Dawson Falls

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

About Dawson Falls

Hiking Distance: 1km round trip (to top)
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-09-19
Date last visited: 2010-09-19

Waterfall Latitude: 51.96521
Waterfall Longitude: -120.12313

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Dawson Falls took us by surprise since we hadn’t planned on visiting it going into the Wells-Gray Provincial Park during our Canadian Rockies trip in September 2010.

We didn’t even know of its existence until we saw a sign at the Spahats Falls car park making us aware of its presence.

Dawson_Falls_019_09192010 - Dawson Falls
Dawson Falls

Nevertheless, when we saw how wide this waterfall was on the Murtle River, it stood out to us considering that the other waterfalls that we had encountered in the park were of the taller and thinner plunge variety.

Experiencing Dawson Falls

After parking the car (see directions below) and getting onto the trail, the first thing we noticed was that there was a view looking down towards the Murtle River where there was a small waterfall and bridge before it.

It took us a while to figure out that the waterfall down there was the Mushbowl (or Mush Bowl), which we passed by on the drive to the car park for the nearby Helmcken Falls.

During our visit, a faded sign made us think that it was called Mus’ Bowl.

Nonetheless, the walking path took us around 15-20 minutes to get to the fenced overlook of Dawson Falls.

Dawson_Falls_002_09192010 - Looking down from the Dawson Falls car park towards the Mushbowl in the distance
Looking down from the Dawson Falls car park towards the Mushbowl in the distance

At first we didn’t think we were going the right way because the trail strangely veered back towards the main road.

Fortunately, we saw a sign indicating the trail continued on (just as we were about to question the validity of the trail).

Curious to see where the main trail continued onto (as the fenced overlook wasn’t the end of the trail apparently), I walked for a few minutes in the upstream direction.

Eventually, I saw a trail junction where a primitive, steep, and slippery trail descended towards the base of the Dawson Falls.

Dawson_Falls_007_09192010 - The short trail to Dawson Falls strangely headed back towards the road before descending into the forest and ultimately the view of the waterfall itself
The short trail to Dawson Falls strangely headed back towards the road before descending into the forest and ultimately the view of the waterfall itself

Given the amount of rain that had fallen on the day of our visit, this trail wasn’t particularly easy due to its muddiness as well as the presence of fallen trees.

But once I got to the bottom, I was able to get right up to the base of Dawson Falls where I could appreciate its size from up close.

Since I was content with my experience with Dawson Falls this far past the main overlook, this marked by turnaround point.

Thus, I didn’t do any more exploration of the main trail as it continued on.

So I wouldn’t know if the main trail would yield additional ways to see the Dawson Falls.

Dawson’s Creek

Dawson_Falls_025_09192010 - Watching the Murtle River rush by at the base of Dawson Falls
Watching the Murtle River rush by at the base of Dawson Falls

In a bit of associative trivia, Julie tends to refer to the Dawson Falls as “Dawson’s Creek Falls”.

This was due to the TV show she used to watch around the time of our visit.

Obviously these things are unrelated, but Dawson Falls was actually named after a surveyor named George Herbert Dawson in 1913.

Apparently, it was he who also discovered the Helmcken Falls while doing his surveying work heading west of the Dawson Falls.


Dawson Falls resides in Wells-Gray Provincial Park near Clearwater in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It is administered by BC Parks. For information or inquiries as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Dawson_Falls_006_09192010 - Initially the Dawson Falls Trail passed through a wooded area
Dawson_Falls_011_09192010 - Our first look at the wide Dawson Falls from the main lookout
Dawson_Falls_015_09192010 - Context of the fenced lookout and the Dawson Falls in the distance
Dawson_Falls_020_09192010 - More zoomed in, focused, and long-exposed look at the Dawson Falls from the main lookout
Dawson_Falls_048_09192010 - Follow this arrow and make sure you don't walk along the Clearwater Valley Road en route to the Dawson Falls
Dawson_Falls_041_09192010 - View of Dawson Falls in portrait orientation after making it to the main overlook area
Dawson_Falls_040_09192010 - The steep path I took to get closer to Dawson Falls' base, which was beyond the main lookout
Dawson_Falls_035_09192010 - Closeup look at Dawson Falls from the banks of the Murtle River
Dawson_Falls_039_09192010 - On the way to the base of Dawson Falls, I had to negotiate this steep muddy section when I headed back to the main trail and ultimately back to the trailhead

Dawson Falls was one of a handful of waterfalls that we spotted in Wells-Gray Provincial Park near Clearwater.

From Clearwater, we drove about 42km north on the Clearwater Valley Road.

The signposted turnoff for the falls is on the right side of the road.

Dawson_Falls_001_09192010 - Looking back at the car park for Dawson Falls
Looking back at the car park for Dawson Falls

Shortly after the turnoff is a fairly large car park.

For specific driving directions pertaining to the whereabout of Clearwater, see the Helmcken Falls page for details.

That said, the general context of Clearwater is such that it’s 318km (over 3 hours drive) southwest of Jasper, 562km (6.5 hours drive) west of Banff, and 478km (under 5 hours drive) northeast of Vancouver.

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Fixated on the wide falls

Bottom up sweep of the river and falls

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Tagged with: wells gray, provincial park, thompson, nicola, clearwater, british columbia, canada, waterfall, murtle river, mus bowl

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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