By Laird Durham
There are 47 tributaries feeding the Napa River. Some are seasonal, hardly more than a trickle, except during winter rains. But, some flow year around, and some have been dammed in olden and modern times to create drinking-water reservoirs for thirsty Napans and, at one time, their animals. The streams rise in the mountains on the valley’s sides, cutting steep canyons through shale that once was a sea bed, and through ancient, volcanic tuff. Lining the canyons are deep forests of redwoods, oaks, California laurel, and foothill pines. Granite boulders, some as big as a car, litter the streams. Some canyons occasionally give way to meadows splashed with colorful wildflowers. In most places the dense canopy keeps the chaparral sparse, but sword ferns, madrone, manzanilla, and Toyon shrubs manage to find enough sun to thrive. In a few spots, columns of granite rise vertically almost three stories high looking like ruins of temples built by ancient people.And, every now and then, there are waterfalls. Photographer Marissa Durham is seeking out the falls to capture their beauty with her camera. Here are her photos of three of the falls, with photos of more falls to follow in subsequent months.
The Devil’s Wells
The Devil’s Well, near the headwaters of Redwood Creek, have two, all-year falls, a lower fall and an upper fall, both splashing into round pools that must have reminded early settlers of wells, and a seasonal, third fall alongside both. The Franciscan Brothers who settled here did not approve of the devil’s appellation for the falls, so they re-christened them “Trinity Falls”. However, the more ominous name persists.
Toyon Creek runs though the Skyline Wilderness Park on land owned by the Napa State Hospital. The creek winds its way among moss-covered boulders, creating many small falls and cascades. One of Marissa’s Toyon Creek photos is of a larger fall running over an abandoned dam built more than 100 years ago to provide water for animal husbandry and kitchen gardening, once practiced as therapy for residents of the hospital.
One of the prettiest falls in the Napa Valley is aptly named Linda Falls, on Conn Creek in Angwin. It was part of the 5,000-acre La Jota Land Grant, given to George Yount by the government of Mexico six years before the ‘49 Gold Rush. Linda Falls is now a preserve of the Land Trust of Napa County. “Linda” is Spanish for “pretty”; Jota is Spanish for “J”. What the “J” stands for has been lost to history, but the pretty falls remain.