French River Falls, Minnesota

French River Falls Minnesota (6).jpg

An upper portion of French River Falls

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.

Directions:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

French River Falls in May 2010

 Where in the World is French River Falls?

The Shallows/Lester Falls, Minnesota

Let me start out by saying that I’m not actually sure whether this is The Shallows. I think it is, but I could be wrong. It is a waterfall on the Lester River, and since it’s the one that I found, I’m calling it Lester Falls/The Shallows.

The Lester River was one of the last stops on my way back to the Duluth Airport. I parked at one of the parking areas along the river, and I wasn’t really sure where to look for the falls. I’m assuming there are smaller ones along the way…I wandered on the right side of the river, and found a trail that had steps that led down to the river. That’s where I found the waterfall of interest. It’s a very nice waterfall, with the rock patterns around it being interesting.

Directions:

  1. From Duluth, head north on MN-61 for a few miles.
  2. There will be a sign indicating the Lester Park. You’ll turn left on to Lester River Rd.
  3. After going a short distance, you’ll find the parking areas for the park. If you stop at one of those, you should be able to find trails that follow the river.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

The Shallows (Lester Falls) in May 2010

Where in the World is The Shallows/Lester Falls?

Now and Then Falls, Wisconsin

Now and Then Falls in May 2010

Now and Then Falls is definitely an interesting waterfall. The waterfall is unlikely to register to some since it has so little water flowing over it, at least when I visited Amnicon Falls State Park. The other falls in the park were flowing powerfully in early May (after all the snow melt), but this falls was still puny.

What made the falls interesting to me was the color. In the Lake Superior region, I do not usually remember the green colors from the mosses that are usually found in the Pacific Northwest area. Now and Then Falls seems very “green” in comparison to many falls in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Directions:

  1. From Duluth/Superior, head east on US-2.
  2. Just after the intersection of US-2 with WI-53, you’ll notice a sign indicating that Amnicon Falls State Park is coming very soon.
  3. At the sign indicating the park, turn left onto County Road U.
  4. After a very short distance on County Road U, you will find the entrance for the state park. Stop and purchase a day pass if you need one. The ranger at the visitor’s center was extremely helpful at directing me to the falls and telling me how to get to Pattison State Park.
  5. Right near the visitor center, you can head right down a rather narrow park road to the end of the road, where you’ll find a parking area just a few feet from the falls.  Now and Then Falls is in the opposite direction from the larger falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: negligible

Where in the World is Now and Then Falls?

Lower Falls, Wisconsin

I visited Amnicon Falls State Park this May. I had arrived at the Duluth airport just a few hours earlier, and headed to the park. It hadn’t really started snowing yet, though there were a few sprinkles.

Once inside the park, you’ll find numerous named waterfalls and a number of other waterfalls along the Amnicon River and its tributaries. Lower Falls is one of the more impressive falls in the park, dropping 15 feet or so. The height is not terribly important here. It’s the beauty of the rock surrounding the falls, along with the pedestrian bridge above the falls. On the right side of the picture is an island formed where the river splits in two. You can explore the island and view many other falls.

Directions:

  1. From Duluth/Superior, head east on US-2.
  2. Just after the intersection of US-2 with WI-53, you’ll notice a sign indicating that Amnicon Falls State Park is coming very soon.
  3. At the sign indicating the park, turn left onto County Road U.
  4. After a very short distance on County Road U, you will find the entrance for the state park. Stop and purchase a day pass if you need one. The ranger at the visitor’s center was extremely helpful at directing me to the falls and telling me how to get to Pattison State Park.
  5. Right near the visitor center, you can head right down a rather narrow park road to the end of the road, where you’ll find a parking area just a few feet from the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: negligible

Lower Falls with pedestrian bridge above (May 2010)

Where in the World is Lower Falls?

Split Rock Falls #6, Minnesota

Split Rock State Park is most widely known for the amazing Split Rock Lighthouse. Inside the park, though, is the Split Rock River. Along the river, there are a number of drops. As a whole, the set of waterfalls are not extremely exciting. The hike is very beautiful, but some of the drops are blocked by trees, while others are smaller. The red rock along the river is the one thing that makes the waterfalls more memorable.

The hike to the later falls, the 6th or 7th major one shown below, is a longer hike. It is not a terrible hike, though there are a lot of short ups and downs. It probably would have been more enjoyable if I hadn’t put on a new pair of shoes just that day…Now that I think about it, much more enjoyable. Check out the falls if you’re in the area, but there are still other falls that are more interesting.

Directions:

  1. Heading north on MN-61 along the Lake Superior shoreline, you’ll enter Split Rock State Park. The Split Rock River is very close to the southern boundary, and so you’ll see the parking area.
  2. A sign indicating the Split Rock River is your best bet at identifying the parking lot for the falls. It is a smaller parking lot used frequently by fisherman. At the start of the trail head, you’ll see a sign indicating the trail.
  3. After about 0.5 miles, you’ll come to a fork in the trail. Head along the right fork, where you’ll soon come to West Split Rock River Falls. Keep heading along that trail, which goes on for a considerable distance. I only traveled about 2 miles along the trail (one-way).

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 20′
Distance of hike: 0.5 to 2.0 miles one-way, depending on how far you’d like to go…and it keeps going

One of the upper drops on the Split Rock River (May 2010)

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #6?