Lucia Falls on the East Fork of the Lewis River in Yacolt is, in my opinion, lesser-known than Moulton Falls, but far more dramatic. The sound is thunder, majestic. The surrounding beautiful wildflowers and forest-lined trails set a more leisurely pace. While the thunder and natural beauty usually draw me in, it is not the reason I came today. Today I came to see a phenomenon. While I’ve included some wildflowers and forest-lined paths in this blog, I’m going to start with the star of the show, the Steelhead.
The Falls/ Steelhead
The first time I saw Steelhead jump up falls was on a documentary on Alaska, with bears catching and snagging them as they thrust themselves up, instinct driving them forward to breed and spawn in spite of possible death. Until a few Aprils ago, I never knew I could see this primal phenomenon for myself within a short drive from home.
As you enter Lucia Falls (did I mention totally free parking and visitation?), the dramatic churning waters stay a bit hidden from view. In just a few short minutes, however, the trail winds to the right to a picnic table. This sporadically occupied table is the perfect spot to sit and watch the falls in peace. In the autumn and spring, the Steelhead run is in full swing. It only took about 5 minutes before my family and I saw one jump when we came in late March. In about ten minutes, we had viewed about ten fish.
The falls are majestic to watch any time of year. The waters churn around winding rock formations, frothing, and foaming with something akin to hunger. The water’s colors range from a sea blue-green to a glacial blue, to a roaring white.
My camera captured some beautiful wildflowers on the Lucia Falls trail as well as a few other gorgeous examples of plantlife. The variety included some I’d never seen, so a friend helped me with identification. Through this, her act of kindness, I learned the name of a Northwest succulent I will forever keep an eye out for, Oregon saxifrage. I also found a type of daisy, two colors of violet, bittercress (milkmaids), hairy bittercress, dead nettle, ground ivy, usnea moss, plus a fern among the unique rock formations; all in all, a beginning forager’s dream.
Tip: When walking this or any path, allow your eyes to wander up and down as well as forward, left, and right. This is not only great for a safety precaution, but expands your world view as well!
Other than Steelhead, what wildlife can you see at Lucia Falls? Well, probably a great deal more than my family and I viewed when we were there, as evidenced by an unoccupied truck in the parking lot. We did see an American Dipper fishing. These birds are so neat to watch, teetering right on the edge of the falls then diving under for a few brief moments before coming to the surface again. Moths flitted about everywhere, and there was evidence of woodpeckers gathering insects. Birdsong filled the trees.
I am dying to go again soon! Only 35 minutes from Vancouver, Washington, Lucia Falls is an excellent Northwest getaway. Paths are unpaved and large roots are left undisturbed on the trails, so the walk may be difficult for those with limited mobility. Public restrooms are on the grounds, but were closed when we came. A portapotty was available. Several picnic tables and one barbeque grill are open for use. As this is a Steelhead spawning ground, fishing and swimming are not allowed. More information can be found here: https://clark.wa.gov/public-works/lucia-falls-regional-park
The trail loop is not overly long, but very enjoyable. My son walked it with no problem. He is only five. The trail also connects to Moulton Falls.
Lucia Falls is great for a small getaway, but if you are looking to get out for the day, you should make the most of it by visiting Pomeroy Farm https://pomeroyfarm.org/ and Pomeroy Cellars https://pomeroycellars.com/ (nearly only a stone’s throw away). Moulton Falls is also a must see and as mentioned above, very nearby https://clark.wa.gov/public-works/moulton-falls-regional-park, as I’ve heard Sunset Falls is (though I’ve yet to visit) https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=31666. The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad runs seasonally and is an absolute joy to ride if you get the chance https://tickets.bycx.org/.
Whether you choose to go for the day or a few short hours, I hope you enjoy Lucia Falls as much as I do. This time the enjoyment could not have been possible without my son Michael and husband Ron, partners in my crazy adventures, you will forever be my “plus ones”. Nor could I have gotten the names of the flora without the help of Christine Wulle. Thank you. And finally to my sister Jill Lettow, who flew in from Alaska on day in April a few years ago and navigated these trails with us; I don’t think I would have known about the Steelhead if it wasn’t for you. This blog is dedicated to all of you. Thank you.