Where is Whisky Falls?

Mountain Secrets

tonykrizan@hotmail.comAugust 27, 2013 

A few years ago I asked myself this question — how did the title Whisky Falls become the proper name for a high elevation creek located above the town of North Fork? Maybe it's time for me to personally look at the creek and falls by the name of Whisky.

Months have passed since I've hiked with the Sierra Hiking Seniors. On Friday, Aug. 16 they had a group outing, hiking to Whisky Falls. Since I've never seen this creation of nature, I'll join them on this adventure.

I have to give credit to the hiking leaders Mike and Sue Sanderson for arranging this five mile round trip hike. Even though this hike followed those 100 year-old logging roads, the forest was very dense.

So I kept my eyes focused on the shaded areas and maybe from within those deep shadowed corners, a movement from the native wild life would appear. No such luck. I believe the increase in temperature forced them to stay within their hidden cool locations this morning.

Finally we arrived at the bridge crossing Whisky Creek. If hiking is not your means of travel. you will be happy to hear, one can drive to this bridge. Looking north above this bridge was the location of Whisky Falls. Personally spring and early summer would be the perfect time for this adventure.

With the water run-off from the previous winter snow pack these falls should be spectacular. But in late summer the water cascading over the rock shelf becomes a trickle. I'll have to schedule another hike next spring to preview these falls in their full potential. I'm looking forward to walking behind the falls to photograph the water cascading over the top.

From my research let me answer the question of how Whisky Falls was named. Our American Indians take the credit and it happened around 1877. I did my research on the Internet and from a documented interview on Feb. 7, 1965 with Bill Ellis a resident of North Fork.

He stated that the old timers originally named this stream Alder Creek after the many trees that surrounded this area.

As per Ellis, around 1865 Sheep herder George Wagner claimed the area Cascadel on a squatter's claim or at that time called six shooter rights. After I read that statement there are two conflicting stories — one states that George Wagner sold the rights to Charles E Strivens who in turn built a general store next to the creek.

Another letter written by June English said that a Herrick N. Brown sold the rights and store to Charles E. Strivens.

Strivens sold goods and whiskey in his store said Ellis. Many of his customers were Native Americans. Ellis reported that the Indians changed the name of the creek from Alder to Whiskey in 1877.

I read Bill Ellis' complete interview and I was fascinated by the history of the growing pains our ancestors experienced during the early days of Madera County.

Once again take some time out of your everyday schedule and drive or hike into the area above North Fork.

Just follow the signs to Whisky Falls and the campground.

Remember our mountains are waiting to share with you their history and secrets.

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