Middle Falls of the Pigeon River, Minnesota/Ontario

The Pigeon River forms a portion of the border between Minnesota and Ontario. On the Minnesota side, you can visit Grand Portage State Park. The most popular (understandably) waterfall in Grand Portage State Park is the High Falls of the Pigeon River, which are very impressive. They are also easy to visit!

There are a number of other waterfalls on the Pigeon River, though, that don’t get nearly as much attention. If on the Minnesota side, it’s again understandable. One of the falls, Partridge Falls, is not necessarily easy to access because of rough road. Middle Falls, where there seems to be two different portions, can be accessed from the park entrance, though it requires a 2.5 mile hike one-way. This hike is by no means on flat ground, and it is steep at points, though by no means terrible. There is no simple boardwalk to the falls, though! Once you get there, you may be slightly disappointed, since High Falls is so much taller and more impressive. I would say the solitude you will experience at the Middle Falls would be a positive, but it was pretty quiet at the High Falls when I visited in mid-May.

As a side note, if you go to the Ontario side of the river, you will likely have a much easier time visiting these falls. From the Minnesota side, you can actually see the road that hugs the river, leading almost directly to the falls. So if you don’t want a workout, I would suggest that.

Directions (from Minnesota)

  1. Head north on MN-61 from Grand Portage to the entrance of Grand Portage State Park. You’ll see the border gate as you’re turning in.
  2. From the parking area, start along the trail toward High Falls. You should be heading west.
  3. Instead of heading toward High Falls, continue along the Middle Falls Trail. It is at least 1.6 miles one-way. Near the end of the trail, the trail splits (and creates a circle). The left fork in the trail leads you to the falls quicker, and I would even return from that direction. The right fork, adds a longer distance, and didn’t hold any interest for me.

Directions (from Ontario)

  1. On ON-61, find Route 593. Head west on Route 593, where after about 1 mile (maybe even less), you’ll pass a parking area on your LEFT. It’s really the only parking area, so turn in. If you’re unsure, there’s a sign in the parking area to indicate your near the falls.
  2. Walk along the old road upstream to the falls.

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/difficult, from Minnesota), 9/10 (easy, from Ontario)
Height: 15′
Hike: 5.0 mile hike round-trip (in Minnesota), 0.5 miles round-trip (in Ontario)

Middle Falls in May 2010 (from the Minnesota side)

Update: Alright, so I had a chance to visit Middle Falls when I was in the Thunder Bay area in late April 2012, and I can tell you, that for the most part, it is much easier to visit the Ontario side of the falls. The only difficulty is a minor one…There is no large sign indicating that you’re passing the parking area for the falls. I ended up passing the parking area, and turned around because I felt I had gone too far. I was correct in my hunch, as the parking area I saw was for the much shorter hike to the falls. On the Minnesota side, it’s a 3+ mile hike one-way…In Ontario, it’s about a 1/4 of a mile.  I also feel the views are somewhat better on the Ontario side.  For a while, I wasn’t even sure I was looking at the same waterfall.

Middle Falls in April 2012 (from the Ontario side)

 

Where in the World is Lower Middle Falls?

Cascade Falls, Minnesota

Cascade Falls in May 2010

The first waterfall that you encounter on the Cascade River is logically called Cascade Falls. Further beyond that are The Cascades. This first falls is a rather short distance from the trailhead, and it is definitely worth it to go and visit both “sets” of falls.

Unlike the Cascades, which is a complex set of…cascades, Cascade Falls is an actual plunge waterfall. I visited the falls in mid-May 2010, and the falls were at their prime then, most likely due to recent snow melt. (It had actually snowed just three days before, though that disappeared pretty quickly, and the temperatures returned to a state of relative comfort.) I imagine these falls are probably less impressive in the depths of the summer, but the hike is still enjoyable. The best view of the falls is found on the left side of the river (as you start).

Directions:

  1. The parking area for The Cascades and Cascade River State Park are found off of MN-61 a few miles south of Grand Marais. The parking area is on the left side of the road if you are driving north.
  2. After finding the parking area for the falls, you can head upstream on either side of the river, but I started on the south side. That seems to provide better views of the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 25′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Cascade Falls?

Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota

The Devil’s Kettle in May 2010

The Devil’s Kettle is probably one of the most widely known waterfalls in Minnesota. It gets much of its popularity due to a piece of the waterfall plunging into the unknown. There is a hole in the rock where the water goes, and I guess nobody seems to be able to figure out where the water ends up.

I have to admit that while the concept is cool, the actual execution isn’t nearly as exciting. When you visit the falls, you can’t really tell that the water is disappearing anywhere. It’s just not that apparent. To me, it would almost be cooler if the water reappeared somewhere, anywhere. The waterfall is still enjoyable, I can’t deny that, but you can’t really get that close to get a better view of the Devil’s Kettle. I found the waterfall downstream, Upper Falls, to be much more intimate.

Directions:

  1. From MN-61 along the North Shore, you’ll be looking for Judge C.R. Magney State Park.
  2. Once you find the state park, you’ll turn left (if you’re heading north) into an entrance that winds a short ways to a parking area for the falls.
  3. From there, there’s about a mile hike one-way to the two falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderately steep in a few sections and a lot of stairs near the end)
Height: 25′
Length of Hike: 2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Devil’s Kettle?

The Cascades, Minnesota

The Cascades in May 2010

The North Shore of Minnesota has a nice variety of waterfall settings. Some of these waterfalls require longer hikes, whereas others are very accessible. Obviously, those that are more accessible are the most frequently visited. Gooseberry Falls, a very nice set of falls, is probably one of the most popular. The falls on the Split Rock River are probably the least traversed. The falls on the Cascade River fit somewhere in the middle.

The Cascades refers to a group of falls that can be viewed from a specific vantage point along the Cascade River. These falls are upstream from Cascade Falls. At least three falls can be seen from the bridge over the river. The first falls is just thirty or forty feet from the bridge, and is very pretty. The second and third falls are pretty evenly spaced, and are a few hundred feet upstream. It may be rather difficult to get a great view of the second and third falls up close, but I really didn’t explore that very much. I wanted to see The Cascades, but didn’t plan on spending a considerable amount of time there. There were other falls I planned on visiting. There are other falls beginning a mile or so upstream, at least that is what is shown on the map.

Directions:

  1. The parking area for The Cascades and Cascade River State Park are found off of MN-61 a few miles south of Grand Marais. The parking area is on the left side of the road if you are driving north.
  2. After finding the parking area for the falls, you can head upstream on either side of the river, but I started on the south side. That seems to provide better views of the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Where in the World is The Cascades?