Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Split Rock River Falls - Minnesota

Split Rock River
Split Rock State Park, Minnesota

The Split Rock State Park is one of the most popular on Minnesota's North Shore, though few visitors ever make it farther than the historic lighthouse. When it comes to waterfalls, the nearby Gooseberry Falls get most of the glory, but the Split Rock River features at least seven major drops and one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the state. While trips to the lighthouse and Gooseberry have been staples of our trips for years, we had put off the 5-mile round-trip hike at Split Rock until the summer of 2013 because we were usually pretty exhausted by the time we got there. This time we made it a focal point of our trip, and while it definitely wore us out it was worth it.
Starting at a large parking lot south of the park's main entrance, the trail starts off well-worn and pretty level. The first major fall is actually on a branch of the main river, but it is one of the most stunning falls on the entire trip. Great views can be had from a bridge that crosses here, and there are many spots for viewing closer and even the chance to do some climbing.
Next up is the first falls on the Split Rock River, where the water makes a gradual drop before slowing to round a bend. It's hard to get a great view from the trail up above, but we had little trouble making a cautious approach down to the water's edge for a better view.
One thing that will amaze about the hike along the Split Rock is how close together all of these falls are. There is rarely a stretch of more than 5-10 minutes without a major cascade once you reach first falls, though some are harder to see than others.
The next set of falls had to be seen from a clearing before getting too close, as there were no views due to trees once we got closer. The MN waterfall book refers to these as "White Falls" and it's pretty easy to see why. After these falls, it wasn't long before we saw another set:
After that, we came across another nice set of falls, with a nice rock ledge that was the perfect spot for a break on this hike:
The trail conditions worsen after the first several falls, but we saw many people heading in each direction during our entire time along the river. From above, we next viewed a spot where the river splits and forms falls on either side of a small island:
Another great part of this trip, is that at one point you're at least 40 feet above the river staring into a breathtaking canyon setting, then minutes later you return to river level and find yourself looking up at the canyon walls you were just hiking on. There's also falls of every shape and size here, the next being a slide-style falls:
It's important to remember that the great scenery here isn't limited to the river alone, we also found these amazing rock formations up along the trail before reaching the last few falls:
The last falls are referred to as "Orange Falls" and a look at the colors on the rock to the right of them should easily explain why.
We followed the river upstream a bit from here by climbing on some rocks and found there was one last sight to behold:
What a finale to an amazing hike! I recommend that anyone doing this trip grabs the Minnesota waterfalls book shown below, I took it on the hike and it's the closest thing available to turn-by-turn directions. Descriptions of each falls helps, and while trail conditions and distances seemed slightly different the falls were described perfectly. We returned the same way we came in, and after reaching our car were treated to the sight of a bald eagle flying above the parking lot. This is easily one of my favorite hikes in the Great Lakes region, and rivals just about any other one I've ever done in difficulty and overall scenery. I linked a video of the entire river's falls below.

Getting there: the trailhead for the Split Rock River hiking trail is in a parking lot south of the state park, near mile marker 44 on Highway 61. The trail gets confusing in a few spots, so having the Wallinga's book or a map from the state park office is a good decision.

Overall: Amazing
Hike: Moderate to Difficult

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pijitawabik Palisades - Orient Bay, Ontario, Canada

The Palisades of the Pjitiwabik are one of the most interesting rock formations on the northern shore of Lake Superior, and while they are better known for their popularity during the winter ice climbing season, in the spring and summer several "overfalls" create stunning views of a different kind.
The best known falls in the area is Cascade Falls, best observed from a parking lot off of Hwy 11 where the historical marker pictured above is located. A trail leads through the woods for a moment, then puts you on the rocks - a cautious, slow approach will allow photos like these:

Since this was a side trip on our Lake Superior Circle Tour, we didn't spend nearly as long here as we could/should have. There is so much to see and take in, and personally I could have sat at these falls all day. We traveled a little farther north and there was one spot where ice still clung to the top of the rocky cliffs.
Past that, we were able to get a distant view of Go-Mar Falls (also known as Gorge Creek Falls):

We pulled off and shot this stunning view from a distance, and apparently there are hiking trails nearby that lead to a close-up view of the top of the falls (although I assume it's hard to get the whole thing into frame from that close). Here's a short video I shot at the falls:

