Whatcom Falls

Bellingham, Washington, USA

About Whatcom Falls

Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2017-07-31
Date last visited: 2017-07-31

Waterfall Latitude: 48.75186
Waterfall Longitude: -122.42933

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Whatcom Falls was kind of our excuse to break up the drive between Seattle and Vancouver as it was on the way.

The word “whatcom” was said to mean “noisy water” in the local Native American tongue.

Whatcom_Falls_029_07312017 - Whatcom Falls
Whatcom Falls

However, I managed to see this falls in a more subdued and tranquil state as pictured above.

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.

That was where I was able to see the front of the Whatcom Falls from a stone bridge built under the authority of the WPA (Works Progress Administration).

Whatcom_Falls_055_07312017 - Context of Whatcom Falls and the WPA Bridge before it
Context of Whatcom Falls and the WPA Bridge before it

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.

Whatcom_Falls_046_07312017 - Looking upstream at the Whatcom Falls with the WPA Bridge above it
Looking upstream at the Whatcom Falls with the WPA Bridge above it

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 when I visited in July 2017.


Whatcom Falls resides in Whatcom Falls Park near Bellingham in Whatcom County, Washington. It is administered by the City of Bellingham. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Whatcom_Falls_003_07312017 - Some interpretive signs discussing the fishery and the types of fish at Whatcom Falls Park
Whatcom_Falls_014_07312017 - Some fencing along one of the walkways leading down to the WPA Stone Bridge before the Whatcom Falls
Whatcom_Falls_017_07312017 - This was the WPA Stone Bridge right before Whatcom Falls
Whatcom_Falls_022_07312017 - Direct look at Whatcom Falls in low Summer flow as seen from the WPA Stone Bridge
Whatcom_Falls_034_07312017 - Another direct look at the Whatcom Falls in its Summer flow from the WPA Stone Bridge
Whatcom_Falls_039_07312017 - Angled look of Whatcom Falls from the side of the WPA Bridge closer to the parking lot
Whatcom_Falls_041_07312017 - Looking downstream from the WPA Stone Bridge towards the base of a spillway
Whatcom_Falls_053_07312017 - A more elevated perspective of the WPA Stone Bridge before the Whatcom Falls
Whatcom_Falls_054_07312017 - Context of a local going for a morning walk around the WPA Stone Bridge and the Whatcom Falls during my July 2017 visit

We’ll pick up the driving directions to Whatcom Falls from Bellingham.

While driving north on the I-5, we’d then take 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.

Whatcom_Falls_001_07312017 - The parking lot at Whatcom Falls Park
The parking lot at Whatcom Falls Park

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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Sweep showing the falls from the bridge as well as looking further downstream

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Tagged with: bellingham, whatcom county, washington, waterfall

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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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