Stair Step Falls, Minnesota

Onion River Minnesota (6)

One portion of Stair Step Falls on the Onion River in August 2015

When my father, nephew, and I visited Stair Step Falls (also referred to as Onion River Falls) in August 2015, there wasn’t a whole lot of water flowing down the river. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to explore. Starting at the Ray Berglund Wayside along MN-61, I remember climbing uphill toward the Onion River. Once you’ve climbed uphill toward the river, there are a lot of different options to deviate and see different drops.

When I looked at the original picture trying to determine the height of the falls, I said approximately 15′, but I remember now that there are numerous drops. I was trying to find out if anyone else has determined the height of the overall drop along the river, and I’m going to estimate it is at least 100′ from pictures that I’ve seen when there is a lot more water flowing. I do remember climbing and being able to stand on the river bed and look down a ways to the lake shore. At high flow, Stair Step Falls on the Onion River should be very impressive!

Directions:

  1. Drive along MN-61. Between Tofte (further south) and Lutsen (further north), you’ll find the Ray Berglund Wayside.
  2. It will be on the left of the road if headed north. Park here, and head uphill to find the falls. (There may be a new trail built since I’ve last been here, but I’m not sure.)

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: ~100′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip (this may be shorter now, or unnecessary in high flow)

Onion River Minnesota (12)

Another portion of Stair Step Falls

Where in the World is Stair Step Falls?

Aguasabon Falls, Ontario

DSC_1553

Aguasabon Falls in April 2012

Aguasabon Falls is another of the impressive waterfalls in Ontario near the Lake Superior shoreline. A very short distance from the Transcanadian Highway 17, you can find Aguasabon Falls dropping 110′ into a gorge, which then turns sharply and heads downstream into Lake Superior.

It’s an impressive sight, though it is a bit difficult to get a full view of the falls with the trees in view. And yet the geology around the falls is stunning. There’s something about the rock formations around Lake Superior that is amazing, and Aguasabon Falls doesn’t disappoint.

It’s very close to the Transcanadian Highway, and it’s also a very short hike to the falls. If you’d like to explore further down the gorge, you can also drive down a few other roads and explore the creek/river, where you’ll find Lower Aguasabon Falls. It’s nowhere near as tall as Aguasabon Falls, though it’s a great way to see both Lake Superior and the river.

Directions:

  1. From Transcanadian Highway 17 in Terrace Bay, turn right onto Augasabon Gorge Road (assuming that you are headed east initially).
  2. Drive to the end of Augasabon Gorge Road, and the short hike to the falls will start here.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 110′
Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Aguasabon Falls?

Split Rock Falls #5, Minnesota

Split Rock River is an interesting river on the North Shore of Minnesota. I guess I will admit, though, that I didn’t find it to be the *most* interesting river there. There are a number of drops along the river, and a few of them are pretty big…but they’re hard to see. The drops that are easy to see are smaller and less significant. I walked about 2 miles or so to see a few different drops, but really can’t say that any one of the stood out in my head. I will mention that every time I see one of the pictures, I think of the intensely red rock around the falls. If you’re in the area, and you have a lot of time to kill, this might be a good choice to see a few unique drops…Otherwise, I would skip it for other falls.

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.

A waterfall along the Split Rock River

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #5?

Kadunce River Falls, Minnesota

I recently mentioned a waterfall that I couldn’t remember. In the case of Kadunce River Falls, I do remember the waterfall, but what I don’t remember is why I didn’t continue further along the trail. I know I visited the first significant drop along the river, but there are at least three other drops along the river, including one which the authors of the book I used dubbed Heart of the Earth Falls.

It could be that the authors of “Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore”, the Wallingas, mentioned there were steep canyon walls? (It’s a question.) I don’t really remember, but I’m not a fan of big drops, so I might have turned around. I’ve done that before, though usually the drops are much larger in magnitude. Instead, it could be that I was just really tired by that point. I did take this photo later in the day, and had visited MANY waterfalls previous to this one. It may have also been that I had wandered further but hadn’t found what I expected to find. I’m guessing it was some combination of all three, though most likely the tired factor.

