Scenic USA - Washington

Whatcom Falls Park

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Whatcom Falls Park - Bellingham, Washington

Photo by Jim Stiles
Jim Stiles Photography

     A popular area for biking, walking and picnic lunches, the area around Whatcom Creek was simply called the Picnic Grounds during the late 1800s. The site was offered for sale, but like most cities of the early 20th century, Bellingham had no funds for land purchases. Most relied on area philanthropists to help the city's unique causes. When none of Bellingham's wealthy stepped forward, a men's club took up the challenge and raised enough money to secure the park area. Local clubs and civic minded residents pitched in, creating trails, adding picnic shelters, playground equipment and decorative plants. During the Depression Era, Roosevelt's Army arrived to make more improvements to the expanded park. Federal funds purchased 200 acres acres to add to Bellingham's charming parkland. Depression Era workers salvaged Chuckanut sandstone blocks from an old building in town, creating a graceful stone arch bridge over Whatcom Creek and falls.
     Today the city park is still recovering from a devastating fire in 1999. When a pipe line burst, filling the creek with nearly a quarter of a million gallons of gasoline, a horrific explosive occurred taking the lives of three Bellingham youngsters. Many agencies are still involved with restoration efforts. What was spared is this pretty little scene of the Whatcom Creek, its waterfall and stone bridge.
     Curious about the Whatcom name? It seems that Whatcom is an Americanized name for the Native Lummi word Xwot'qom, meaning noisy water, an appropriate name for this attractive section of the park.

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