Stillwater Mountains
Mississippi and Ramparts Falls
August, 12-14, 2011

This trip we went back to the Stillwater Mountains about 100 miles east of Reno to explore a Mississippi Canyon, the longest Stillwater Canyon and find a way around the previously impassable waterfall in Ramparts Canyon.

We found intermittent clear running water in lower Mississippi Canyon with several bubbling cascades. The hiking was easy until the canyon narrowed where we arrived at an unsuspected waterfall. The stream flows out of a grass filled level area above a 30 foot cliff then splits evenly around a low rock protrusion from wall, rejoins and immediately splits evenly again around a moss covered dome shaped rock. The two steams rejoin again then free falls to the base. We christened the falls Split Stream Falls.

We were surprised to find an easy shelf that curved around the south side of the falls. At 0.6 miles above the falls the canyon became choked with brush and vines so that it was impassable. Looking for a way around we then tried a ridge route after considering alternatives on the USGS map.

After 2 miles and 1000 feet elevation gain we rounded a pinnacle and could see that the route to the crest ahead was probably passable requiring about another 2000 feet of gain. We needed to leave that for another trip and return the way we came.

We camped that night in a small dry grass meadow above the falls. On out return to the trailhead we were treated to great views of complex foregrounds, intermediate colorful mountain ridges, and backdrops of the white sands of Dixie Meadow and distant Clan Alpine Mountains. A fat tree lizard that is light brown with black and white chevrons stopped on some dead grass long enough to be photographed.

As we drove down the delta of the canyon we saw a pronghorn moving ahead of us parallel to the road. It would disappear then reappear at about the same distance as before. It then stopped on a ledge ahead of us against a background of sunlit meadow.

We drove to Hare canyon and walked along the bajada edge to Ramparts Canyon and through the canyon to Ramparts Falls. We went around the falls by a route that had been found on a previous trip. It involves some carefully moving on steep slopes with moderate exposure. In an effort to find a less difficult we explored further up hill and found a route that is not steep but passed along cliff faces. Perhaps a better way can be found on the next trip.

We decided to return by climbing up to the south ridge that then is an easy walk to the trailhead. We made an unfortunate choice of where to start up the ridge, which committed us, later to difficult steep slopes.

On reaching the ridge top we needed a campsite about the time we found a derelict sheep pen where we spent the night.

As we walked to our car the next day we made plans to come back to attempt a Mississippi Canyon, Sweetwater Crest, Ramparts Canyon loop hike.