Whatcom Falls was kind of our excuse to break up the drive between Seattle and Vancouver as it was on the way. While the word “whatcom” was said to mean “noisy water” in the local Native American tongue, I managed to see this falls in a more subdued and tranquil state as pictured at the top of this page. That said, I can easily imagine how much wider and more forceful the flow of Whatcom Creek can become had I showed up a few months earlier than my late July visit. In any case, this 25ft waterfall was a mere 100 yards from the nearest parking lot, where I was able to see the front of the falls from a stone bridge built under the authority of the WPA (Works Progress Administration). Apparently, had I walked another 0.3 miles downstream along one of the handful of trails meandering about the lush city park, I would have arrived at the Whirlpool Falls, which was a well-known and popular swimming hole.
Speaking of Whirlpool Falls, I learned that there was the Olympic Pipeline disaster in 1999 where a gas pipe ruptured and leaked 237,000 gallons of gasoline into Whatcom Creek. An explosion ensued when the fuel was ignited accidentally. The result of this environmental disaster (as well as a human tragedy as a man and two boys died in the explosion) was that swimming access at Whirlpool Falls was closed. Yet that didn’t stop swimmers from enjoying the falls despite the risks so the city of Bellingham eventually gave up in their efforts at regulation and just let people go into the area at their own risk. Nevertheless, this incident serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen in the presence of oil or gas pipelines, which has been quite the hot button topic these days.
We’ll pick up the driving directions from Bellingham while driving north on the I-5 then taking the exit 253 for Lakeway Dr. Once we were at the stop sign, we turned right onto King St, then at the light, we turned left onto Lakeway Drive. From there, we drove about 1.4 miles to the intersection with Silverbeach Rd (there’s a brown Whatcom Falls Park sign on the left corner). Turning left onto Silverbeach Rd, we then drove the last 0.4 miles to the parking lot.
If you’re coming to Bellingham from the north, then you’d also take exit 253 for Lakeway Dr, but this offramp was more straightforward than the one described above.
For some geographical context, Bellingham was 61 miles (about an hour drive) north of Everett, 89 miles (about 90 minutes drive) north of Seattle, and about 54 miles or 89km (about 75 minutes drive not counting border crossing delays) south of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
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