The hip-hop and R&B group TLC once famously sang, "Don't go chasing waterfalls." And while the chorus of their 1995 hit single has stuck around, it's hard to follow their wisdom at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in Shasta County.
It's the second-oldest state park in California and home to a breathtaking 129-foot cascade that draws visitors year-round. Supposedly, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt once called this spot the "Eighth Wonder of the World."
"This is a very powerful, beautiful place," says Marlon Sloan, the park's interpretive specialist. "It's truly a singularly unique and beautiful place."
For the past 15 years, it's been Sloan's job to get visitors excited about the falls and surrounding forest. Dressed in khaki shorts and a big smile, he's eager to share a wealth of knowledge about its history and the local wildlife.
"I like meeting the people and being able to entertain and educate them about why the falls are working the way they are — seeing that little light bulb go off as they see the land in a whole new light," says Sloan, who was born and raised in the area.
He says the falls never stop or slow down. That’s because there’s a constant flow of millions of gallons of water every day, even during drought years, like this one.
At the base of the falls is a deep blue pool, and in the air you can see water droplets create rainbows. It also causes a cooling effect on typically hot summer days, when temperatures can rise above 90 degrees.
"It's so nice. It’s very hot everywhere and it's very cool here. It's like a refrigerator," says Leah Brorstrom, who’s visiting from Sonoma County.
The water looks refreshing, and while it may be tempting to go for a swim around the base of the falls, doing so is not allowed. It can be dangerous, and keeping people out is meant to protect some of the species living there.
These waterfalls are worth chasing! pic.twitter.com/uWm2x1Unzs
— Héctor Alejandro Arzate (@hrzate) August 26, 2021
Sloan says wildlife in and around the waterfalls is abundant, including mule deer, porcupines and trout.
"We benefit from having this cool water coming out and in this canyon," says Sloan. "So there are animals living in the canyon that can't live anywhere else, as well as benefiting from that terrific ecology that we're getting from all these different rocks and geologies, too."
Sloan says bird species are also plentiful in the park's unique ecosystem.