Until recently, very few had seen the roaring water that tumbles three tiers before pouring neatly into Crystal Creek. That such a spectacle should evade even park officials for nearly 40 years is remarkable, said park Superintendent Jim Milestone.

"It wasn't on a map, no one on the trail crew knew about it. People who been here 27 years had never seen it," said Milestone, who is leading an effort to clear a trail to the newly named Whiskeytown Falls. It's expected to be finished by next summer.

There's no doubt the falls have had visitors over the years. The Wintu Indians were probably the first, although archeologists have so far found no traces on the site. A small band of loggers that harvested Douglas firs in the early 1950s left behind a choker cable and part of a bulldozer. A knife blade stuck in a nearby tree indicates that others have also made the trek.

But for park officials, the falls were merely a rumor for many years, said Russ Weatherbee, the wildlife biologist credited with the find.