Connor Castro of Novato said the last time he was at Buck Gulch Falls it was “dry and yellow.”
But when he returned in March with friend Gabriela Baptista, who was visiting from New Jersey, he said he found it “lush with life.”
“It was awe-inspiring. I haven’t seen it like that since I was little,” said Castro, who grew up in Novato and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
A historic bout of storms has challenged recent water records, leaving Marin County’s most scenic waterfalls gushing.
Marin County reservoirs at Alpine, Bon Tempe, Kent, Lagunitas, Nicasio, Phoenix and Soulajule are full, the entire 79,566 acre-feet.
Rainfall is testing records, too. Current rainfall totals of 72.45 inches are 157.26% of the average rainfall of 46.07 inches for this date.
According to Marin Municipal Water District’s rainfall history, the total now is just shy of the 2017-18 year, which was about 74 inches. The banner year in recent history, 2015-16, was 96 inches of rain in a year.
Over the 48 hours period ending at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, San Rafael received 1.4 inches, Mount Tamalpais received 2.49 inches, Novato got 1.18 inches, Mill Valley received 1.5 inches and Point Reyes Station got 2.13 inches of rain, said Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
“Generally, when we do have a huge amount of rain that comes forth, those falls are highly sought out by hikers to see the beautiful waterfalls,” said Erica Frazier, an open space ranger with Marin County Parks.
Buck Gulch Falls is at the end of Fairway Drive in Novato. A trail leads to the falls.
Also on county parks land is Cascade Canyon Falls in the Cascade Canyon Preserve in Fairfax and Dawn Falls in the Baltimore Canyon Preserve in Larkspur, which has an access point at Crown Road in Kentfield to the Southern Marin Line Fire Road.
For much of this wet winter season, parks employees have been busy with downed trees, Frazier said. She said visitors who bring dogs should keep them on leashes and out of the falls to protect the California newt and the yellow-legged frogs that are native to the area.
Another area that has captured attention this season is Cascade Falls in Mill Valley’s Cascade Park.
Kim Bellisimo, a wellness coach and Mill Valley resident, said she meets her clients “from all over the world” there weekly.
“There’s so much energy at the waterfall,” she said. “It’s a sacred space where you can collect up that energy and really use it to create with and be filled with.”
Bellisimo said the waterfall allows people to reconnect with nature and reflect. It often pulls them out of their daily concerns and stresses, she said.
“We are out there rain or shine,” she said, referring to her dog Dexter.
Mark Neumann, Mill Valley operations superintendent, said now is the prime opportunity to view the waterfalls.
“The falls get really full with immediate rainfall,” he said. “I expect we will have water cascading over the falls at a higher level and later in the year. But the really remarkable scenes are really short after rainfall.”
Fallen trees in the area may have been a disincentive to some, despite the “tremendous natural beauty,” he said.
“They’re beautiful, but it can be kind of treacherous to get out there,” he said. “It’s remarkable how much water is going down.”
On Marin Municipal Water District’s lands, Cataract and Carson falls are popular spots.
In Fairfax, a 25-foot cascade called Fairfax Falls is in the Loma Alta Open Space Preserve. The fire road is reachable from the Glen Drive trailhead or the trailhead at the summit of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Another accessible waterfall in Novato is Waterfall Trail in the Indian Valley Open Space Preserve. Visitors can walk the loop around the ballfields, go through the open space gate, take the fire road and find a sign to the trail.
In West Marin, the Point Reyes National Seashore boasts Alamere Falls, which involves a 12- to 13-mile hike along steep cliffs and through Wildcat Canyon.