Getting there: The Palisades begin on Hwy 11 about 40 miles north of Nipigon. Watch for the historical marker for Cascade Falls, and views of Gorge Creek Falls occur a few mile to the north, with several spots to pull off.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lower Tahquamenon Falls - Paradise, Michigan

Tahquamenon River
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Paradise, MI

I'm back! I've been neglecting this blog lately, mostly due to my writing at Rant Sports and focusing on my hockey autograph blog. In the winter, I often get through cold snowy days by remembering how much fun I have in the Upper Peninsula during the summer. I only made it there twice this past year, but wanted to share my experience from Lower Tahquamenon Falls - not my first time there, but easily the best experience there to date!
While most of the attention goes to the bigger, more powerful Upper Tahquamenon Falls, the Lower Falls have so much to offer they shouldn't be missed. The river splits around an island, forming two major drops and several smaller ones. There is a path that follows the riverbank and offers views of a few sets of the falls, and the park's main observation platform provides this view of the falls to the left of the island:
For a better view of the falls, and to make sure you don't miss anything, there are rowboats available to get over to the island. There is a cost involved, I don't remember exactly but I want to say it was $12 for both of us. From the launch point, you'll steer the canoe towards the island, and have some great views on the way.

Once you get to the island, you'll be greeted by a sign that warns you to be careful. The trails and well-traveled but there aren't as many guardrails in place as there are along the riverwalk.
We took the trail to the left, and started our trip around the island. The up-close view of the first fall was amazing, and immediately made me glad we made the extra effort.

This is the top part of the falls from the picture above, and from the observation deck the views aren't anywhere close to this good. Next up was a set of rapids at the "top" of the island:
Down on the other side of the island is a fantastic set of falls, agains with multiple drops:

A short walk put us back at the dock, and we rowed our way back to the "mainland" while stopping to take a few picture along the way.

I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes waterfalls, as there are few chance to get this kind of a view of any of Michigan's waterfalls. I also took some video:

Getting there: Tahquamenon Falls is located on M-123 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula - west of Paradise/Whitefish Point and northeast of Newberry. Entire area is well-signed and incredibly scenic.
Overall: Great
Hike: Easy (mostly paved/boardwalk and handicap accesible)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chicagon Falls - Crystal Falls, Mich.

Chicagon Creek
Crystal Falls

Chicagon Falls has become one of my favorite falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The falls aren't impressive in size, but the setting is hard to beat. It also took two tries to finally get back to these falls, as we had some outdated directions. With the help of a Bewabic State Park ranger we first reached these falls in 2008, and recently returned in June of 2013.
The trail back to the falls is a decent two-track that leads to a wide area for parking. After that, the traild gets a bit more dicey, and is about a mile in length. We hiked in the first time, and took mountain bikes for our return visit. The creek drops about 10-15 feet here in a slide, and is calm both above and below. You're almost guaranteed to be the only visitors back here, and while there isn't much room to explore due to downed trees and branches, there are still some great vantage points.
This view comes from straddling a large log that crosses the creek, while the view below is from the trail side showing the falls and surrounding area:
Below is a video I shot at the falls back in June, if you're in the area, passing through or staying at Bewabic State Park, don't miss this hidden gem.

Getting there: These are the directions we were given at Bewabic, with a few updates - the Penrose book is out of date on this one! From the entrance of Bewabic State Park on U.S. 2, go .6 miles to Long Lake Road on the right, turn onto that road and follow it for 3.3 miles (you will go around a lake and start to curve as you head uphill). A two track road on the right for "Raymer" is the one you want (to the right of a newer looking house and a recently cleared area), it's a quarter mile in to a widened parking area where you will start to see signs for the falls. Trail is about a mile, walked in 15-20 and biked in 10 minutes.

Overall: Good
Hike: Moderate

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Smalley Falls - Pembine, Wisconsin

Pemebonwon River
Pembine, Wisconsin

Much like Long Slide Falls, Smalley Falls is located near the Michigan/Wisconsin border and is incredibly easy to get to. Unlike Long Slide Falls, there is no great vantage point to photograph the entire falls, leaving at best some clear views of the main 10-foot drop. There are no railings here, so staying near the trail and using caution is advised. My second visit here was in June 2013, in a light rain.
The falls may not be impressive in size, but they make up for that thanks to their location. There is a small day use fee that goes to the county. The trail has a few steep/rough spots, but is less than a quarter mile in length. From the bank, choose one of several vantage points to view parts of the falls.

