Top-secret County waterfall revealed in words and pictures!

A fence, an elderly caretaker and a Rottweiler are all that stand between you and the Falls.

We've all been to the lovely Deschutes River waterfalls by the old brewery. But did you know that 20 miles upriver there is another park, covering 154 acres and sporting two waterfalls, a 75 foot gorge and a mystical forest dripping with moss? And that you are absolutely not allowed to go anywhere near it?

The second waterfall in the Park is very very loud.

Deschutes Falls County Park (not Tumwater Falls Park), east of Yelm near the Bald Hills, was purchased by Thurston County in 1993. At the turn of the century it was actually a private park, but decades have passed since it was actively used. Exploring it now, you will find picnic tables rotting back into the earth, collapsed latrine-style bathrooms, and illegible rain-bleached signs of yesteryear.

The Stonehenge of picnic tables.

Down past the picnic area roars the Deschutes, pouring over two waterfalls, and dropping finally into a majestic gorge. The river banks reveal old growth logs polished by time, beached upon stunning rock formations. The surrounding trees are draped with a bewildering array of moss and lichen, as if adorned for a primeval celebration. The park speaks to an earlier time, not only of the land, but also of our forebears who picknicked and frolicked here decades ago.

You would be incorrect if you thought this picturesque waterfall was in Olympic National Park.

This natural wonder is off-limits to the public, surrounded by a fence for the last 15 years. Legend holds that too many beer addled teens were cliff-jumping to their demise. And to be fair, it is a very slippery and steep slope by the falls. Thurston County Parks did a cost assessment of reopening the park sometime in the future, but for now the park's fate is unknown.

The Deschutes River thunders down into this 75 foot deep gorge 365 days a year.


I cant see it

I cant see it

Thanks for the information

Growing up, my family used to go here during the summers when the property was still privately owned. To get in and park you'd have to pay a fee to a guy sitting out on the street with his dog and assorted other people/animals. We used to swim in the pools before the falls to escape the blistering 80 degree washington summer heat. On Sunday June 29th, 2008 I decided to to take my family out for a look during a drive. I was dissappointed to see a huge steel gate across bald hills road saying that the property was closed. I had read on the washington parks page that the property was purchased by the state in 1993 and had hopes that it would have been developed into a nice nature park. But, alas, I guess that isn't the case.

The picture's gone

If you mean the Ghost in the latrine photo - and if it was ever posted successfully...


Best wishes,


'Top Secret falls in Bald Hills on Deschutes

Is this hike still open to public?


Some words from Reilly & Maloney seem appropriate here.

    "I was dissappointed to see a huge steel gate across bald hills road saying that the property was closed. I had read on the washington parks page that the property was purchased by the state in 1993 and had hopes that it would have been developed into a nice nature park. But, alas, I guess that isn't the case."  -  from cgarando

    " Despite repeated warnings and the threat of court imposed fines, Deschutes River Ranch owner Jon Petit (sic) has continued to allow camping on his riverfront property all summer long without the necessary county and state permits.....The county has not been heavy-handed in reminding Petit he needs to apply for permits totaling slightly more than $10,000 before inviting the public to camp along the river."  The Olympian editorial, September 12, 2012

   Goverment giveth and government taketh away. Then government taketh and keepeth for thine own self.

   What message can I take away from this?  We who run the government will tell you where you can go because we bought this land with your tax dollars for the good of the people...just not you. Oh, and if it's your land we will tell you what you can and can't do with it because .....why?.....well, because.... because we're the people who run the government for you. That's why.

  "....I got the 'I don't know what I want from you,
   but I ain't gettin' it' blues."  Ginny Reilly & David Maloney


Amazing pics


"Ya' know, even flies love." -Meta Hogan

"Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should be a convience store, not a government agency."


This is a non political tag line and cannot be linked up through a twisted thought process to an obscure company making specialty tools.  

Thank you!

I appreciate you letting us in.


Thanks for the email Ryan.

You have no idea the kind of nostalgia that hits me looking at those photos.  I grew up about 2 or 3 miles from the falls, and snuck in every summer to swim in the pools about a quarter mile upstream.

The only time I ever took LSD (I was 17, I think... boy that's tough to remember) was at one of the swimming holes upstream from the falls.  Really, really hot day.  We swam in the river, got out to bask on the rocks, and when it got too hot we jumped back in the river.  [I made really certain to stay a good quarter mile away from the falls the whole day!]

There's another really beautiful place to visit in that area, and it's not closed to hikers.  Fossil Rock is a cliff range in the Bald Hills, overlooking a wildlife/old growth reserve on Weyerhauser lands.  On a clear day from the top of one of those cliffs, you can see past Yelm, across the Puget Sound, all the way out to the Olympic Mountains.  I still go up there every summer, sometimes several times in the season.  It's about an hour and a half hike in from Bald Hills Rd, so it's a good walk for a bottle of wine and a couple cheap cigars.

The Canaanite's Call

Very Cool.


very nice

Phil took me and a couple of our friends through there a couple of years ago. We found this great cave-like rock formation to set up camp in, it was a really great two day trip with the added bonus of not having a really long car ride attached to it. Remember all the bats Phil? There must been like fifty of them, I know that was your favorite part.