Just getting to the base of this waterfall required a lot of effort. I remember being worn out and sweaty after this one waterfall. It’s maybe 70′ to the base, and it’s rather steep, though more manageable than one might expect. There’s a cool and creepy cave right next to the falls. It was a lot of work to see a ~10′ waterfall, but I was determined to have a photo of something. This also gives me a reason to go back and check out more waterfalls along the North Shore. (I really want to go in the fall when the leaves are changing!)

Directions:

  1. From Grand Marais, continue just over 9 miles northeast along MN-61 to the Kadunce River State Wayside.
  2. If headed northeast, the wayside will be on your right. You will then need to cross MN-61 to reach the trail.
  3. The total trail length is about 1 mile one-way to see all of the falls, if I understand correctly. This first waterfall might be about 0.3 miles in…

Accessibility: 2/10 (to get to base, it’s very slippery, though possible…Be careful!)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip

Kadunce River Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Kadunce River Falls?

Snake Pit Falls, Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin has a number of great waterfalls, and if you’re looking to see a whole bunch in a single hike, then head to Amnicon Falls State Park (which is not that far from Pattison State Park, which contains Big and Little Manitou Falls). Inside Amnicon Falls State Park, there are the not-so-creatively named Upper and Lower Falls, along with other falls along the river (#1 and #3 have been posted). The waterfall with the coolest name, by far, is Snake Pit Falls, and it is a really beautiful waterfall also.

While it does require a little bit of exploring the loop trail, Snake Pit Falls is clearly marked with a sign. It’s hard to say how tall this portion of the falls is. After searching around on the internet, I later discovered there is another drop a few feet after the one shown below. I may have photographed the lower drop during the exploration, but I didn’t seem to notice both drops at the same time. The total drop is somewhere around 20′. I found this particular drop to be very scenic. Each of the drops along the Amnicon River seems to have its own distinct features. It doesn’t look like a series of continuous rapids that blend together over time. I’m guessing the falls flow year-round, except in extremely dry conditions. It had literally just snowed minutes before, lending a certain chilly but appropriate ambiance to the 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 start of the loop trail.

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

Snake Pit Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Snake Pit Falls?

Hurricane River Falls, Michigan

I had a chance to visit the Pictured Rocks again this weekend, and the park never ceases to disappoint. I’m trying to think how many times I have visited, and it’s got to be around seven now. It must be at least two years since the last visit though. In the past few years, it became possible to drive through much more of the park, at least more easily now that H-58 is paved all the way from Munising to Grand Marais. I had read that a few people were disappointed that the road was no longer had that wilderness feeling. I, on the other hand, was finally excited to experience a few of the places that I had not visited because I really didn’t care for the previously long stretches of unpaved roads.

One place I was now able to visit much more easily was Hurricane River Falls. The parking area at the Hurricane River Campground not only leads to the falls, but very quickly to Lake Superior, and also is one place to start the hike to Au Sable Point Lighthouse. I haven’t yet visited the lighthouse, but I figure I need a reason to visit in the future (not that there aren’t hundreds of good reasons to visit the Pictured Rocks). The main focus was Hurricane River Falls, one of the few easy-to-visit waterfalls in the park that I had yet to visit. There are a few other far more hidden waterfalls I may never see without some assistance, but this is not one of them. It is only a few hundred feet or so from the parking area. Hurricane River Falls isn’t particularly tall, but it is an enjoyable waterfall. The largest drop appears to be found by taking a slight left from the parking area along the river. If you head down toward the beach, you can see what are more of rapids as they meet Lake Superior. I’m not sure that I would drive out of my way just for the falls, but there are many other reasons to visit the area.

Directions:

  1. From Grand Marais, head west on Alger County Road H-58.
  2. Keep going past the Log Slide Overlook (which is worth a stop).
  3. Drive a few more miles to the Lower Hurricane River Campground. If headed west, the turn will be on your right.
  4. Head a few hundred yards down the road to the dirt parking area.
  5. For the falls, just explore the river, both upstream and as it meets Lake Superior.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 5′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Hurricane River Falls in July 2013

Where in the World is Hurricane River Falls?

