Free Falling: The Exhilaration of Getting Airborne on Coast Mountain Waterfalls

Raw, untamed, unrelenting, unforgiving, uncaring – and yet peaceful and calming at the same time – waterfalls are the ultimate visual display of the earth’s power, cutting through solid rock, resisting human authority.


Isaac Levinson, Mamquam Falls, Squamish, BC

By photographer and paddler Steve Rogers

Lifeblood of the earth, rivers carry water back to the ocean to resurrect the endless cycle of the water droplet. Winter stores that energy, locking it in the form of snow and ice. Then as spring creeps into the mountains, warm temperatures breathe life into the cycle, feeding that accumulated energy into the rivers once again. Waterfalls rise to the occasion.

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Sam Ricketts, Balls to the Wall Falls, Cheakamus River.

The snowy peaks and vast icecaps of the Coast Mountains are home to an abundance of waterfalls and cascades. Great swaths of bedrock produce perfect funnels and spouts to channel water back into the Pacific. This is one of the world’s wildest whitewater paddling destinations, a liquid playground.


Sam Ricketts, Nymph Pool, Tatlow Creek, Ashlu Drainage.

To navigate these falls is to feel that immense power of nature and, for a few moments, to be in harmony with one of the earth’s most primal forces. Outsiders see chaos and meaningless random patterns yet years of study and physical repetition gives a paddler an understanding, an ability to work with the elements and see a path through the mayhem – to let the waterfall allow safe passage.


Antoine Dupuis, Skookum Creek, Squamish.

To a kayaker, waterfalls represent commitment. First you will scout and study the waterfall, looking for a possible line through. When you make a decision to attempt the waterfall, it requires a commitment to what you believe will happen and also to what you need to make happen. Once in the flow, there is no rope to catch you and no stopping – only the logical end to what you have commenced upon, for better or for worse.


Fred Norquist, Tatlow Creek, Ashlu Drainage.

What comes next is the gateway into what whitewater philosopher Jim Snyder describes as the third dimension – a 360-degree sensation – not quite floating, not quite falling. Just finding the point where water meets air, a quiet moment amid chaos.

It is that single moment, the ability to be part of that explosion of energy if only for a second, that is freedom.

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