Lewis Falls

Yellowstone National Park / South Entrance, Wyoming, USA

About Lewis Falls


Hiking Distance: 0.2 miles round trip (bridge view and end of walk view)
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-06-20
Date last visited: 2017-08-11

Waterfall Latitude: 44.26748
Waterfall Longitude: -110.63685

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Lewis Falls was a wide 30ft tall waterfall on the Lewis River, which was quite easy to spot especially when driving south towards the Yellowstone South Entrance.

In fact, that was exactly how we chanced upon this waterfall.

Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_025_08112017 - Lewis Falls
Lewis Falls

According to The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery, the falls was named after Meriwether Lewis from the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803-1807.

It was a curious choice because their explorations were 50 miles to the north of this spot.

That said, a Hayden surveyor by the name of Frank Bradley honored Lewis by naming the falls as such.

After all, he wanted at least one landmark to be named after one of the guys who first surveyed the region.

Experiencing Lewis Falls

Lewis_Falls_002_06202004 - Lewis Falls as seen when we first saw it in June 2004
Lewis Falls as seen when we first saw it in June 2004

Each time we’ve stopped for this waterfall, it was in the morning when the rising sun would shine right on the waterfall.

For the rest of the day, at least part or all of it would be in shadow.

Thus, morning would be the time to take photographs.

When we first visited the falls in June 2004, the best views we were willing to get were from the north side of the bridge over the Lewis River.

Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_007_08112017 - Context of the South Entrance Road with the Lewis Falls as seen facing south during our August 2017 visit
Context of the South Entrance Road with the Lewis Falls as seen facing south during our August 2017 visit

I did spot some faint trails that continued for a closer and more direct look at the Lewis Falls, but it looked ill-defined.

That said, I suspected that the picture shown in the Yellowstone Waterfalls book was probably where that trail would have led to.

On a more recent visit in August 2017, it appeared that a new trail was built that brought us closer to the falls.

That was where the photo at the top of this page came from.

Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_014_08112017 - Context of the lookout for Lewis Falls from the end of a trail seen in August 2017. I didn't recall this was there back in June 2004
Context of the lookout for Lewis Falls from the end of a trail seen in August 2017. I didn’t recall this was there back in June 2004

Indeed, this was another one of a handful of examples where the park service made changes to the park that was actually for the better.

Especially in this case, the erosion from off-trail scrambling would be less likely given the obvious trail that was now in place while at the same time enhancing the visitor experience.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition

Finally, the Lewis and Clark expedition was significant because it was the first government-sanctioned effort to explore and map the Western Frontiers.

It happened shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and it included parts of what would later become Yellowstone National Park.

Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_001_08112017 - Back in the 19th century, Lewis and Clark did their travels primarily by walking. These days, you can drive on convenient roads to access much of the Yellowstone area
Back in the 19th century, Lewis and Clark did their travels primarily by walking. These days, you can drive on convenient roads to access much of the Yellowstone area

Apparently with some assistance from Sacagawea (a Native American woman from the Shoshone Tribe), they ultimately reached the Pacific Ocean.

For better or for worse (especially for Native Americans), this set the stage for settlers to come west.

However, it also set the stage for the eventual establishment of National Parks.

Authorities

Lewis Falls resides in Yellowstone National Park near West Yellowstone in Park County, Wyoming. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit the National Park Service website.

Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_002_08112017 - During our August 2017 to Lewis Falls, it appeared that the park service had improved the trail and viewing area on the near side of the river
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_005_08112017 - This was the view of Lewis Falls from the start of the newly built or newly improved trail during our August 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_008_08112017 - Steamy view towards the Lewis Falls suggesting that the Lewis River must have had some degree of geothermal heating during our visit in August 2017
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_009_08112017 - More zoomed in look at the Lewis Falls as seen during our August 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_012_08112017 - Looking back towards the road bridge over the Lewis River on our August 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_016_08112017 - Looking between some trees towards this closer view of Lewis Falls on our August 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_027_08112017 - Looking back at the seemingly new Lewis Falls Trail during our August 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_028_08112017 - Returning to the pullouts after having my fill of Lewis Falls on my August 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_004_06202004 - After some brief scrambling to try to improve the view, this was about as clean a look as I could get of Lewis Falls without straying too far from the bridge. This picture was taken during our June 2004 trip
Lewis_Falls_006_06202004 - Back in June 2004, this view of the Lewis Falls from the south side of the bridge was about as good a view as I was going to get. I didn't recall that they even had that trail getting closer to it
Lewis_Falls_008_06202004 - Last look at Lewis Falls during our June 2004 visit from the south side of the bridge

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The Lewis River Bridge from where we could see the Lewis Falls was about 9.6 miles north of the Yellowstone South Entrance and a little over 11 miles south of the West Thumb Junction.

Unlike our first visit in June 2004, the pullouts appeared to be long on both sides of the road making them both obvious while also accommodating several cars in either direction.

Lewis_Falls_Yellowstone_003_08112017 - Context of the pullouts on either side of the road just south of the Lewis River Bridge
Context of the pullouts on either side of the road just south of the Lewis River Bridge

The Yellowstone South Entrance was about 57 miles (75 minutes drive) north of Jackson and 70 miles southeast of West Yellowstone, Montana.

For additional geographical context, West Yellowstone, Montana was 58 miles (at least 90 minutes drive) south of Gardiner, Montana, 90 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Bozeman, Montana, 72 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Flagg Ranch (near Yellowstone’s South Entrance), and 321 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sweep from the north end of the bridge over Lewis River towards the falls


Angled view looking down at the falls from the very end of the short walk

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Tagged with: south entrance, yellowstone, west thumb, lewis lake, jackson, wyoming, west yellowstone, waterfall, rockies, rocky mountains, park county



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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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