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Canada's fourth tallest waterfall, Helmcken Falls, is ensconced in Wells Grey Provincial Park, 45 kilometers north of Clearwater off the main road from Kamloops to Jasper. Three times higher than Niagara and splendidly photogenic, the fast flowing Murtle River shots over a volcanic cliff at Helmcken and falls 142 meters directly into a gorge in a roaring, misty display. This scenic spectacle was only "discovered" by non-natives in 1913 when surveyor Robert Lee stumbled into the area, and most Canadians have yet to hear of the place.
Before reaching Helmcken Falls, the access road parallels the Murtle River for several kilometers, and one should stop to visit Dawson Falls first. Dawson is a broad cascade a mere 20 meters high, and still very impressive - until you've seen Helmcken. A bit beyond, the road crosses the Murtle at the Mushbowl, a series of swirling potholes in the riverbed. From the parking area at Helmcken Falls, a trail leads along the brink of the river canyon to a viewpoint over the meeting place of the Murtle and the larger Clearwater River far below.
This entire area was built by lava flows millennia ago, and another spectacular scene awaits you at Spahats Falls, 10 km north of Clearwater. Here Spahats Creek tumbles over columnar basalt cliffs only a short walk from a lovely campground set in an old growth forest of red cedar and hemlock. Water flows over the falls peak in spring and early summer, but they're awesome anytime.
From Clearwater, Highway 5 follows the Thompson River 216 km north to the Yellowhead Highway. Just east of the junction is Mount Robson (3,954 meters), highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, the fabulous Berg Lake Trail, and the headwaters of the mighty Fraser River. Jasper is across the Yellowhead Pass in Alberta.
From the series Unknown Sights of Canada by David Stanley
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