As you can see from the photo above, Potem Falls (also referred to as Potem Creek Falls) could have easily been its own major waterfall attraction complete with picnic area, parking lot, signs, and the like. After all, it featured an attractive 70ft plunge waterfall with a wide and deep plunge pool that seemed very inviting for a swim on a hot day. Plus, the drive and short hike to access it were pretty straightforward and manageable, which we’ll explain shortly. However, because it was competing with the likes of Burney Falls, McCloud Falls, and several others, it was pretty much relegated to obscure status that apparently locals or those specifically targeting this waterfall for a visit would know about. In fact, when Mom and I made our visit to this falls, there weren’t any signs hinting at its presence, and it made us wonder just how this place was “found” in the first place.
I had theorized that because the unpaved road to get here was near a dam or some kind of facility while logging trucks would also frequent that road (see directions below), that it was really the people who did work who might have found out about this place. Nevertheless, despite its obscure nature, once we knew where to pull over and stop the car (we knew were in the right place since we could already hear Potem Falls making its presence known), there was a pretty obvious trail that immediately descended down a few long switchbacks below the trailhead. At the first switchback, we were able to get partial angled views down at the falls though the steep scrambling path to get right on the cliff’s edge seemed kind of dicey.
So we continued walking on the well-used path leading away from the falls towards the last switchback, then the trail descended back into the morning shade reaching the well-vegetated bottom. In order to get close to the wide plunge pool, we had to make a couple of slippery scrambles (due to the presence of mist that would often waft its way towards the trail and vegetation), but they were pretty manageable. It was merely a quarter-mile hike in each direction, and most of our time spent here was merely trying to compose photographs while a morning rainbow was appearing at the waterfall’s base.
When all was said and done, we had merely spent about 45 minutes away from the car. Probably 25-30 minutes of that time was spent hiking. I’d imagine that later in the day when the sun would be directly overhead, this place would be the perfect spot for a swim to cool off. In the morning, the shadows were long, and I’d imagine the water would be bitterly cold since most of the runoff here would come from snowmelt.
We’ll pick up the driving directions from the city of Redding (even though we were actually staying in the town of Red Bluff some 30 miles further to the south along the I-5). In addition to the many waterfalls in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, Redding seemed to be a pretty central location the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Mt Shasta.
So from the I-5 north in the town of Redding, we then took the Hwy 299 exit heading east. From there, we drove for about 30 miles towards the towns of Round Mountain and Montgomery Creek. That was where we turned left onto the Fenders Ferry Road. We’d follow this road for the next 8.25 miles or so (it became unpaved and a little washboarded in places for the last 6.5 miles) as we approached a road junction. We kept left at this junction (signposted 34N17) where it made a bend and descended towards a narrow bridge spanning an impressive gorge. Upstream from the bridge was some kind of infrastructure or dam that the maps labeled as the Pit 7 Reservoir so it might have been one of the waterways that were held up by the many dams that made up the greater Shasta Lake.
Beyond the bridge, we drove around 0.6 miles to an unsigned pullout coming around a bend.Since there were no signs, we turned off the radio and got out of the car to listen for Potem Falls. Fortunately, the sounds of rushing water was loud enough to hint that we were in the right spot. We also noticed a trail of use descending from this wide pullout and shoulder next to the road bend as well as a pair of poles protruding from a concrete block (there might have been a sign here before).
For some additional geographical context, Redding was 217 miles (over 3 hours drive) north of San Francisco, 162 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) north of Sacramento, 150 miles (2.5 hours drive) south of Medford, Oregon, and 546 miles (over 7.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.
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