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?

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.


  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?