Horseshoe Falls, Wisconsin

I visited Horseshoe Falls over three years ago, and so some of the details seem a little bit fuzzy.  And yet there’s one thing I do seem to remember…these falls seem very remote.  Maybe not the remotest set of falls I’ve ever driven too, but there is a lot of dirt road driving involved to see the falls.  Luckily these back roads in good enough condition, and wide enough too, that I really didn’t have to many worries.  It just seems like it takes a while to get to the falls.

Horseshoe Falls is not too far south from Eight-Foot FallsTwelve-Foot Falls, and Eighteen-Foot Falls, all of which don’t seem nearly as tall as suggested.  Horseshoe Falls is not particularly tall, maybe 3-4′.  And yet at least it does have a general horseshoe shape, at least if you use imagination!  I’m not sure I would spend any significant time going to visit just this waterfall, but since it’s in the same vicinity as the three other falls, it’s not a bad choice…And it does seem to be just a little bit more peaceful and private than the other falls.

Directions:

  1. From US-141 in Wisconsin in Marinette County, take a left on Beecher Lake Road.
  2. Turn on Smeester School Road.
  3. Turn left on Trout Haven Road.
  4. Turn LEFT onto Twelve Foot Falls Road (which Google Maps also calls Smiley Road).
  5. Turn left onto County Road 510 and drive for about 0.5 miles to the signed parking area on your left.
  6. There is just a short hike to the falls once you arrive at the parking area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 5′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Horseshoe Falls in June 2009

Where in the World is Horseshoe Falls?

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Amnicon Falls #3, Wisconsin

There are at least four named waterfalls in Amnicon Falls State Park, but there are numerous other waterfalls along the various rivers and creeks meandering there. One of those waterfalls is described here. The main set of named waterfalls (including Upper and Lower Falls) is not difficult to visit, but some of the other falls in the park are a little more “hidden.”

By “hidden”, I mean that they may not be marked, and it may take just a little bit of exploring to find them. On the day I visited in May, it was actually snowing and was surprisingly chilly, but I put up with the cold to find these falls. This particular falls might be easier to identify because it appears as if there are the remnants of an old bridge on either side of the falls. I believe the falls are near Snake Pit Falls, so look around there if you are unsure. It’s a really great state park to explore.

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 river. Head upstream to find the unnamed falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, more for the confusing loop of trails than anything else)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip

A waterfall in Amnicon Falls State Park in May 2010

Where in the World is Amnicon Falls #3?

Skillet Falls, Wisconsin

The lower portion of Skillet Falls in June 2012. (This photo makes the falls appear larger than they actually are.)

I am headed to a workshop in southern Wisconsin, and I was wondering if there were any waterfalls in the even remote vicinity. Most searches come up with waterfalls that aren’t really nearby the Madison region in Wisconsin, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find out more about Skillet Falls.

The first searches that I found seemed to indicate that there were waterfalls on Skillet Creek, but further reading seemed to suggest that visiting the falls required a hike up a stream bed for a significant distance, which I wasn’t really interested in doing. It also seemed to suggest that those falls might be on private property…so I’m guessing there might falls further upstream/downstream that exist, but you might not want to visit.

Luckily, there is a much easier option. It’s a natural area known as Pewit’s Nest. Hidden in the gorge, there are two smaller waterfalls that can be easily visited (that is, without having to wade through a stream). Now, the falls themselves are beautiful, but not very large. Skillet Falls, though, reveals something about waterfalls…sometimes, even small waterfalls can be impressive. In this case, it’s really the cliffs surrounding the falls that give them their character. It’s also one of those falls that you could actually wade to and swim in, and the water looked fairly clean. In the scenario I present, the wading is minimal.

So what should you bring…a bathing suit if you want, and towels. And good shoes…you can hike to the edge of the of cliffs, and there isn’t always a whole lot of room between you and the drop below. It can also be sandy and slippery in places. Still, it’s not terribly difficult to visit. Only the last tenth of a mile or so actually requires any uphill climbing, and that’s if you want to get a better view of the falls from above (which I would suggest).

Directions:

  1. From Baraboo (or somewhere near there), head south on US-12. On US-12, look for a Walmart.  If you’re headed north, the Walmart will be on your left.
  2. Turn left toward the Walmart. The road is County Road W.
  3. Head about 1.5 miles on County Road W to a parking area for Pewit’s Nest, which will be on your left. There is parking available for about 8 cars. In the middle of the day on the weekends, this is likely to get very busy and the parking lot full quickly, so show up early or during the weekdays.
  4. From the parking area, follow the relatively flat trail. If in doubt, just follow the trail that seems the widest. At some point, there’s really no wrong choice as the trails branch because each of them leads to a different view of the gorge and the falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, only the last, small portion of the hike requires any uphill climb)
Height: 12′
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip

The upper portion of Skillet Falls

Where in the World is Skillet Falls?

Keshena Falls, Wisconsin

Keshena Falls probably doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s not the most exciting of waterfalls. There’s not a massive drop, though the river is relatively wide.

