Kakabeka Falls, Ontario

Ever since visiting the North Shore of Minnesota and truly enjoying my time there, I have wanted to visit the area further north on the Canadian side. This past weekend, I flew into Thunder Bay, and the first waterfall I headed to was Kakabeka Falls, one of the more widely known in Ontario. At over 130′ tall, it is one of the taller falls around Lake Superior.

Now it’s the end of April, and I’ll first of all point out there was a LOT less water flowing over the falls than I expected. There must have been a lot less snowfall than normal, because the flow at Kakabeka Falls and other falls in the area seemed greatly diminished.  I understand the flow is partially controlled by a dam, but I’ve seen pictures during the weekdays that have more water than this. Oh well…waterfalls are unpredictable!

The falls are impressive, but I’m not sure that they fall into my “Favorites” category. While the falls have good viewpoints, they seems “far away.” I’m not really sure why…Maybe being in the gorge would provide a greater sense of the size. I found Little Falls, Kakabeka Falls’ smaller counterpart, to be more interesting because I could get up close and personal.

Directions:

  1. From Thunder Bay, head west on Trans-Canada highway 11/17.
  2. About 30 km from Thunder Bay, you’ll come upon the entrance to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park on your left.
  3. Park and pay the entrance fee.  It was $5.25 for 2 hours, $6.75 for 4 hours, or $10.50 for a whole day.  I visited both Kakabeka and Little Falls, and it took less than 2 hours.  (A number of Ontario parks have self-pay machines that are automated and ONLY accept 25 cent, $1, and $2 coins, so bring CHANGE…it’s my pet peeve of Ontario parks.)
  4. From there, head to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 131′
Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip (along Boardwalk Trail)

Kakabeka Falls in late-April 2012

Where in the World is Kakabeka Falls?

McGowan Falls, Ontario

I sometimes enjoy what happens when waterfalls meet human ingenuity. It can be cool to see how the water has been harnessed to do powerful things. In the case of McGowan Falls, though, human ingenuity tends to detract from the already small falls. While the river is relatively wide, there is only a small portion that currently has a significant drop, and that is around 4-5′ in height. I would be curious to know what the falls look like without the dam directly above. The one benefit is that is very easy to visit.

Directions:

  1. Take Grey County Road 4 into Durham.
  2. If you are heading west, as I was, there will be a street, George Street E, off of Co. Rd. 4. Turn right onto George Street E.
  3. There will be a parking area on your right (again heading west). The falls might not even be obvious, but the dam will be.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 7′
Hike: no hike necessary

McGowan Falls in October 2010

Where in the World is McGowan Falls?

Jones Falls, Ontario

Jones Falls, to be honest, is pretty disappointing. It’s right outside of Owen Sound, so I guess I could be a really popular place, but the view is just not that great. There are a number of trees that effectively block the view of much of the falls. You can see part of the falls directly from the road, but getting a closer view is just difficult.

The left side of the river is probably your best bet for getting an “ok” view. A trail leads over the river to the right side, but it is almost impossible to get any good pictures. I don’t believe there is any way to get to the base of the falls, at least safely or legally. (Though later reading suggests that there may be an easy way to get to the base…I just didn’t see if when I was there.) Oh well, some waterfalls just need to be left alone…Otherwise, it’ll be just another waterfall with too many people swarming around it.

Directions:

  1. From Owen Sound, head west on ON-6/21. It’s not too far from Owen Sound.
  2. You’ll climb a few hilly stretches of the road, and if you look to your right, you’ll end up seeing the falls, at least partially.  You’ll know you’re in the right area since there is a pretty big pull-off with trash cans right near the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 35′
Hike: roadside

Jones Falls in October 2010

Where in the World is Jones Falls?

Weaver’s Creek Falls, Ontario

Weaver’s Creek Falls in October 2010

Weaver’s Creek Falls might be the smallest of the falls in the Owen Sound area, but it might also just be one of the most peaceful and quiet in the area too…and that’s surprising, considering how close it is to a very busy park. It’s almost hidden and unassuming. There are no real signs indicating that there’s a waterfall just a few hundred feet away.

