The first thing that comes to mind when I think about French River Falls is the overwhelming scent of rotting flesh…Not really the first thing you WANT to come to mind when you’re thinking about waterfalls, or anything for that matter (unless you’re a dog or vulture, I guess). How did I arrive at the dead flesh point in the story? Well, there’s stuff that went on before that…
Minnesota state route 61 is where many of the North Shore waterfalls are found. When going from Duluth to Grand Portage, French River Falls is found nearer Duluth. It is on the north side of the road. The river is surprisingly easy to find, but it’s not nearly as easy to get to the waterfall. Well, maybe not hard, but deceiving. The first time I drove by, I wasn’t even sure where to park. It seems so odd to just “pull off” on the side of a major road and just park, but that’s essentially what you’re supposed to do.
Once you park on the side of the road, there’s no clear path to the falls, but it’s still pretty obvious to head toward the bridge. Put bug spray on…I have a feeling there are likely ticks in the grass you have to tramp through. Once you get to the river, you have to maneuver down to the bottom. It’s not so difficult, you just have to be careful. I don’t remember it being easy to find a place, though, where you can get a full picture of the falls. That is probably because the smell of dead animal was deterring me from wanting to spend very long looking for a better view. Oh well, check it out, and you might have a better experience than me.
- If you’re heading north on MN-61 from Duluth, the best way to find the falls is to look for the French River! I was actually Old/Scenic Highway 61, which is right near the lakeshore. It is very easy to notice the French River as you cross it. Right before the French River is a road, County Road 50 (or Ryan Rd.) If you turn left on this road, you can head toward MN-61 (the freeway).
- Instead of turning onto MN-61, head across the road and park on the side of the road. You’ll be parked on the north side of the road, though traffic will be heading south.
- Park on the side of Ryan Rd. and head north toward the French River. It is only a few hundred feet to the river, so if you don’t reach it quickly, you’re not at the right place!
- Maneuver down to the falls. (For other information, check out Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore by Eve and Gary Wallinga. It has information on other waterfalls along the North Shore.)
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
Where in the World is French River Falls?