Getting there: From Hwy 141 north of Pembine and south of Niagara, turn onto Morgan Park Road. A quarter mile down the road, take the well-marked drive on the right for Smalley Falls. Long Slide Falls have their own parking area another quarter mile down Morgan Park Rd.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy to Moderate

Monday, July 29, 2013

Long Slide Falls - Pembine, Wisconsin

Pemebonwon River
Pembine, Wisconsin

Long Slide Falls are one of the best waterfalls Wisconsin has to offer, and very near to several other falls. Just across the border from Michigan, Long Slide Falls and Smalley Falls are located on the same road and accessible for only a small day use fee. The "long slide" is about 50 feet and gradual, the river cutting through rocks while surrounded by thick forest on both sides. The hiking trail is very short, but requires some caution near the river in wet conditions. We visited during a light rain, which helped pictures turn out good but made for some tricking going on our descent down.

Getting there: From Hwy 141 north of Pembine and south of Niagara, look for and turn on Morgan Park Rd. About a half mile down the road, the drive on the right is well-marked and leads to the path for Long Slide Falls (you will have passed the drive for Smalley Falls on the way).

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy to Moderate

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fumee Falls - Iron Mountain, Mich.

Fumee Creek
Iron Mountain, MI

Fumee Falls is so easy to visit that it should never be missed. Located in a roadside park off of US-2, these falls may not be the biggest (and at times may not have much flow), but the setting is peaceful and a great place for a quick stretch or a picnic.
From the parking lot it is easy to hear the sound of falling water, and a short walk leads to this view of the falls and a footbridge:
Up close, the falls are spectacular more in setting than power, and this is a very seasonal falls - don't expect much water flow in dry summer months.
There is a path and some stairs that lead to an upper set of falls, also be sure to check out informational plaques and heed their warnings about staying on the trail to prevent erosion (they have had problems here in the past).
The parking lot also features a Michigan historical marker that tells of the Menominee Iron Range and its impact on the local area throughout history:
Here is a short video of Fumee Falls from June 2013:

Getting there: the Fumee Falls rest area is on US-2 between Iron Mountain and Norway, and it's pretty hard to miss.

Overall: Okay to Good (Seasonal)
Hike: Very Easy

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Partridge Falls - Pigeon River, Minnesota

Pigeon River
Grand Portage, Minnesota

Somehow I have never posted the photos/video from one of my favorite finds of the 2012 Lake Superior Circle Tour: Partridge Falls. While not visited nearly as often as High Falls or Middle Falls inside Grand Portage State Park, these falls are amazing and worth the sometimes rough drive to get to them. We got nervous 2-3 times while driving back on a very rough Partridge Falls Rd. but in the end we found the parking area by a very abandoned cabin, made the short hike toward the sound of roaring water, and were blown away by how up close these falls are!
It was hard to get down for a good view as it's a steep drop off, and the spray makes most rocks, branches etc. incredibly slippery. This was worth it though as the view of the falls fills up almost the entire viewfinder of the camera and shows how powerful this river is!
In case you're wondering if you're in the right place, this is what the cabin at the end of Partridge Falls Rd. looks like:

Getting there: heading north on Hwy 61, turn left onto CR-17 (or Mineral Center Rd.) and follow for six miles to Partridge Falls Rd. (was a green sign with bullet holes through it). Turn left and follow this rough, rough road for a little over four miles to the river. Keep an eye on your odometer and you should be fine. Park by the cabin, take the trail (overgrown old two track) to the right for 1/4 mile and watch for the falls, and enjoy!
Overall: Amazing
Hike: Moderate

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jumbo Falls - Kenton, MI

Jumbo River
near Kenton, Michigan

Jumbo Falls don't get their name based on size, as you can see from the picture above. They are named for their location on the Jumbo River, a popular spot for trout fishing. These falls are less than a five-minute walk from the "parking area" and it is a smooth and well worn path to get to them - chances are you'll hear the falls when you get out of the car. The falls come at a bend in the river, as it drop 5-7 feet before widening and calming down. The white of the falls here is a great contrast to the river's dark color and the surrounding greens of the mosses and trees of the forest (depends on season).

Getting there: Heading west on M-28 near Kenton, take a left on Golden Glow Rd. It's about two and half miles to the parking area and there are several intersections with forest roads, just stay on the "main" road until you find the parking area. There is an informational sign about trout fishing, if you see that you're in the right spot and should be able to hear the falls.

Overall: Okay
Hike: Easy