The only negative thing about the falls is that it is partially on private property, and while there is a trail clearly leading to the falls, a sign says no trespassing just before you get to the falls. Oh well, you can still get a pretty good view. And the view is especially scenic during fall, when the fall colors kick in. With those fall colors, the forest floor becomes vibrant!

Directions:

  1. From Owen Sound, head south on 2nd Ave East.
  2. Turn left into Harrison Park, and almost directly after that, turn right. (It might be the only way you can go).
  3. Head down that road to the swimming pool. When I was there, you couldn’t actually go all the way down the road, and it ended at a gate. This was the perfect place to park.
  4. To the right of the pool you’ll find a boardwalk that leads over Weaver’s Creek and heads upstream to the falls.

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

Where in the World is Weaver’s Creek Falls?

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?

Inglis Falls, Ontario

Inglis Falls is one of the more impressive waterfalls in the Owen Sound area. It is rather unique, with the waterfall widening toward the base. It is also rather easy to visit, being only a few miles outside of Owen Sound. Driving there poses no difficulty, and other waterfalls are nearby (some smaller ones that aren’t always advertised widely).

Once you get to the falls, you may have to pay an entrance fee, though when we visited in late October, there wasn’t anybody collecting a fee. There is a major viewpoint where the picture was taken, which is great, especially when the sun is not shining right above the falls! If you cross the bridge above the falls, you may not necessarily get any good views. Now, there is a hike to the base of the falls, though it is not simple. At first, the hike is pretty clear, and then at some point, the trail essentially ends. You’ll have to bushwack and rock-hop to get to a great view at the base of the falls. It’s not terrible, at least compared to other experiences I’ve had…just keep track of the easiest way to get back to the trail.

Directions:

  1. From Owen Sound, head south on 2nd Ave East, which turns into 2nd Ave SE.
  2. Turn left on Inglis Falls Road, and head south on Inglis Falls Rd.
  3. After a short distance, you’ll end up at the entrance to the park, where there is parking available.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, from main viewpoint)
Height: 60′
Hike: no hike required

Inglis Falls in October 2010

Where in the World is Inglis Falls?

Walters Falls, Ontario

Walters Falls in October 2010

I visited Walters Falls in Ontario after visiting a number of other waterfalls in the Owen Sound region. It is probably one of the easiest to find, and yet it’s not necessarily a spectacular waterfall.

After visiting the falls in the area, I realized that one of the “negatives” about some of the waterfalls in this region is that it’s almost impossible to separate out the human effects on nature. At times, this can reveal a lot about history…at other times, it’s just annoying. Here it falls more to the annoying category. The book I have says it is one of the only falls in Ontario that splits into two, but that seems to be because us humans put a dividing barrier there when building a mill.

Oh well…during the fall, it’s still an enjoyable view. If you want a view from the base that is also possibly, though slippery when muddy. To view that, cross the bridge to the “right” side of the river, where you’ll see a trail that heads downhill to the base of the falls. The sun prevented great pictures at the base.

Directions:

  1. The town of Walter Falls is found near the intersection of Grey County Roads 40 and 29.
  2. On Co. Rd. 40 in the city (if you’re heading east), you’ll find Front St.
  3. Turn left onto Front St., and head to the very end, where you’ll come to The Falls Inn. Park at the inn, and head to the left to the observation deck for the falls.
  4. Cross the bridge and head downhill if you want to get to the base.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, observation deck), 6/10 (moderate, to base, muddy!)
Height: ~50′
Hike: no major hike necessary unless you want to get to base, even then it’s short…

Where in the World is Walters Falls?

Sauble Falls, Ontario

I almost didn’t visit Sauble Falls. I know a few things are slightly more expensive in Canada, but this was one of those things that was more expensive than I thought. I thought if we visited for an hour, it might be a $1 or 2. It ended up being $5 for 2 hours, I think…Now, I don’t really even mind, except there can be a problem with that. The parking area has a computerized self-pay program, and it was broken so it only accepted coins. I had money, and I wouldn’t mind paying, but I didn’t have $5 in coins. The store next door to the parking area had a sign indicating they didn’t make change. If you want to park and explore, just make sure to bring a lot of change.

