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Waterfalls photos from Gooseberry Falls State Park, taken in April.
|Nina's Recommended Waterfall Tours
taken from Nina's North Shore Guide, 3d ed
the southwest half of the North Shore streams tend to be showy. With
no headwaters, the rivers swell and pound during spring run-off and
heavy rains and run low during dry times. Rivers without headwaters
can discharge up to four times as much water as those with headwaters.
From the Manitou River northeast, the rivers have headwaters and thus,
a more stable flow. But it's a close call to the best performance
Consider driving Scenic 61 if you would like to view some streams, their flows into Lake Superior and some fishing action. The Lester, French, Sucker, and Stewart (past Two Harbors) rivers all have spring steelhead runs. The Sucker River also has an abundant spring sucker run.
On the northeast side of the Lafayette Bluff Tunnel, you will cross
the Crow Creek. See if it is running. It was originally named the
Prohibition Creek, since it usually ran dry.
Get out of the car at Gooseberry River. Two waterfalls are visible from the bridge and three more are within a short hike. The three lower falls drop over 100 feet and the river path is beautiful. To see Gooseberry in all her glory, visit during spring run-off in April and early May.
Next on the tour is the Split Rock River. You can access the river at the trailhead in
the parking lot on the west side of the river or at an old road turnoff
about a quarter mile east of the river on the lake side. Three miles
upstream the West and East Branches of the Split Rock join beginning
a 400-foot tumble over cascades and rapids terminating in a high falls
about one mile from the mouth. Named for this split rock canyon, the
river spreads into a wide flat valley before discharging into Lake
You should also get out of the car at the Beaver River at Beaver Bay.
The river drops 300 feet in a series of cascades and falls above the
bridge and enters the sedate bay. Highway 61 follows the curve of
the bay to East Beaver Bay, providing additional panoramas.
The Baptism River is the highest falls entirely within Minnesota and
can be seen at Tettegouche State Park. This superb trout stream descends
over 700 feet including the 70-foot Baptism Falls and the 50-foot
Illgen Falls further upstream.
Palisade Creek pales in comparison to the big rivers, but it originates
in a stunning valley in the rocky ridges above Silver Bay. Check the
hiking chapter for details on how to get there and bring a rod and
reel, the brook trout can be thick.
From this point north, rivers have headwaters. Headwaters are typically
lakes, streams and swamps. In addition, the Caribou and Manitou Rivers have plentiful spring water sources, which, when coupled with relatively
stable flows, mean excellent trout habitat. You will encounter the
Caribou River at the junction of Lake and Cook Counties. This border
river begins in the swamps and then cascades and falls to Lake Superior.
On the immediate eastern side of the river, there is a small parking
area on the northern side of the road. You can access the river and
a path that leads about a half mile up the river to the falls.
The Manitou, Ojibwa for great magical spirit, features eight major
waterfalls with the last one dropping almost directly into Lake Superior.
Access is limited with tour or charter boats providing excellent views
of the last falls.
Two Island River near Taconite Harbor is named for the two islands,
Gull and Bear, opposite the mouth of the river. With lake and swamp
headwaters, Two Island descends the last miles into rapids and cascades.
Cross River in Schroeder is a sight to behold. The bridge spans the
river almost mid-falls, providing an awesome water display, especially
in the spring. You'll find ample room to pull over on both sides of
the river, which features five major falls in the lower six miles.
In my book, Temperance has the easiest access to the best river presentation.
A mere quarter-mile upstream the Temperance River takes a spectacular
last drop into a gorge so narrow you can't always see where the river
lands. Upstream a few yards more are roaring cascades. Just below
Highway 61 is a footbridge showcasing the river's mouth, for which
the river was named. Temperance was credited as the only river along
the North Shore without a sand bar at its mouth (though in some years
it actually has a bar). The headwaters of the Temperance includes
Brule Lake, which is also a headwaters for Brule River. It is a rarity
that the same lake serve as a source for two different river systems.
Legend has it the Onion River between Tofte and Lutsen was created
from the tears Paul Bunyan shed while cutting timber nearby, where
wild onions grow in profusion.
The Poplar River serves as water source for snowmaking at Lutsen Mountains
and is restive in the last mile of descent. A few miles inland, however,
is a roaring falls followed by canyons and cascades.
You haven't seen
cascades until you've seen the Cascade River. Ten miles above the
mouth the river abruptly falls into the descent to Lake Superior.
Dropping 900 feet in the lower three miles, the river takes a steep
final run in the last quarter mile as it drops 120 feet through a
deep, churning gorge. Hike both sides of the Cascade River by parking
at the river mouth and following the trails signs.
Swamp River enters Devil Track Lake (8 miles north of Grand Marais)
and at the outlet of the lake becomes Devil Track River. The upper
river is slow moving with beaver ponds, but then enters a barely visible
gorge by thunderously leaping over a sheer vertical wall of red rhyolite.
Comprised almost entirely of shards of rhyolite, the riverbed winds
a last mile down to Lake Superior.
The Kadunce River in Colvill is a wonderful river hike. The lower
reaches have small red rhyolite gorges and waterfalls. You can follow
the path on the east side of the river or hike right up the river.
Wear a pair of rubber soled shoes and be prepared to get a little
wet. At the mouth of the river are a few picnic tables and a great
The Brule River at Judge Magney State Park is
third in size after the St Louis and Pigeon Rivers. But the Brule's
most famous feature is the Devil's Kettle. A mile and a half inland
are the Lower Falls, then the Upper Falls and the Devil's Kettle,
where the river course splits. About half of the river's water flow
runs over the Upper Falls while the other half enters a cauldron,
the Devil's Kettle, and disappears. It is presumed that some of the
water goes into an underground waterway and some reappears in a pool
in the lower river reaches, but the point of re-entry remains unknown.
Reservation River is unique in that it has no waterfalls near the
mouth, so lake-run rainbow can ascend and spawn
almost the entire
length of the stream.
|Pigeon River was named for large flocks of now extinct passenger pigeons
that once called the river home. A continental divide between North
and South Lakes divides the watershed of Lake Superior and Hudson
Bay. From the divide, the Pigeon drops 950 feet with the 50-foot Partridge
Falls a precursor of the lower 20 miles of cascades and falls ending
with the 100-foot drop Pigeon Falls (High Falls). This lower reach
is particularly rugged until a short distance after the falls, where
the river widens. An easy half-mile trail in Grand Portage State Park
leads to the High Falls. The trail end has two great viewing decks
where you can feel the spray of the falls!
As the international boundary, the Pigeon River also plays into American
history. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris between Canada and the USA set
up an international boundary along the usual waterway line. But that
line varied with time and was still debated after the War of 1812
when the Treaty of Ghent made provisions for a further look at the
border. In the 1820s a British and American survey party set to the
task and came up with three options; the St. Louis River (British
choice), the Kaministikwia (American choice) and the Pigeon River
as an alternative. A compromise was set on the Pigeon River in 1842
when the British determined little value existed in the wilderness
area between the St. Louis and Pigeon Rivers.
Here are links to everything you need for your next North Shore visit!
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