Minnesota’s North Shore Waterfalls

I am probably biased as a homegrown Minnesotan but I think Minnesota is one of the best places in the US to live. Okay, I don’t like the short, cold days of winter but at least that is a beautiful time of year. There are many great places around the state but by far my favorite places are the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the North Shore of Lake Superior. I don’t think this area gets the national recognition that it deserves but perhaps that is a good thing. It has retained some of that small town American charm in an incredibly beautiful place.

Part 1 of my trip home focused on the waterfalls in southern Minnesota where my father has a farm.

Part 2 (this blog post) focuses on the waterfalls of the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Part 3 will focus on everything else we saw along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

On my trip home in June we didn’t go to the BWCA but instead we spent a lot of time visiting the state parks and the lakeshore. As a child we took many trips to the BWCA but aside from Gooseberry Falls we didn’t really stop at the state parks. I had no idea that there were so many state parks and that each of them was so peaceful. Both Waterfalls of Minnesota and Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore and More are great guidebooks and each provided a lot of help planning my trip. I wasn’t able to visit all of the waterfalls or state parks along the north shore but I plan on taking many more trips home.

1. Gooseberry Falls was always one of stops coming back from the BWCA when I was a child. Sometimes we went swimming or sometimes we just stopped to stretch our legs. Since then they have built a new visitor center and a walking bridge under the Hwy 61 bridge. You can now do an easy (some stairs) 1 hour loop and see the 3 tiers of waterfalls. There is also a great picnic area down by Lake Superior and many longer hiking and biking trails.

Click for directions to Gooseberry Falls

2. Beaver River Falls is one of Hwy 61’s biggest roadside waterfalls. This is a great waterfall for those that don’t feel like hiking. You are able to get out of your car and stand on the bridge to view the falls although there are some steep trails that lead down to the water.

Click for directions to Beaver River Falls

3. High Falls on the Baptism River is an impressive waterfall located at Tettegouche State Park. Gooseberry Falls gets all of the visitors but this one is a little harder to get to with fewer visitors. The trail leads to a viewpoint directly on top of the waterfall and then there are stairs that take you to the base of the waterfall where you can swim. Hikers can also visit Two Step Falls on a short detour back to the car.

Click for directions to High Falls (Tettegouche State Park)


4. Cross River Falls is another of Hwy 61’s roadside waterfalls near the Temperance River. This is the view from the Hwy 61 bridge but there are more waterfalls upstream for hikers.

Click for directions to Cross River Falls

5. Temperance River State Park‘s best waterfall inside a narrow gorge. The best views of the waterfall are actually from the top where the water disappears into the gorge. There are several other small waterfalls but this is a beautiful river hike. There is also a stunning view of a small bay with steep cliffs at the mouth of the Temperance River.

Click for directions to Temperance River State Park

6. Cascade River State Park is a series of nice waterfalls with steep cliffs that is easy to access from Hwy 61. Like many of the state parks along the north shore it connects to the Superior Hiking Trail. We hiked along the river from the state park to county road 45 and were picked up. This is a great intro to the Superior Hiking Trail and makes me want to plan a thru hike on the trail someday.

Click for directions to Cascade River State Park

7. High Falls on the Pigeon River is a major waterfall that deserves recognition in top 50 US waterfall lists. The Pigeon River also forms the US/Canada border and the falls can be viewed from either country. One fascinating part of Grand Portage State Park and the High Falls is that it is a cooperative project with the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and the Minnesota State park system. It isn’t as convenient to get there but this is the best waterfall in Minnesota (albeit shared with Canada).

One of my friends commented that the waterfall looks like a giant bear giving the middle finger. Can you see it?

Click for directions to the High Falls on the Pigeon River (Grand Portage State Park)

Southern Minnesota’s Waterfalls

Most normal people wouldn’t step off of an 11 hour flight from Asia and stop for a waterfall hike on the way home but I (and my sister and brother-in-law who were on the same flight) am not normal. We landed early in the afternoon and one of the most important things (in my experience) to get over jetlag quickly is to stay up until 9pm the first night no matter how tired you are. The short hike to Hidden Falls (#1 on this list below) was perfect. It wasn’t very difficult but we stayed active and jet lag was minimal for the trip.

My trip started at my father’s farm near Conger, Minnesota before spending a few days in the Twin Cities and finishing up on Minnesota’s North Shore. I had taken many trips to the BWCA as a child but other than Gooseberry Falls we didn’t stop at many of the waterfalls along Hwy 61. I am still surprised at how many and how big the waterfalls are up there but those will be shown in part 2 (3 parts) of this blog series. Other than Minnehaha Falls (not really southern Minnesota…) I had no idea that any waterfalls existed in southern Minnesota. Here are the five waterfalls that I visited in southern Minnesota.

  1. Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State – Northfield, MN

Hidden Falls in Big Woods State Park was the biggest surprise for me on this list. The Minnesota and Mississippi river valleys have some hills so waterfalls aren’t a complete surprise but southcentral Minnesota is as flat as a pancake. Hidden Falls is only 8-10 feet tall but it is a broad fall and is very impressive after recent rains. It is only a short hike to the waterfall but there are 11 miles of hiking trails at Big Woods State Park for those wanting to stretch their legs a little more.

