McWay Falls

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McWay Falls
McWay Falls Big Sur May 2011 001.jpg
McWay Falls
Location Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Monterey County, California, USA
Type Plunge/Tide fall
Total height 80 feet[1]
Number of drops 1

McWay Falls is an 80-foot waterfall that flows year-round in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, about 37 miles south of Carmel, California. The waterfall is one of two in the region that fall directly into the ocean, the other being Alamere Falls. A 1983 fire and landslides in 1985 altered the topography of McWay Cove, and the fall now meets the ocean only when the tide is in. The outlet of McWay Creek, McWay Falls is accessible by a trail one-half mile long and almost flat.[2]

On the edge of McWay Creek is a small building which houses a Pelton wheel, with signs that provide historical facts. Christopher McWay homesteaded the canyon in the late 1870s and eventually McWay's Saddle Rock Ranch was sold in the 1920s to Lathrop Brown and his wife, Helen Hooper Brown, who built two houses at Waterfall Overlook. In 1961 the approximately 1,800-acre property was donated by Helen Hooper Brown to the state for a park, to be named for Julia Pfeiffer Burns. Near its parking lot begins the half-mile Waterfall Trail, a dirt path heading westward toward the ocean, to a short tunnel under Highway 1, a right turn to a trail in the cliffside overlooking a small cove, to the sign "Overlook".[3]

Although it can be viewed via a trail from above, the beach and scenic cove below are difficult to access by land; however, they can be easily reached by boat.[citation needed] For reasons of safety and environmental preservation, however, it is not recommended[by whom?] that people visit the beach. Just upstream[clarification needed] is 30-foot McWay Creek Falls, and on a smaller tributary is Canyon Trail Falls.

McWay Falls is clearly visible from the roadside of Highway 1, but not from driving on the road itself.

Although a detailed history of the falls has yet to be completed, walking the creek from the highway culvert to the falls indicates that the last portion of the channel to the lip of the falls is artificial. It appears that the natural creek channel was along the lower declivity to the north (left) of the falls, which would have made a lower and less vertical cascade to the water in the cove. It appears that the re-routing of the creek to the present fall site was among the landscape changes made by the Browns in the building of the Waterfall House and grounds.

McWay Falls is featured in the music video I Need a Doctor by Dr. Dre.[4]


  1. ^ "Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  2. ^ Blauert, Adam (8 December 2015). "Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers Big Sur adventure". The Merced Sun-Star. Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  3. ^
  4. ^

Coordinates: 36°09′31″N 121°40′18″W / 36.15861°N 121.67167°W / 36.15861; -121.67167

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