Yoho National Park is known for its beautiful and rugged terrain, some of the highest peaks in the Rockies and for the multitude of gorgeous waterfalls found within the Main Ranges of the Canadian Rockies. Located near the quaint hamlet of Field, is the impressive thundering Takakkaw Falls. At a height of 380m, Takakkaw Falls is the secondest tallest waterfall in Canada. The waterfall is fed by Daly Glacier meltwater and it cascades down the mountainside with a free fall of 254m. The construction of the spiral railway tunnels and the exploration of mining brought in the beginning of visitors to stand at the base of these awe inspiring falls. Each year, thousands of tourists and hikers come to see Takakkaw Falls and take in the beauty of Yoho Valley...and justifiably so!
Prior to European explorers settling in the area, Native Americans had already seen the magnificent falls and explored the surrounding areas. It is from them that both the name “Yoho” and “Takakkaw” came from. The name “Yoho” comes from the Cree word which expresses awe and rightfully so as the park is consumed by glacial lakes, rock walls, thundering waterfalls and even stories of runaway trains! The name “Takakkaw” comes from the Cree meaning of something similar to “it is magnificent”. In 1995, the Takakkaw Falls were featured in the movie “Last of the Dogmen”. Takakkaw Falls is accessible between June and October for the summer period. In the winter, the Yoho Valley access road to Takakkaw is closed due to the high amount of avalanches.
The Daly Glacier that feeds this incredible waterfall is part of the Waputik Icefield that borders on the Continental Divide. The Waputik Icefield borders British Columbia and Alberta and includes 8 glaciers within the ice field. The numerous outlet glaciers feed many lakes, rivers and streams including Hector Lake, Kicking Horse River, Yoho River and Takakkaw Falls. The Continental Divide is a drainage divide on a continent and part of it runs along vertically through the Canadian Rockies. A drainage divide typically feeds into an ocean or sea on one side and a basin on the other side can feed into a different ocean or sea or is not connected to an open sea.
The Takakkaw Falls are not far from the parking lot; however it is still a short hike to the base of the waterfall. When you reach the parking lot, the first viewing point is a short distance away from the main path. You can also go across the bridge and quickly reach where Takakkaw Falls reaches the bottom. It is a spectacular waterfall to see. When we were at Takakkaw Falls in the summer of 2012, we got lucky and caught a proposal on top of a rock in front of Takakkaw Falls. It was extremely romantic and definitely upped the standard for all the men that witnessed the engagement with their girlfriends. Good luck guys! It won't be so easy to beat a proposal in front of the second largest waterfall in Canada.
History of Field and Surrounding Area
The area is full of vast history including the beginning exploration of the area and the mining and uprising of the town of Field. Field was originally named as “Third Siding” in 1883. The town was desperate and in need of investors to grow. The name was changed quickly changed to Field after a wealthy investors and businessman from Chicago, Cyrus West Field. Curiously enough, Cyrus West Field was a potential investor at the time that came up from the United States and although they changed the name after him, he never gave the town any money; not a single cent!
Field was a service centre in the beginning to service the trains that brought in the 4.5% grade on the Big Hill. Heavy dining cars on the train were disconnected and pusher and puller engines were added.
Field grew rather quickly during the time of mining and logging but in 1909, an avalanche came down Mount Burgess and wiped out the residents living on the north side of the Kicking Horse River. Remaining structures were moved to the south side and you can still see the flower beds and trees planted by the first residents that were killed during the avalanche.
The CPR recognized the importance of bringing tourism to the area but Field was in a sort of shambles. Tents and shacks had sprung up around Field springing up whorehouses, bootlegging and gambling. A hotel had to be built to serve as a place to dine and in 1886 the Mt Stephen House was completed. For 75 years that hotel dominated Field. The CPR soon built numerous teahouses and hotels to encourage and accommodate the wealthy visitors that came through to enjoy the beautiful scenery and for their health. The town slowly became a place for people who came to study nature, photographers, painters, writers and many others who were inspired by the view. Much of the area was previously inaccessible prior to the railway being built so Field turned into a base camp for mountaineering. The CPR brought in experienced Swiss guides for those who wanted to explore the peaks but did not have the experience needed to tackle the unknown peaks. Many came and competed with each other to see who could complete the first ascents on the tallest peaks.
In the early 1900's, areas such as Emerald Lake and Yoho Valley, and Lake O'Hara became accessible with road construction. Today where the only gas station in Field stands used to be Brewster's large stable of horse and buggys to travel on the newly constructed roads. It wasn't until 1927 that the Kicking Horse Trail, the first highway, was completed and allowed vehicles to come through.
Forestry was also an important industry during the late 1800's. In 1884, logging began which were used for buildings in Field and the construction of the railway. In 1915, green timber was restricted amongst other logging that would wreck the scenery and by 1930 only one patch of logging berth was left in Yoho. Logging in the park completely ceased in 1968.
As in most of the history of the Rocky Mountains, mining was important in the area. Lead and zinc was predominantly mined and you can still find the remnants of ladders and mine openings along Mount Field and Mount Stephen. Kicking Horse Mine and Monarch Mine, in consecutive order, helped Field to flourish and grow. Monarch Mine became the largest mining operation in the park of British Columbia when an early guide by the name of Tom Wilson sold his staked claim (claimed in 1882) for $21,000. The mines operated until 1952.
Takakkaw Falls Trip Log
Depending where you parked, you are either right in front of a huge Parks Canada trail sign or you are in the northern parking lot and have to walk about 20 meters south to get to the sign. Takakkaw Falls offers a few things for everyone. Along the river there is an abundance of picnic tables that gives you the opportunity to have lunch with a breath taking view.
Following the river you come across a pretty cool model that shows a visual 3D representation of the Yoho Valley. It has a nice big arrow showing you where you are and labels all the major waterfalls and campgrounds in the area.
You then come to a fork in the trail. If you follow it left across the bridge you are taken to the base of Takakkaw Falls. Heading right for just a moment takes you to a nice viewpoint that allows you to peak between the trees and see the falls.
From the viewpoint, a paved bridge takes you across the Yoho River to the base of Takakkaw Falls. The closer you get the more meniscal you feel. From the distance the falls look captivating that the falls can be that tall. As you get to its base, your blasted by the deafening sound of the water pounding against the rocks. There was only a small breeze that day, yet you could see the mist carry a huge amount of water. The falls are high enough that a good amount of water never reaches the base but instead, gets carried away into a mist that creates ever interesting shapes and swirls as it gets lifted away by the wind.
Oddly enough I caught a wedding proposal happening just as I was taking the panorama. I didn't actually notice it until I got home and reviewed the photos. Bummer as I never got to let those folks know!
What were your experiences hiking Takakkaw Falls?
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