Click here for directions to Hidden Falls

2. Minnehaha Falls – Minneapolis, MN

Minnehaha Falls is Minnesota’s most popular waterfall since it is located in the center of Minneapolis. It will be crowded on weekends but the park is a lovely area to spend an afternoon in.

Click here for directions to Minnehaha Falls

3. Minneopa Falls at Minneopa State Park – Mankato, MN

Minneopa Falls was an unexpected surprise fairly close to my hometown. I had taken many trips to Mankato and even lived there for a month as a child (Vikings training camp was awesome) but Minneopa Falls wasn’t on my waterfall radar until I started planning my trip home. My expectations for Minneopa Falls were modest but we were pleasantly surprised by a beautiful 40 foot waterfall that nearly matches the more famous Minnehaha Falls.

In addition to the waterfall you can also visit a bison conservation area at Minneopa State Park. We saw about 8 bison in a meadow near Seppmann Mill. Only cars (DO NOT GET OUT) are allowed into the conservation area but there is a walking trail on the other side of the enclosure where you might have a better chance of seeing them.

Click here for directions to Minneopa Falls

4. Minnemishinona Falls – Mankato, MN

Until recently Minnemishinona Falls was on private property but Nicollet County took advantage of an opportunity and acquired the land. The waterfall and the overhanging cliff are pretty cool but I really wanted to be at the bottom of the waterfall instead of on the bridge. They only acquired 3 acres of land and the rest is private property. Please respect the neighbor’s land.

Click here for directions to Minnemishinona Falls

5. Vermillion Falls – Hastings, MN

Vermillion Falls is part of Hastings history with one its mills located right next to it. There is a nice park and a few miles of trails next to the river to explore within the town of Hastings.

Click here for directions to Vermillion Falls

These are certainly not all of southern Minnesota’s waterfalls but these are the ones that I visited during my trip home in June 2016. Hopefully I will visit a few more waterfalls on my next trip home. Do you have any favorites that aren’t on list that I must visit next time? Remember that this is only part 1 of my trip home. I still have another blog of waterfalls along the North Shore to write. That entire area is beautiful and we only visited a small part of it on this trip.

I would like to give a special thanks to Lisa Crayford’s ‘Waterfalls of Minnesota’ guidebook (connect with her on her waterfall FB page). She has directions to over 100 waterfalls in her book (just released in May 2016). I really enjoy taking waterfall photos and I love her technical perfection that she shows in the book. I have been given a few new ideas for tricky to photograph waterfalls.

A trip home

I never intended to wait 4.5 years before returning home to Minnesota but it has been 4.5 years.  Some things have changed but many things remain the same.  Some things are the same but they are a complete shock to someone that has lived in Asia for a considerable amount of time.  The sound of silence exists here (even in the city/suburbs).  Giant open spaces create a sense of calmness that is rare in Taiwan.  There is a sense of order on the roads instead of a sense of chaos.  The grocery stores have everything that someone could want.  And the air is clean and breathable.  If I could change just one thing about Taiwan it would be the dirty air.

I ended up cutting the timing of my trip dangerously close to the winter that would never end but there has been absolutely awesome weather here for the last week.  It didn’t rain much until the last day and the temps have been perfect.  I have been a little frightened by the number of places using AC in the low 70’s (<25C) but I guess that is really hot or something.

Looking at my grandpa’s farm on the left.  The corn was just planted in the last couple of weeks and it won’t be long until it is a sea of green.

Grandpa’s old barn.

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a time before the Internet.  You couldn’t just go out and read 100’s of product reviews in an evening.  Grandpa’s barn was in a sales book for a local construction company and perhaps an interested farmer would stop by and view the barn in person before building it himself.

This one isn’t quite in running order but old tractors are really cool despite the mega tractors roaming the fields now.  Every year they seem to get bigger and bigger.

One of my uncles operates a small sawmill.

Another one of my uncles perhaps has the coolest job ever.  He isn’t just a salesman.  He is a Harley-Davidson salesman at Faribault Harley-Davidson.

One of my stepbrothers has built an impressive print shop in Minneapolis.  They don’t just do the same digital printing done everywhere but instead they focus on high end paper (it feels wonderful) and nearly forgotten techniques of letterpressing, engraving, foil stamping and methods that I couldn’t even begin to understand.  Their work truly takes on a 3D feel due to the thickness of the paper and the print methods used.

For more info – Studio On Fire

The family farm at sunset.

Lake Maria State Park, MN

For the next week there will be a completely different flavor to the blog. I have returned to the US to visit with my family and explore a few local Minnesota places. The first short hike was a state park near my mother’s house in the northern suburbs. Despite being close to the Twin Cities it was practically deserted on a holiday weekend. It doesn’t actually have a main draw but rather it offers pleasant tranquility.

Most of trails lead through a mature forest with many picturesque fallen, mossy trees.

A columbine flower.

This would be a giant lake and a major tourist attraction in Taiwan.  I’m not even sure this counts as one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.

Even this would be a tourist destination in Taiwan.  This was just one of dozens of small waterholes at Lake Maria State Park after a rainy spring.