I think sometimes, though, luck (or the correct timing) lead to something much more impressive than just a waterfall. I showed up at the falls pretty late in the evening. I had spent more time searching for other falls further upstream on the Wolf River without much luck. Keshena Falls is very easy to find, though, considering there’s a road named after it. At the point I arrived, the sun was about to set, and it cast a glow along the river that created this almost surreal, peaceful feeling. Nature was at its prime during this visit. The earth around me, the water flowing in front of me, all coalesced to lead to an almost transcendental moment that a picture cannot capture. So stop by and visit Keshena Falls, and just enjoy them for whatever they may be.

Directions:

  1. The falls are found along WI-47/55. WI-47 and WI-55 split just a ways north from Keshena Falls.
  2. I was headed south on WI-47/55 from that intersection, and found the falls to my right. Keshena Falls Road takes you along a bridge over the falls, and you can view the falls from the left.
  3. If instead of crossing the bridge, you take an almost immediate left down a short dirt turnaround, you’ll be able to view the falls from the right, which I found to be the better perspective.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: roadside

Keshena Falls in June 2009

Where in the World is Keshena Falls?

Amnicon Falls #1, Wisconsin

All of the different waterfalls in Amnicon Falls State Park are rather complex to explain. For a smaller park, there is a lot of exploring to do. As you circle around, you’ll be surprised at how many falls you can find hidden around unexpected bends. On the Amnicon River, there are a number of named falls, including Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and Snake Pit Falls. Upstream of these falls are many unnamed drops. This falls is one of them.

None of the upstream drops are significantly big, though they are often very photogenic. When I visited in mid-May, it was rather chilly outside, and it was snowing on-and-off. Even though spring had arrived, there wasn’t a significant amount of water flowing in the river. At the right time, the river might be raging.

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 river. Head upstream to find the unnamed falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, more for the confusing loop of trails than anything else)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

A waterfall on the Amnicon River in May 2010

Where in the World is Amnicon Falls #1?

Big Manitou Falls, Wisconsin

Big Manitou Falls from the left viewpoint in May 2010 (with fresh snow falling)

Big Manitou Falls is big. It has the distinction of being one of the tallest waterfalls in the region that includes Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and possibly even the Lake Superior watershed. At 165′ tall, it’s not shabby.

Now, the unlucky thing about Big Manitou Falls…The views really aren’t truly spectacular. There’s no obvious (or SAFE) way to get to the base of the falls, and the view from the left side of the river, while good, are not top notch. I think from the major viewpoint, you can’t get a real sense of how tall the falls are. There are trails on the right side of the river, but they don’t seem to lead anywhere important. Oh well, it’s still a nice waterfall. Check out the smaller, but equally impressive, Little Manitou Falls.

An update from August 2015:  When I first visited Big Manitou Falls, I viewed the falls from the left side of the river (once facing the falls). It wasn’t particularly easy to get a complete view of the falls. On the return visit, five years later, I discovered that there was another viewpoint on the right side of the falls. This viewpoint provides a much more complete picture of the falls, though you still won’t be at the base. I actually think seeing the falls from both sides provides some uniquely different pictures.

Directions:

  1. From US-2/US-53 in Superior, head south on WI-35 for 13 miles, following the signs to Pattison State Park.
  2. Once you reach Pattison State Park, you can turn left and go toward the camping area. There is a trail that leads to the falls…
  3. Or after paying at the area mentioned in step 2, you can continue down WI-35 for a short distance, turn onto County Road B, and find the parking area just to the left. This leads much closer to the falls, and allows for easy access to the right viewpoint.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
Height: 165′

A view of Big Manitou Falls from the right (in August 2015)

Where in the World is Big Manitou Falls?

Interstate Falls, Michigan/Wisconsin

First off, there are two waterfalls along the Montreal River just outside of Ironwood/Hurley, and there is confusion about which is named which. They are only about half a mile from each (at the most).

I first saw Peterson Falls about in 2007, but couldn’t figure out how to see Interstate Falls. There is no real sign indicating a path to the falls. Trails actually start at the real estate signs posted on trees, as the area on the Wisconsin side near the falls is currently for sale. (In 2016, the land was gifted to the Northwoods Land Trust, which means the falls are easier to visit now!)

In October 2010, I found the trail to the falls, which can be found as an offshoot of the far more obvious trail to Peterson Falls. Hopefully, signs will now be clearer with the land owned by the Northwoods Land Trust. When I finally arrived at the falls, I was only mildly surprised to find out that there was a huge amount of water flowing over the falls. The western portion of the Upper Peninsula had gotten a LOT of rain, and this meant that some of the rivers had very high volumes, some much higher than even in spring. There were flood warnings on certain rivers. This made it almost impossible to get great pictures because there was an amazing amount of spray. Looking at other pictures of the falls, I’ve never seen this much water flowing.

Directions:

  1. From Ironwood/Hurley, head west on US-2. You will pass from Michigan into Wisconsin.
  2. After a short distance, you will see Center Drive on your right. If you take a look, you will even notice a white sign for one of the falls.
  3. Turn right onto Center Drive, a dirt road, a head down it. At one point, you will veer right.
  4. You’ll see a real estate sign. You might be able to park here.
  5. Walk along the trail nearby, heading toward the river. You can see the crest of the falls, but getting to the base can be more difficult (especially in such high flow).

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy to crest), 6/10 (moderate to base)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Interstate Falls from the base in October 2010

Interstate Falls at the crest

Where in the World is Interstate Falls?