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?

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?

Upper Falls, Minnesota

Some waterfall names are just not that creative. Upper Falls is one such example, and the name really hides that fact that it’s a really cool waterfall. To add to the naming issues, the waterfall upstream is known as the Devil’s Kettle, and that just has to be one of the best waterfall names.

Both waterfalls are found on the Brule River in Judge C.R. Magney State Park. It’s a really beautiful, enjoyable hike to the falls. (I have to admit there were very few Minnesota North Shore waterfalls I didn’t enjoy.) The Devil’s Kettle gets more attention because the water disappears into a hole, and nobody seems to be able to figure out where it ends up. I personally think, though, that Upper Falls was more interesting. There were numerous trees blocking the view at the Devil’s Kettle, whereas it was a much more open view at Upper Falls. I visited in early May, and the falls were really flowing very well due to the recent snow melt. It was a spectacular time to visit the parks, as they weren’t at their busiest. In the future, I would like to visit the North Shore again in the fall when the trees are changing colors.

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 1 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: 30′
Length of Hike: 2.2 miles round-trip

Upper Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Upper Falls?

Split Rock Falls #7, Minnesota

The Split Rock River is a beautiful hike near Minnesota’s North Shore. At the time, it wasn’t a favorite, and I do still believe there are other more interesting waterfalls in the area. But after a period of time, I do believe the photographs of the falls along the river are more beautiful than I remember. The red rock in the area really stands out with this set of falls.

I think I might have been tired at the time. Some of the more interesting falls along this river are also the more difficult to view and photograph because of trees along with the natural curve of the river. I wouldn’t necessarily trust the numbering, but I think this was the 7th waterfall I was able to visit along the path. It is also the last that I viewed before turning around. The trail along the river continues on for a considerable distance. This falls actually seems to be two separate rivers/creeks that meet. It is interesting, but I wasn’t very close the 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: 30′
Distance of hike: 0.5 to 2.0 miles one-way, depending on how far you’d like to go…and it keeps going.

Split Rock River Falls #7 in May 2010

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #7?

Amity Falls, Minnesota

Amity Falls in May 2010

Northeastern Duluth contains a number of waterfalls that are very easy to visit. One is known as Lester Falls (or The Shallows). Along a creek, Amity Creek, that runs nearly parallel with the Lester River, you will find Amity Falls. Amity Falls is the easier to find, though if you’re in the area, stop by and visit both. They are less than a mile from each other.

Amity Falls is found in Lester Park. There are numerous pathways that crisscross the park, and I wouldn’t even be surprised if there were some way to walk from Amity Falls to Lester Falls. I’m not sure how easy it would be to describe that path, though. After parking along the main road, you only have a short distance to hike to the falls. A pedestrian bridge crosses right over the falls. One great viewpoint is on the south side of the creek, though it does require a somewhat downhill climb. Another view of the falls is more easily accessed from the north side, though for some reason, I just don’t seem to remember the view being as good. While Amity Falls is not extremely large or tall, it is still a very enjoyable journey.

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 onto Occidental Boulevard.
  3. Go down somewhat less than a mile until the road crosses the river.  Right around that area, you’ll find a makeshift parking area in along the dirt road.
  4. From there, it’s just a very short hike to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Amity Falls?

Split Rock Falls #4, Minnesota

There are a number of waterfalls along the Split Rock River (near Minnesota’s North Shore). I previously discussed one of the falls, Split Rock Falls #3. The main attraction in the park is the Split Rock Lighthouse, which is an absolutely amazing sight. The falls along the river are lesser known, which means you will likely have much of the trial to yourself.

I don’t particularly believe any of the falls are truly spectacular, but the hike is rather enjoyable. The thing I seem to notice the most is the iron-red color of the rock near the falls. This particular falls, which was about the fourth major drop, was partially hidden behind a large rock, at least from the vantage point I was at. If you have extra time, visit the falls, though they wouldn’t be one of my top choices.  Others are more interesting or spectacular.

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: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 2.0 miles round-trip to see many of the falls

A drop on the Split Rock River (in May 2010)

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #4?

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?

Caribou Falls, Minnesota

Caribou Falls in May 2010

I haven’t posted about any waterfalls in a while, and I figured I’d decide to post one of my favorite waterfalls in Minnesota. I visited this waterfall in May 2010, and really did find it to be impressive. I hadn’t posted on this falls because I choose waterfalls randomly. One or two other waterfall enthusiasts had mentioned that I should visit this falls, and I completely agree that if you haven’t seen Caribou Falls, go and visit it.

The hike to the falls deals with some uphill and downhill portions, followed by a set of stairs. I don’t think anybody realizes what a treat they’re in for. The falls are partially hidden from view until you pass this one corner, and then boom!

When I visited, I was almost all by myself, but it was extremely peaceful! There were two other people there, and I thought it was so cool that they had brought their lawn chairs, and were sitting at the end of the stairs just enjoying the falls. I just had such fun exploring all of the different view of the falls. I’m under the impression that the falls are taller than they appear. There is a second drop that is visible in this picture, but I believe that it may go back even further. I also think that the falls has such a unique drop pattern. It almost falls at a diagonal.

I don’t think I’m being very poetic here, and I should be in order to express the beauty of Caribou Falls…but oh well, just go and visit this spectacular waterfall!

Directions:

  1. As you’re driving along MN-61, look for the Caribou River and the Caribou State Wayside. If you’re headed north, the parking area will be off the road on your left.
  2. As you park, follow the pretty obvious trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Caribou Falls?

Fall River Falls, Minnesota

Fall River Falls in mid-May 2010

Fall River Falls is a very photogenic waterfall that is also easily accessible. It’s not very widely advertised, though, likely due to the fact that it’s not very tall or wide.

And yet, I think it is one of the more impressive waterfalls along MN-61 on the North Shore of Minnesota. The iron-red colors on the rock accentuate the gently-flowing waterfall. There are very colorful shots to be had here. It’s almost the opposite of the waterfalls in Oregon, where the rocks are all green. Here the rocks are red without much hint of green life on the rocks. Stop and take a look at this smaller waterfall. It’s likely you’ll be the only person there, and yet it’s so easy to get to.

Directions:

  1. Heading southwest from Grand Marais, drive for 2 miles on MN-61. You’re looking for mile-marker 107.
  2. Around mile marker 107, you will likely see a gravel pit, and just south of that is the Fall River. You can park at the gravel pit or you can park just north of the river on the east side of the ride.
  3. From there, look for the Fall River, and right near the river, you should see a trail heading toward Lake Superior. Follow this trail for a short distance, and you should find the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Fall River Falls?