With the help of the shop owner, we were informed of other parking options and explored for a little while. Unless you’re plan on going fishing, I’m not sure that there’s much to do for more than an hour. You can see the falls from both sides of the river, but the view is better on the right side of the river (at least from the view in the picture below). You get a more complete view of the falls. We visited in October when the colors were changing. They weren’t at their peak, but they still added to the scenery.

Directions:

  1. Head north on ON-21. At the intersection between ON-21 and Bruce Co. Rd 13 (aka Bruce Rd.), head north on Bruce Co. Rd. 13.
  2. Keep heading north on Bruce Rd., where you’ll see an entrance for Sauble Falls Provincial Park. Don’t enter here unless you plan on camping (or if you don’t have change). Cross the bridge over the Sauble River and park in the parking area there. It’s on the left of the road, and it’s right next to a general store.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~20′
Hike: 0.2 miles or so (round trip)

sauble

Sauble Falls in October 2010

Where in the World is Sauble Falls?

Indian Falls, Ontario

Indian Falls Ontario

Indian Falls in October 2010

Indian Falls was one my favorite waterfalls in Grey County, Ontario. Not only was it accessible (as are most of the waterfalls in this area), but it seemed to be the least affected by humans, at least visibly. Some of the other waterfalls in the area show what human beings have done to change their surroundings, sometimes so much so that it strongly affects the waterfall that you see. Indian Falls doesn’t have that problem.

The falls are very pretty, and also rather surprising. If you walk upstream, there is nothing indicating that a significant drop is only a short distance downstream. When we showed up later in the afternoon/ evening, the sun was in the path of the viewpoint, and so it was rather difficult to get good pictures that didn’t have a lot of glare. When zooming the camera, I did have to cut out some of the surroundings, which was disappointing because of the beautiful fall colors around the falls. Better pictures may have been achieved from the base, but there really isn’t any approved trail down to the base, and the drop-offs are much sharper than they appear. I wouldn’t suggest trying.

Directions:

  1. From Owen Sound, head north on Grey County Road 1.
  2. On the left a few miles out of the city, you’ll come to the parking area for Indian Falls.
  3. Park there and follow the trail to the falls. It is mildly steep at a few points.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 50′
Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Indian Falls?

Rock Glen Falls, Ontario

Rock Glen

Rock Glen Falls in October 2010

I guess I was a little bit disappointed by Rock Glen Falls. It was the last stop on our journey of waterfalls in southwestern Ontario. It wasn’t really the waterfall by  itself that disappointed as much as the overall expectations of the Rock Glen Conservation Area.

To enter Rock Glen, you’ve got to pay the $3.52 per person entry fee, which isn’t necessarily bad, but may be the most random fee I’ve seen in a while. The area was nicely kept up, and there were many nice stairs leading to and around the falls. I have to admit the agricultural smell was very strong around the falls, which may have been one small piece of the weird experience. The falls themselves are easy to get to, and they might be more exciting when there is higher flow in spring. They also advertise that there are fossils around the glen, but I couldn’t see any of them…Oh well, there was the interesting walk down the creek, which was not hard, but I’m not sure I would ever do it again.

Directions:

  1. The road leading to the falls can be accessed from ON-402, though I’m not sure what exit would lead you to the road of interest.
  2. You want to get to Lambton Co. Rd. 79, which heads north/south. If you’re coming from 402, you’ll want to head north on 79. 79 is also known as Arkona Rd.
  3. You’ll pass the intersection of 79 and 12. Keep heading north on 79 for a short distance until you get to Rock Glen Rd.
  4. Turn right on Rock Glen Rd. and follow the signs to the entrance to the conservation area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, numerous stairs)
Height: 33′
Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Rock Glen Falls?