Dorothy Falls is a pretty little stop along the Kougarok Road, about 26 miles north of Nome. Getting across the Nome River is your first task. Depending on the time of year, it could be high or low. Locals in the know will wade across in their waterproof Xtratufs (waterproof boots) or hip waders, then change into hiking boots for the rest of the journey. Of course you don’t need to lug your Xtratufs with you – just leave them, changing back at the end of your hike, a la Mr. Rogers!
Note: If the water is knee deep and moving fast, it is wise to use trekking poles for stability while crossing.
Once across the river, head uphill. At the top you’ll have a great view of the surrounding hills. Hike along the mountain ridge until you see Dorothy Falls below, on the right. You can get down to the falls by following a steep trail (watch your footing).
The falls are small, but pretty. You may hear the long, varied song of the American dipper over the sound of the running water. They regularly nest next to or behind Dorothy Falls. Look for a dome-shaped nest made of moss. This songbird is fun to watch, since it actually goes underwater, walking along the bottom looking for salmon roe and small fry. (Silver salmon spawn in the waters of Dorothy Creek.)
After playing in the cold clear water of the falls, you can get back to the Nome River (and your waiting boots) along Dorothy Creek.
On the way, look for signs of Nome’s old mining past. You’ll see a decaying wooden water trestle and a large siphon made of rock that was part of the Miocene Ditch. This engineering wonder was one of four ditch systems built in the early 1900s to carry water to the gold fields outside of Nome.
The Miocene ditch system is an attractive route for wildlife, so be watchful for moose and bear.