Black Bart's Hideout
The History of Hedge Creek Falls
Story by Gary VanDeWalker
Photo by Taryn Burkleo
The double-barrel shotgun landed on the mailbags, each bag cut on the side
forming the letter T. Water splashed over the face of Charles Bolles as he stepped
into Hedge Creek Falls. The water plunged 30 feet down into the pool, washing
the dust from his mustache and hands. He finished shaving, then dropped his
razor amidst a laundered handkerchief, Bible, and crackers. He dried his leathery
hands over a white flour sack with two eyeholes cut in the front.
Bolles stood in the afternoon sun, the beams illuminating the water vapor. His
blue-grey eyes gleamed as he remembered his days of mining in Shasta and Trinity
Counties, traveling through Dunsmuir and finding this secret place.
He laughed in his deep, sonorous voice as he thought of stagecoach driver
Horace Williams’ question, “How much did you make?”
“Not very much for the chances I take.” Bolles said.
Hedge creek Falls was his castle. He laid on the ground, resting his head on a
folded linen duster jacket. He repeated a habit he learned as a Union Soldier on
Sherman’s march to Atlanta: he picked up his dime-store novel, “The case of
Summerfield”, and read again the story from where he took his alias, Black Bart.
The cave behind the falls made a perfect bedroom for the bandit.
Over a hundred years later, I walked the quarter-mile down the steep slopes and
stairs and looked at the ribbon of water pouring over the worn rounded edge of
ancient lava rock. I sat on the bench facing the Falls, the mist hitting my face,
pondering how Black Bart discovered the Falls and the shallow cave behind. The
ferns moved as the air lifted from bottom of the cliff.
I leapt from each boulder over the small stream and held out my hand, letting
the cool water run over my fingers.walking behind the veil of water, I gazed at the
surrealistic landscape through the transparent window. I touched the cave wall,
wondering where the bandit once slept.
The Falls almost disappeared when Interstate 5 came through. The protests of a
few citizens convinced the state to move the freeway a few yards east, saving the
hidden waterfall hideaway.
Taking the freeway to the Dunsmuir/Siskiyou exit, I turned north on Dunsmuir
Avenue, making an immediate left into the small parking lot at the top of the trail
to the falls. I left my car in the shade of the trees and traveled along the newly
renovated trail to and from the falls, enjoying my afternoon.
The pressed handkerchief Bart carried was his undoing. A laundry mark led
detectives to his room in San Francisco after 28 successful hold-ups. After spending four
years in San Quentin, authorities released him. Bart announced he was done with
crime. Last seen on February 28, 1888, he left Nevada House in San Francisco,
leaving all his goods behind. No one knows where he went. Perhaps he returned
for one last look athedge creek Falls.