purchased a few weeks ago as an addition to Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

Tehan Falls dozed through the early dry winter, but then roared to life after a series of storms in late February and early March. Water cascaded down a 60-foot drop over a fern- and moss-covered rock wall deep in the heart of a steep canyon off limits to the public.

"It's beautiful," Gorges, a regional park ranger, said as he stood above the fall last week. "But it may not be here for very long. The flow was higher yesterday. By summer, it will be gone."

Like most of the few waterfalls in the East Bay and the Bay Area, Tehan Falls roars to life for days or weeks after heavy storms and then withers like wild flowers before the approaching summer.

This is the lot of local waterfalls. With less precipitation and lower elevations than giant Yosemite Falls or other falls in the Sierra, the East Bay waterfalls thunder and then vanish.

"It's part of what makes them special," Gorges said. "They're very impressive when they're flowing ... once you get there."

Reaching the remote falls can be tough.

In the East Bay, Murietta Falls tumbles about 100 feet off a rocky ledge about 3,100 feet up in the Ohlone Regional Wilderness south of Livermore. It takes a 13-mile round trip to reach it from Del Valle Regional Park.

On the northern side of Mount Diablo State Park above Clayton, hikers must ascend to 1,300 feet of elevation on the Falls Loop Trail to a waterfall that spills 100 feet down rocks in Donner Canyon.

Little Yosemite Falls near Sunol is an exception. It is accessible via a mile hike along a popular trail from the Sunol Regional Wilderness main entrance. Water there cascades around boulders in a creek that stays wet all year.

Tehan Falls, a much more typical East Bay waterfall, wasn't running this season until about a week ago when the dry slopes on Pleasanton Ridge finally become waterlogged enough to spill water over the falls.

"January was dry. Then it rained, but the ground was soaking up the moisture," said Stephen Quick, the Pleasanton Ridge Park supervisor.

Quick and Gorges led a reporter and photographer last week on a rugged, winding and slippery trek to the falls, which remains closed to the public. It will take the regional park district at least a year or so to plan and develop a safe trail there, officials said.

Tehan Falls — in contrast to more exposed and less vegetated falls like Murietta — is hidden in a thick canopy of oak and bay trees. Moss and hundreds of ferns cover the canyon walls around the falls with a lush green carpet. Newts slithered along the hillside. Mist filled the air.

Quick said the Tehan Canyon is so steep and rugged that it may be impractical to develop a trail to any vantage point below the falls. The slopes above have more potential for an overlook trail, he suggested.

Access to the falls will be determined when regional park planners prepare a revised land-use development plan for Pleasanton Ridge park, and submit it for a public discussion and vote before the park board.

The regional park district had tried since 1993 to buy the 103-acre Tehan Falls property, but the landowners resisted until agreeing in a series of deals to sell the property west of Foothill Boulevard for a total of some $984,000.

The park board voted Dec. 16 to buy the last 20 percent stake in the property from the last holdout.

Regional park officials said the Tehan Falls property was important to buy for strategic reasons because it gives the park district connected properties so it can proceed to develop a northern entrance and parking lot for the north side of the five-mile-long Pleasanton Ridge Park. The only major entrance to the park is some four miles to the south near Sunol.

Park officials say they expect plans for the new park entrance and the trail to the falls will come before the park board in about a year.

"There is just something about falls that attracts people," Gorges said.

Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267 or

Read the original story here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tehan Falls is one of the most impressive bay area waterfalls, when water is actually falling.

See pictures here.