Ogden Canyon’s ‘Bridal Veil Falls’

Friday , April 18, 2014 - 5:39 PM

Lynn Arave
Lynn Arave

Ogdenites were simply fascinated with waterfalls around the end of the 19th century — like the one in Waterfall Canyon (featured the two previous weeks in this column), so much so that they created their own water drop, near the mouth of Ogden Canyon.

Indeed, the June 28, 1912, Standard referred to the Ogden Canyon waterfall as the “Bridal Veil Falls of Ogden.”

That year, the Western Weekly publication had a full-page illustration of the waterfall at the mouth of Ogden Canyon. It didn’t matter that the falls were manmade; they were still a solid tourist attraction and one of the first things visitors to Ogden Canyon saw.

“For years this beautiful waterfall has arrested the attention of sojourners in Ogden Canyon and it can be said that no other bit of scenic charm in the Wasatch range remains longer in the memory of the visitor than does this fairy bridal veil as it leaps from a beetling cliff 800 feet above the roadway, dissipating itself into fluffy clouds of vapor ere it has fallen one-half the distance to the stream below,” the Standard story stated.

The story then explained an old, lengthy Ute Indian tale, “The Leap of Little Swan,” as the fanciful legend of how the artificial cascade “began,” which delighted thousands of summer visitors to Ogden Canyon.

The Ogden Canyon falls were created in the late 1880s when Fred Packard of Utah Power & Light conceived the idea of an artificial water cascade there. He changed a cracked tunnel to an open waterway through the rocks with a giant blast of dynamite.

The falls served two necessary purposes: They prevented a vacuum forming in the pipeline there and they managed overflow water that had to be turned back in the Ogden River above certain irrigation canals.

Long before Rainbow Gardens came along at the mouth of Ogden Canyon, “Rainbow Cataract” was what a Standard article on March 9, 1889, called the artificial falls near the mouth of the canyon.

By 1907, a Nov. 5 Standard article called it the largest waterfall in the state and noted that water was flowing 12 months a year there, dropping some 400 feet.

However, that year-round flow soon created “a frigid threatening monster,” according to one Standard report. On Dec. 23, 1909, a huge icicle had formed around the falls, threatening travelers and spectators below. An avalanche of ice and snow destroyed the regular bridge across the Ogden River at the mouth of Ogden Canyon. Travelers and teams were having to use the separate Rapid Transit Trolley bridge to access the canyon. The waterfall flow was cut off. A temporary bridge was later made, and the icicle was blasted away in small patches.

In later years, changes were made so that such ice buildup in winter was kept to a minimum.

“Waterfall is again an attraction in Canyon” was an Aug. 8, 1917, Standard headline. Broken pipeline repairs by Utah Power had halted the waterfall for several weeks, “a source of regret to many tourists who have seen photographs of the beautiful bridal veils and anticipated seeing this novelty in the canyon.”

Lynn Arave is a veteran journalist who started writing for newspapers in 1970 at Roy High and for daily papers starting in 1976 with high school game reports for the Standard-Examiner. He has been an avid history researcher for three decades. He can be reached at lynnarave@comcast.net.

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