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?

Cross River Falls, Minnesota

The lower portion of Cross River Falls in May 2010

Cross River Falls is probably one of the easiest waterfalls to visit along Minnesota’s North Shore, and it is definitely worth a visit. It is literally feet from MN-61, and can actually be seen as you’re driving by.

The upper portion of the falls is the second photo in the post, and this is the portion that can be viewed very easily. I’m betting that the falls look best in spring as the snow is melting, though this falls is large enough that it probably exists throughout the summer. The falls are larger than they appear in the photo. There’s a visual illusion that’s occurring here, making it difficult to truly understand its size just from a picture.

There’s a special present hidden from sight, though. If you look on the opposite side of the road, you’ll notice a trail that leads downhill to another portion of the river. From there, you’ll see a second drop (photo to the right). The second drop is narrower than the first drop, making it look equally as powerful. It does require a little bit of effort to get to the falls, and you will have to likely do some rock-hopping to get the best view of the falls. If you rotate 180 degrees, you’ll get some other great views of the Cross River as it approaches Lake Superior.

Directions:

  1. Cross River Falls is found right in the town of Schroeder, Minnesota.  Schroeder is found directly along MN-61.  This can be accessed by heading north from Duluth for just over 80 miles.
  2. Schroeder is a smaller town, but it is distinct, and hard to miss.  The Cross River is very clearly marked with a sign, and you should be able to see from the falls.  If you miss the falls, it is a very easy turn-around to get back to the falls.  If you are heading north, a parking area is found directly before the falls, along with information signs.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy to upper view), 6/10 (moderate to lower view)
Height: ~60′
Length of Hike: roadside

The upper portion of Cross River Falls

Where in the World is Cross River Falls?

Split Rock Falls #3, 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.

This is really the first waterfall along the river that a clear view can be obtained. There are one or two other large drops before this that are tricky to photograph, even in early spring when the trees really hadn’t started getting leaves. The 3rd falls is wider but rather nondescript.

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 trailhead, 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 miles round-trip the many falls

The 3rd drop on the Split Rock River (May 2010)

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #3?

Cascade Falls, Minnesota

Cascade Falls in May 2010

The first waterfall that you encounter on the Cascade River is logically called Cascade Falls. Further beyond that are The Cascades. This first falls is a rather short distance from the trailhead, and it is definitely worth it to go and visit both “sets” of falls.

Unlike the Cascades, which is a complex set of…cascades, Cascade Falls is an actual plunge waterfall. I visited the falls in mid-May 2010, and the falls were at their prime then, most likely due to recent snow melt. (It had actually snowed just three days before, though that disappeared pretty quickly, and the temperatures returned to a state of relative comfort.) I imagine these falls are probably less impressive in the depths of the summer, but the hike is still enjoyable. The best view of the falls is found on the left side of the river (as you start).

Directions:

  1. The parking area for The Cascades and Cascade River State Park are found off of MN-61 a few miles south of Grand Marais. The parking area is on the left side of the road if you are driving north.
  2. After finding the parking area for the falls, you can head upstream on either side of the river, but I started on the south side. That seems to provide better views of the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 25′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Cascade 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.

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?

Upper Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota

Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of the more popular state parks along the North Shore of Minnesota, and you’ll definitely want to stop and take the hike to see the falls. There are 4 great falls in the park, all very photogenic and three that are easy to visit. Only Fifth Falls requires a longer hike to view. I first visited Lower and Middle Falls and then started on the loop trail that led me to Fifth Falls. I was on the north side of the river, and did not see Upper Falls on the hike to Fifth Falls. Hiking along back on the south side of the river afforded a really great view of the falls.

You actually have to be pretty careful when viewing Upper Gooseberry Falls, as I don’t remember there being any guard rails anywhere near the falls.  In one way, that can be nice, as it doesn’t prohibit your view, and yet you still do have to be aware that there is a significant drop to the river below.

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. Head west on the south side of the river, pass under the bridge, and you’ll shortly arrive at Upper Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Upper Falls in Gooseberry Falls State Park in May 2010

Where in the World is Upper Gooseberry Falls?