Beaver River Falls, Minnesota

I visited Beaver River Falls over two years ago, so when I started trying to think back, I couldn’t seem to remember a whole lot about the falls. And then it came to me, glimpses of the falls…

I do distinctly remember it was very easy to visit Beaver River Falls. It is essentially a roadside waterfall, found along the Beaver River in Beaver Bay. There is a large, circular parking area directly adjacent to the river and falls, though there weren’t many people there. As I got out of my car, I remember thinking that this was a really beautiful waterfall, and yet it was equally….frustrating? There were a number of different segments to the falls, and it wasn’t simple to try and photograph the whole falls. So what you end up with is a number of pictures showing what would be interesting waterfalls by themselves, but you lose the totality of the impressive whole. And yet, it is fun to explore both upstream and downstream, trying to find the best vantage point to capture at least part of the falls. I ended up with at least two different views of the falls, and there may have been even more that I did not post.

An update from August 2015:  Looking back, I guess I’m not sure why I found Beaver River Falls so “frustrating”, though I guess I do agree that you can’t take a photo of the whole falls easily. The drops are close enough to classify it as one falls and yet far enough away to capture the whole thing. When I visited the park, it had been recently redone, and there was some very weak fencing (1′ or so high) that people had climbed over to see the falls. The trails are pretty obvious, though be careful during rainy weather, as the rocks near the falls can become very slippery. In August, there isn’t nearly as much water flowing over the falls (which is to be expected). (There may be a viewpoint from the bridge that allows for a complete view of the falls, but if so, it’s not obvious that there is…)

Directions:

  1. This is a very easy waterfall found directly off of MN-61. If you’ve headed northeast from Duluth, you’ll be driving along MN-61.
  2. In the town of Beaver Bay, you’ll find a large circular parking area directly next to the Beaver River. You’ll know you’ve gone too far if you go over the Beaver River bridge on MN-61. Turn around if you do, or visit on your return.
  3. From the parking area, it’s just a short hike downhill to the falls. (As mentioned above, there may be a good view from the bridge, but there’s not an obvious path to the bridge. I may have been distracted by the other trails.)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 mile round-trip
Height: ~50-60′

A lower portion of Beaver River Falls

An upper portion of Beaver River Falls

The upper portion of Beaver River Falls in August 2015

Where in the World is Beaver River Falls?

Lower Aguasabon Falls, Ontario

Near the town of Terrace Bay, you can find the relatively tall Aguasabon Falls. Searching around, I had read that there may be another falls further downstream on the Aguasabon River. I remembered that it was supposed to be near the beach/shoreline, and so I tried to figure out someway to see if the falls were there and also easily accessible.

Well, they are easily accessible, though maybe not obvious. It took me a little extra time to find them, considering that at one point I ended up along a road that was clearly not leading to a beach area. I backtracked, and found the sign that was indicating the beach (or maybe it was to the docks). I followed that sign, and after a short but winding drive, I ended up at the beach. Looking upstream, the falls were in sight.

I decided to explore a little bit. There was a trail (Casque Isles Trail) that ran parallel to the river, but that did not lead to any closer views of the falls. Instead, the best way to get closer to the falls is to walk VERY close to the river. There are enough rocks and sand that this is not difficult to do, and you will end up standing in front of the falls. The total drop on the river at this point is larger than it first appears. I’d guess it’s probably 15-20′, though no single drop is that tall. If you decide to visit Aguasabon Falls, take the time to visit its smaller relative. Even if the falls don’t excite you, you’ll still be rewarded with beautiful views of Lake Superior.

Directions:

  1. From Transcanadian Highway 17 in Terrace Bay, turn right onto Lakeview Drive (assuming that you are headed east initially).
  2. Almost immediately turn left onto Cartier Drive.
  3. Drive a short distance to Beach Road. There should be a sign indicating a golf course in that direction. Turn left onto Beach Road.
  4. Drive to the very end of Beach Road. You should be at the mouth of the Aguasabon River, and from there, the falls are in view.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, you can see the falls from the parking lot), 8/10 (easy/moderate) to get a closer view
Height: ~20′
Hike: None necessary (though short hike to the falls possible)

Lower Aguasabon Falls in late April 2012

Where in the World is Lower Aguasabon Falls?

