Shadow Falls, Minnesota

Shadow Falls (35)

Shadow Falls in September 2019

I didn’t know what to expect from Shadow Falls. I was visiting Minnesota and Wisconsin this past weekend, and flew in and out of Minneapolis. I had a few waterfalls on Wisconsin on my list, but I didn’t really have any from Minnesota on my radar. Luckily I brought one of the books that included Shadow Falls. The description was somewhat helpful, but didn’t really reveal how interesting Shadow Falls could be.

A few years ago, I had visited Hidden Falls, which is on the same side of the Mississippi River. It’s an interesting park, but Hidden Falls didn’t have much water and had aspects of human touches. I maybe expected that from the photos I saw of Shadow Falls. What I found was a much taller (than I expected) waterfall definitely a bit more rustic in getting to the falls.

Luckily, it’s a short hike to the falls, but if there’s any rain or water nearby, you’re likely to get a bit muddy. The initial hike to the falls isn’t very difficult. You could get a view of a portion of the falls from the trail above the falls. But if you want to get to the base, it becomes a bit more interesting. There is a trail to the base, but it is a bit slippery and steep. The ground has a lot of clay in it, and this can make shoes very slick. But if you can get down to the base, you realize that the waterfall is much more interesting that it seems from above.

Directions:

  1. Head to Shadow Falls Park by using Google Maps. (There are so many different ways you could approach it.)
  2. Really, the trick is deciding where to park. I think there is some parking off of Mississippi River Boulevard near The Monument. On weekends, there is parking available on some of the streets nearby. I parked on Exeter Place, and that leads you much closer to the start of the hike.
  3. The start of the hike is near the intersection of Exeter Place and Mississippi River Boulevard, and is a dirt trail.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.7 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Shadow Falls?

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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?

High Falls of the Pigeon River, Minnesota/Ontario

High Falls of the Pigeon River is an amazing waterfall that is on the border of both the United States and Canada. You can view it from the Minnesota side or the Ontario side of the border. Each of them has great views, and I’ve seen them from both.

On the Minnesota side, you start at Grand Portage State Park. From this park, you follow the Falls Trail to a viewing area that leads you to a spectacular viewpoint. You’re not at the base of the falls, but the trail does lead you in front of the base. It’s an easy hike along a relatively flat trail.

High Falls Minnesota side (9)

The view of High Falls from the Minnesota side

On the Ontario side, it seemed much quieter, almost eerily so. It wasn’t the sunniest of days, but I don’t remember many other people there. I believe you start at the Ontario Travel Information Center and follow the trail that leads to the falls. I don’t remember this one being particularly difficult either. On the Ontario side, you view the falls from “above” instead of directly in front of you. It’s still an awesome view as the falls are so powerful. You also have a good view of some of the logging equipment that was used at the falls in the past.

High Falls Ontario side (21)

The view from Ontario

It’s definitely worth a trip to see High Falls. At 120′, it’s the tallest waterfall in Minnesota. (Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls is taller than this, and there may be a few other Ontario waterfalls that are taller.) There are two smaller waterfalls upstream, Lower Middle Falls and Upper Middle Falls, that are much easier to access from the Ontario side.

Directions:

  1. This one is pretty difficult to miss. From Minnesota, head north on MN-61 until you’re just about to reach Customs & Border Patrol. On your left will be Grand Portage State Park. Hike 0.5 miles to the falls from the parking area.
  2. If you’re coming from Ontario, follow ON-61 south. Again, just before the border, pull into the Travel Information Center and follow the trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy on Minnesota side), 8/10 (easy on Ontario side)
Height: 120′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip (Minnesota), 3.6 miles round-trip (Ontario)

Where in the World is High Falls of the Pigeon River?

Oldenburg Point Cascades, Minnesota

When you visit Jay Cooke State Park, it’s likely that you’ll end up visiting Swinging Bridge Falls, which is an interesting waterfall viewed from what else but a swinging bridge. And yet there’s another waterfall in the park that you may not know to look for: Oldenburg Point Cascades.

I have to admit, though, that this might be a waterfall for only those really excited to see named waterfalls. It’s partly because it’s not particularly easy to see these Cascades. I would almost even describe them as rapids, except that some of these drops on the St. Louis River are more than just rapids. The picture I’ve shown here is a zoomed-in view of one of the set of cascades, which continue along the river for a few hundred feet. Not exactly rapids, but in some ways the repeating nature of the drops reminds me of rapids. If it were one drop, it wouldn’t be extremely interesting, but there do seem to be a number of subsequent drops, if my memory serves me.

Directions:

  1. I think we took exit 242 from I-35 and headed south along MN-1 into the town of Thomson.
  2. From there, take a left turn onto MN-210 and head toward Jay Cooke State Park.
  3. Drive along MN-210 to the Visitor’s Center. If you stop here, you will find Swinging Bridge Falls.  Continue on a short distance to another parking area for Oldenburg Point. (You can go much further because the road is closed due to storm damage.)
  4. From here, you may decide to walk the Ogantz Trail, or just explore the area around Oldenburg Point, likely seeing the cascades off along the river. (I wasn’t sure if there was a way to get down to the river to get a closer look…)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~15′ total
Distance of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

DSC_0038
Zoomed-in view of the Oldenburg Point Cascades (August 2015)

Where in the World is Oldenburg Point Cascades?

Swinging Bridge Falls, Minnesota

Every once in a while, I go on somewhat spur-of-the-moment trips. I found out that my dad was taking some vacation, so I tried to find someplace that my nephew, my dad, and I could visit. I found that I could get us to Duluth, which I had visited previously and wanted to return to. So I booked tickets and here we are.

In my previous visit, I drove along Minnesota’s North Shore, and we are doing that again. It is stunningly beautiful, so if you get the chance, go! I didn’t drive southwest of Duluth at all, though, and when I found there were waterfalls in that region, I decided we should check them out. Jay Cooke State Park is the location of a few different waterfalls/ cascades. One (or two) is Swinging Bridge Falls.

I noticed that one book actually refers to two separate falls, Swinging Bridge Falls and St. Louis Falls (since it’s the St. Louis River). I’m just going to cover both of them as one because they are both at the same point along the river (separated by a small rock island) and they can both be simultaneously viewed from the Swinging Bridge (which is in it’s 5th iteration, having been rebuilt in 2013 after a bad flood).

Both falls aren’t too far away, and yet since neither of them is extremely large, it means it can be difficult to photograph either portion. I found that my zoom lens (55-300 mm) worked well for getting closer. You can climb over large, slippery (even when dry) rocks to try and get closer to one of the segments, but you really can’t get a good view of the falls up close. Best views are had from the swinging bridge.

Directions:

  1. I think we took exit 242 from I-35 and headed south along MN-1 into the town of Thomson.
  2. From there, take a left turn onto MN-210 and head toward Jay Cooke State Park.
  3. Drive along MN-210 to the Visitor’s Center parking area. From there, the swinging bridge is about 0.1 miles away.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 12′
Distance of Hike: 0.25 miles round-trip

The left portion of Swinging Bridge Falls in August 2015

The right portion of Swinging Bridge Falls (one book refers to it as St. Louis Falls?)

Where in the World is Swinging Bridge 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?