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From Fresno we drove to Auberry then took Auberry Road to Jose Basin Road near the Mono Wind Casino. We then took Italian Bar Road to where the Million Dollar Mile Road intersects near the sign to Powerhouse #3. The Million Dollar Mile Road got its name from the high cost per mile of building it in the early 1900s. The drive took about an hour and 15 minutes. The beginning elevation is about 1,900’. There is a small parking area near the locked gate. Do not believe the sign on the gate that reads, “Stevenson Falls 2.5 miles”.
From there Stevenson Creek Falls is about 3.6 miles (7.25 miles round trip). The total elevation gain round trip is about 700 feet. Our hike was about 4 hours with a half hour lunch stop at the falls. As you approach the falls, you will see a small waterfall in the distance at where you would expect Stevenson Falls to be. Don’t be discouraged for this is another nearby falls, not Stevenson Falls that remains hidden from view till you are almost there.
There is drinking water along the way if you have a means of purifying it. Watch out for Poison Oak on the side of the road. The San Joaquin River can be seen far below along much of the hike along the road. You can also see a penstock which is a large metal tube used to bring water downhill to a turbine. Powerhouse #3 is part of the Big Creek Hydroelectric Power Project begun in the early 1900s with the fourth and final phase completed in 1987. It is one of the largest hydroelectric projects in the world and supplies electricity to Los Angles. There is an interesting history here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Creek_Hydroelectric_Project
Stevenson Creek begins above and flows into Shaver Lake. Many lost hikers find themselves descending the Stevenson Creek drainage and winding up at Shaver Lake. From Shaver Lake the creek flows about four miles and then empties into the San Joaquin River. The magnitude of the Stephenson Creek Falls depends on how much water is being released from Shaver Lake. At this point you are above Redinger Reservoir and below Mammoth Pool Reservoir.
I seem to remember a friend and I taking this trip on bicycles which would probably be easier than hiking it. This would also make a wonderful running route for the young and fit. There is an occasional Southern California Edison vehicle traveling along this route.
There is a tunnel along the way and another near the falls. I don’t know how deep either one is or why they were excavated.
The falls is a great lunch stop but not the best time for photography. Wide-angle lenses produce the best photographs here but, facing the waterfall, you are looking directly at the sun and there is a tendency for ‘lens flare’. I used a Sony A7R2 camera. The outbound shots of the river were with a native Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8 lens. The shots at the falls were with an adapted Leica 28mm 2.8 and Zeiss Batis 18mm 2.8. The remaining inbound shots were with the Leica lens.
That Is Not How I Usually Wear A Cap
Smaller Falls Visible Before Stevenson Creek Falls
There is a video slide show with some video clips also here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3fy23ZnYJA