Middle Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota

When I think about waterfalls, I don’t often think about individual favorites, but often groups of falls within proximity to each other. And Gooseberry Falls State Park is a perfect example of this. It might not be my favorite set of falls, but there are a number of them on the Gooseberry River, AND they are surrounded by a number of other beautiful waterfalls along the North Shore of Minnesota.

Middle Gooseberry Falls is somewhat difficult to separate from its relative, Lower Falls. I believe there might be a way to “hike” down to the base of Middle Falls to get a better view, but I’m not 100% sure. Instead, you can get a pretty complete view of both Middle and Lower Falls together from a viewpoint further downstream. I don’t remember if the view was from the north bank of the river or while crossing the river on one of the bridges. Both falls together are impressive. Gooseberry Falls State Park is pretty popular, though, so choose your visit wisely. In early May, it was bustling, so I can’t imagine the summer months! (Trying to visit a few years later in August, we couldn’t find a parking spot…)

Directions:

  1. From MN-61, turn into the entrance for Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  2. Head to the parking area for the visitor’s center, where you will be able to easily access the falls. There does not appear to be a fee to enter this park.
  3. Follow the trail down to the first group of falls, which includes Lower and Middle Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 25′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Both Middle and Lower Gooseberry Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Middle Gooseberry Falls?

Rainbow Falls, Ontario

I took a short weekend trip to Thunder Bay at the end of April, and one of my goals was to try and hit a number of waterfalls along the Trans-Canada Highway. Many of the interesting waterfalls are found along or near the main highway. Rainbow Falls is some distance west of the Schreiber/Terrace Bay area, and on my initial journey east, I actually passed the park the falls are located in, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. The signs seemed to indicate that it was a campground entrance, but in reality it was the entrance to the park.

It ended up that I turned and started driving back west the same day. I then turned into the signs I had originally passed. Since it was the end of April, the park was actually “closed”, to my surprise. You could turn onto the main road in the park, and park your car in a small area near the main gate…But the gate was actually closed to prevent anyone from driving further into the park.

In this case, I just decided to start hiking along the main road. Normally, you would be able to drive down this road, and get much closer to the falls. The hike along the main road doesn’t add a considerable amount of time to your journey, and it is relatively enjoyable. Once you get to the parking area designated for the falls, you can begin exploring. There are numerous parts to the falls, though the whole set of drops cannot be photographed easily.

Stairs lead you up and down near the falls. This is very nice, but may also limit your ability to explore portions of the falls. In late April, this specific falls seemed to be flowing pretty well, and so that may have been a very good thing that visitors were unable to deviate. The falls are interesting, but in the end, you may be frustrated by the inability to capture the “whole” falls, or really the complexity of the falls.

Directions:

  1. The falls are relatively easy to find, as they are right off of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17). They are not too far west of Schreiber, which is a small town. They are a more significant drive from Thunder Bay.
  2. If you are headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway, the entrance to the park will be on your right. As I said, I think the sign also indicates a campground.
  3. Depending on the time of year, the gate to the road leading closer to the falls may or may not be open. There may be a fee to enter, though there was no gate attendant and I don’t remember there being a self-pay station.

(Note:  I support state and provincial parks, and have no problem paying for entry into parks. Ontario, though, often does not have gate agents, and instead has self-pay kiosks. Entry into many of the parks in Ontario is at least $5.50 for an hour or two, and the kiosks I’ve visited only accept coins…Therefore, plan on bringing a lot of change! It’s a slight annoyance, I guess.)

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, stairs!)
Height: ~80′ (don’t quote me on this one)
Hike: 1 mile round-trip (approximately, depends on how far you go along trails)

The lower portion of Rainbow Falls in April 2012, with some barely-visible portions of the falls.

The uppermost portion of the falls.

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?