Name of Waterfall

Ribbon Rock Falls


Ribbon Rock falls is one of the many waterfalls in storied Rubio Canyon just above Altadena. The falls were buried by the 1998 incident involving the poor planning of the Rubio Water company's attempted repair of a water supply pipe. Following a debris flow in 2004 the falls became exposed again and are slowly recovering. Two additional waterfalls formerly were found between Ribbon Rock Falls and Maidenhair Falls at the foot of the canyon - Bay Arbor Falls and Cavity Chute, both of which remain buried by the debris and cannot be located.From 1893 to 1936 the Mount Lowe Railway operated from the base of Rubio Canyon to a hotel within the canyon that featured a popular trail, complete with walkways bolted to the cliffs and staircases which climbed adjacent to several of the waterfalls. From the Rubio Pavilion at the base of the canyon the Rubio Incline (a funicular) climbed up a 59% graded track high up into the San Gabriels. After the railway had shut down in 1938 due to various disasters (fire and floods among them) the development slowly disappeared, with the land being sold back to the National Forest Service in 1947.

Since 1886 the water rights in Rubio Canyon had been held by the Rubio Canyon Water & Land Association. Most of the water provided by this company had been acquired from wells, but around 1970 the company installed a water treatment plant at the base of the canyon to treat surface water, and to provide it they installed a pipe which bypasses the waterfalls in Rubio Canyon from a catchment basin higher up in the drainage - the annual capacity of which is about 200 acre feet per year (enough for about 800 people annually). The 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged this pipe and after assessing the situation Rubio Water hired a contractor to repair the pipe, only to have the contractor refuse to do further work on the pipe due to concerns about the stability of the terrain. Rubio Water then went to FEMA for funding to provide a more geologically sound alignment of the pipe and in 1998 the funding was approved. Rubio Water however made the mistake of assuming that FEMA had conducted the appropriate Environmental Impact Statement studies before approving the funds and failed to consult with any further groups about possible impacts the work may have in Rubio Canyon. Rubio Water then hired a contractor to chisel, blast and grade an eight-foot wide bench (essentially a road) into the side of Rubio Canyon where the pipe was to rest. Many sections had to be dynamited out because the logistics proved to be much more difficult than surveyors had initially thought. The result is over 100,000 cubic yards of debris was dumped into Rubio Canyon, creating a 100 foot deep, 400 foot long unconsolidated rock pile which buried five of the nine waterfalls in the canyon in entirety, as well as destroyed several structures which were formerly included on the National Register of Historic Places.

In October 2004 a torrential rain storm dropped 10 inches of precipitation in Rubio Canyon, which washed out the top of the rockpile and created a substantial debris flow. This resulted in one of the previously buried waterfalls becoming visible again, however four others remain buried and will likely remain so until the canyon is restored or all the debris washes out naturally.

Other Names


Watershed or Feeder Stream