Great post. I love learning

Great post. I love learning about these hidden little gems throughout the area.

Olympia. 20 square miles surrounded by reality.


Looking forward to maybe someday exploring this beautiful area.

How about we get some volunteers together to help parks & rec plan a safety assessment and re-opening study to help it along?

Seems like a wonderful place for a birding tour [Bird-a-Thon, Audubon anyone?] or other officially sanctioned and chaperoned nature event...

Nana ka maka; ho`olohe ka pepeiao; pa`a ka waha. "Observe with the eyes, listen with the ears, shut the mouth." - thus one learns...

I say keep it closed.

You can't trust humans, keep em out!


We are an invasive species afterall

Why not have a few primate-free zones.

Less traffic through the park this way.

When parks are outlawed, only outlaws will go to parks. Outlaws, in my experience, aren't litterbugs.


Ghost in the Latrine

a note on primate-free zones: i got the distinct feeling i wasn't alone in the park, although I was. after exploring a half-disintegrated wooden park bathroom covered in moss, i thought i saw something moving behind me. i looked, of course nothing there, perhaps indian plum flowers in the breeze. but then a nauseating fear overtook me, and while i ate a little lunch on a rock down by the river, i reflected on the people that have died there, and that few living people have visited in the last years. does that create a place energized more by the deceased than the living? the first half of my exploration there was exhilarating, and the second half un-settling. a beautiful but strange place. has anyone else explored ruins before and had a similar experience?


 I've had a few interesting experiences exploring ruins and abandoned places.  I don't think we are always as alone as we think.

"Ya' know, even flies love." -Meta Hogan

"Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should be a convience store, not a government agency."


This is a non political tag line and cannot be linked up through a twisted thought process to an obscure company making specialty tools.  

white mts, AZ & ID/MN border

yup ,me too

AZ was pretty stressful...air was just tense



Ghost in the Latrine: the photo

I cant see the picture

I cant see the picture


I went to this place last weekend after i saw this blog. nice place, found one piece of garbage at the falls. not a big deal. kind of a pain to get into but well worth it. i can see why it is closed. keep as many primates out as possible and the beauty will remain.

I used to swim here every summer.

Thank you for posting. It is amazing that there aren't other pictures of this amazing place.

I used to come here every summer in the late 70's to mid 80's. The elderly couple that lived at the old farm had been here for 50 to 60 years. They used to go to my grandfathers blacksmith shop on Capitol Lake...right where the swimming area and fair is. He donated the property to the city.

Anyway, they charged $1 per person to go into the park. they had a big sign that said, "Enter at your own risk". It was SO worth it. In the summer the rocks that TOTALLY surround the river, which is like a creek in the summer, warmed the water to make this the perect swimming area. There are pool after pool from 3 to 10 feet deep of the clearest water for a 1/4 mile stretch before the two bigger falls. At the head of the park, the river comes down in two, three feet wide channels about 2 feet deep. They end in a pool of bubbles that is like a sauna. We would float half out of the water. Simply amazing! The pools are backed by a sheer, moss covered, rock wall on the far side. The park side varies from sand and gravel to rocky outcroppings up to 6 or so feet over the river. Just perfect to jump of dive from!

The main falls are simply amazing and it is criminal to not have this open to the public. The first drops about 15 ft to a pool about 20 around and 8 ft deep. It then  drops off the big falls about 60 ft into a deep rocky, sheer walled bowl. The water at the bottom is VERY deep. I was never able to touch when I jumped. :-) The water exits through a sheer walled narrow, about 15 to 20 feet wide, gorge that goes about another 1/4 mile before you can climb out and hike back.

FYI: If you jump from the main viewing area, where the road in leads, it is about a 75ft drop. Some used to climb up the hill on the far side and have a 100ft drop!. You just need to 'step' off. If you jumpped forward, you could easily hit the far side!!!

The pictures are very cool, but nothing like standing right next to it and walking through this amazing place.

Thank you very much for posting!



What a great comment! Hope to hear more from you about Oly's past.

great post!

Very cool! Could you give me directions? My friends and I would love to check it out.

Summers at the falls

My family and neighbors from Lakewood would go out here every summer.  There were little pools for the young ones with craw fish on the rocks.  Then there was the big pool that had rocks that you coud dive off of.  There was also a pasture where the cows must of come to eat because there where cow pies everywhere.  But we also picnic there.  Such wondeful memories of the real American families back in the 50"s. At the end of the day the growups would tryto ride there air mattress down the rapids with ripping them apart.  I wish they would make this a park. I also remember you wanted to be the first car in line otherwise you ate everyone dust!!! The people that owned the property where so nice.  There where little wood outhouses. Oh to be able to go back in time.  Thank you for posting the pictures. I took my mom who is now 80 on a road trip trying to find this place, sad to here it is closed off.  Thank you for the memory rush.  Betty Brockavich WIllis


Weyerhaeuser locks up 155,000 acres

No more Fossil Rock, no more fish'n and swim'n in the Deschutes river, no more Deschutes falls park that we paid for...WTF