Sunday, July 3, 2016

Minnesota Waterfalls Road Trip

Gooseberry Falls State Park
Several months ago on Facebook I ran across this article, or advertisement, or whatever you'd like to call it.  It's a trip to seven state parks all along Highway 61 on the North Shore.  Each of the state parks on the route has at least one waterfall on the river that runs through it, emptying into Lake Superior.  One of my favorite places on earth is Gooseberry Falls, so coming up with a trip that involved more state parks, more rivers, and more waterfalls was kind of a no-brainer - this trip was right up my alley.  Thankfully, my family was excited to do it too, so we began making arrangements for it a few months ago.

Falls on the Beaver River, Beaver Bay
Last week, the time came, and we journeyed north to spend the first day of the trip at Gooseberry Falls (click on any of the photos below to enlarge).  There really is no other place in Minnesota like Gooseberry Falls.  It must be one of the most majestic, interesting, picturesque, and fun places in our state.  It's magical.  We spent the day there, climbing the rocks along the waterfalls, looking for agates, and wading through the raging river (it really was raging - I'm not sure I've ever seen the rivers more swollen in the summer months than I did last week).  Later on that day, we went to Beaver Bay and explored the waterfalls that empty into Lake Superior there and, of course, looked for more agates.

High Falls, Tettegouche State Park
The next day, we went to Tettegouche state park and hiked back to the High Falls, which is actually quite a hike.  A bit of confusion led to an even longer hike to get back to our car, but it all worked out in the end.  This wasn't the first time I'd been to Tettegouche, so it wasn't a new experience, but the high falls are definitely impressive (it's the highest waterfall in Minnesota - more on that in a minute).

Falls at George Crosby Manitou State Park
From Tettegouche, we traveled to George Crosby Manitou state park and hiked back to those falls as well.  The hike was easier, and the view of the falls was even better than Tettegouche.  The falls at Manitou were, in my opinion, the most beautiful falls of the trip (aside from Gooseberry, of course).  I would like to go back to George Crosby Manitou and spend a lot more time there, hiking the trails and swimming in the river.  Some other year, I suppose.

Mouth of the Temperance River
From there we went on to Temperance River state park.  These falls are interesting, as there are some located almost right on the banks of Superior.  It's about a 30-second hike from the side of the highway to an observation bridge and you can see the falls.  (Little did I know, there is actually another waterfall located further back in the park called "Hidden Falls."  Unfortunately, the falls were sufficiently hidden and we never went back to see them.)  After Temperance, we wearily went to a nearby hotel, after about 8 miles of hiking.

Falls at Cascade River State Park
Bright and early on day three we went off to Cascade River state park and hiked the loop that went back to several waterfalls in succession.  The Cascade Falls won the distinction of "deadliest falls" in my opinion.  If one were to fall in the river and go down the several falls in succession, there would be no coming back.

Upper Falls, Judge C.R. Magnet State Park
Next was Judge C.R. Magney state park, with the Upper Falls and famous Devil's Kettle.  The Upper Falls were very impressive, as they were raging with immense flow, yet one was able to come within very close proximity of the falls.

The Devil's Kettle
The Devil's Kettle was also raging which, as it turns out, actually detracts from the viewing experience.  The Devil's Kettle is famous for splitting the Brule River in two, and taking one part of it down the "devil's kettle" - a hole in the rock that goes somewhere indeterminable.  No one knows where the water goes.  Legend has it that several have tried to determine its course by putting dye into the water to see if it comes out further on down the river, and even several hundred ping pong balls for the same effect, but to no avail.  Where the water goes is a mystery.  When we visited the Kettle, however, the water was raging so much that it was almost difficult to see the hole in the rock.  It would be more accurate to say that you could see water hitting a part of the rock and disappearing.  The Kettle wasn't visible from the observation deck.  Still, the hike to see the Upper Falls and Devil's Kettle were worth it, even though it involved a 180 stair climb!

High Falls, Grand Portage State Park
The trip culminated at Grand Portage state park, with perhaps the most majestic waterfall on the trip. The High Falls at Grand Portage are the highest falls in the state, although that statistic is misleading, as the falls are shared by Minnesota and Canada (this is what makes the High Falls at Tettegouche the highest waterfall in the state, whereas the High Falls at Grand Portage are both in Minnesota and Canada).  The hike back to these falls was easy, and was also paved - the only park we visited with a paved trail back to the waterfall.

Needless to say, at the end of our three-day journey, we had traversed some 150 miles, visited 7 state parks, and walked about 20 miles to see the waterfalls - we were tired!  But I, for one, would say that the effort was well worth it, and I would gladly do it all again.  In fact, I'd like to spend some time in the summers to come camping at each of these parks.

One thing that has occurred to me as a result of this trip is the magnificent thing that is the Minnesota State Parks.  If you think about it, you cannot get a better, cheaper vacation than visiting a state park.  All it costs is $25.00 for the vehicle permit, $20.00-$25.00 per night for camping, and however much you spend in gas to get there - that's it!  What a great deal.  And if you go to a good park, you will enjoy sightseeing that is quite simply top notch, and is not to be duplicated anywhere else in the state.  In the future, I want to take as much advantage of our state parks as possible.

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