Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cascade Falls (Cascade River State Park) -
Lutsen, Minnesota

My father and I first visited the Cascade River State Park Recreation Site near Lutsen, Minnesota on our first Lake Superior Circle Tour in 2011. We made the short, quarter-mile hike up to Cascade Falls (an impressive 25-foot plunge), snapped a few pictures then went on our way. We had no idea what we were missing out on by not following the trail farther, until my dad returned the next fall with my stepmom and found the additional cascades on the trail. There are so many turns and drops to the river with so many places to climb on rocks for better views, that it would be easy to spend a day here to take it all in.
This has become an annual stop for us now, and in high water each drop is spectacular. There is a copper tint to the water similar to many of Michigan's Upper Peninsula falls and given how easy and well-worn the path is, there's little excuse not to follow it and check out this great park!
As always, caution is advised when venturing off the trail to get closer views, but the rock is fairly smooth and flat in most places, especially near a bridge that spans the river and marks the start of the trail's loop back to the parking lot.
As further reinforcement of how beautiful this area is, on one of our visits there was a woman painting the landscape. I would love to see the finished product.
This picture shows how close the drops are, and gives a small look at how many there are. Cascade Falls is the gem here, but it's just the beginning. It's just over a mile to make the full loop, and as you can see it's more than worth the effort. The video below is from our visit in 2012 and I tried to give a good look of the entire loop.

The parking area for the falls is at mile marker 100 on highway 61 in MN, north of Lutsen and south of Grand Marais. The path goes straight up to Cascade Falls, then follow it uphill and off to the left, as it follows the river before crossing and heading down the opposite bank. The Wallingas' book Waterfalls of the North Shore (linked in upper right corner), first turned us on to these falls and provided excellent directions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Silver Creek Falls - Ahmeek, Mich.

You won't find the officially unnamed falls on Silver Creek in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in tourist brochures or on most maps, but they are worth the effort to visit on any trip to the Keweenaw. Located only a few minutes from the road, it's a short hike of medium difficulty that gets you back in the woods to this 15-foot high waterfalls tucked in a peaceful section of the woods full of green and brown colors.
It may be a short hike back to the falls, but don't be misled by how easy it is at first. A fairly well-worn path heads into the woods for about an eighth of a mile, but once you get closer to the creek there will be a need to navigate around downed trees. As long as you stay close to the creek bank, the falls are pretty close. The creek is shallow, and with a pair of waders you could probably walk right up to the falls.
The creek bed is conglomerate rock, which gives some character to the water as it cascades down the main drop then continues through a few smaller ones. These falls are pretty spectacular, and not visited very often which is appealing.
To get to Silver Creek Falls, turn onto 5 Mile Point Rd off of M-28 near Eagle River and follow for about two miles to where the road crosses Silver Creek (signed). Turn around and park in one of the wide, sandy areas on the side of the road. Look for a path into the woods before the guardrail and follow it about a quarter mile to the falls. We first checked this out based on directions in the Penrose Michigan Waterfall guide (see link on right) and years later, their directions are still accurate. Below is a video I shot in August 2012.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Agate Falls - Trout Creek, Mich.

Easily accessible from a roadside park off of M-28 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Agate Falls should not be missed. Only a handful of other falls in the state can come close in height or width, and while reaching the base of the falls requires some extra hiking on a narrow path down the hill, it is more than worth the effort.
The parking area for Agate Falls is on the south side of the highway, and the trail is wide, paved and almost immediately heads under the road and heads into the woods. It's easy to hear the falls, and views of the river are plentiful through the trees. After maybe a quarter mile, you will reach an old train trestle and shortly after that a viewing platform.
I imagine many people get confused here, as the view of these stunning falls looks something like this from here:
Stepping back about ten feet and looking off to the right, there is a well-worn path in the dirt between the trees. This won't be easy going, as it is mostly downhill and there are roots to avoid, but if it is dry and proper caution is used there is no reason to worry.
If water levels are high, there may be a need to hop over some standing water and sometimes the mosquitoes are quite thick. We've been fortunate to pretty much have this lower part to ourselves the past two times we were there, making for some breathtaking views as the middle branch of the Ontonagon River drops 40 feet over sandstone ledges.
It's pretty easy to see why this waterfall used to be featured on postcards, and why it remains a popular stop to this day no matter the season (the trestle bridge is part of a snowmobile trail).
Agate Falls can be found on M-28 four miles west of Trout Creek and about 6 miles east of M-45. I have added a short video from a trip in June of 2013.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Big Eric's Falls - Skanee, Mich.

While Big Eric's Falls are nowhere near being the biggest or most impressive falls in the Upper Peninsula, they are easily accessible and are one of the many waterfalls located off of Skanee Rd. along the shore of Lake Superior. Here, on the Huron River near Big Eric's Campground (MI State Forest). There are multiple drops of up to six feet here as the river flows over rocky ledges, and access from both sides of the bridge leaves lots of room for exploration.
This is a close-up view of one of the small drops on the left (east) side, which shows the rock formations well.
This is one of the upper drops closest to the bridge, and a smaller drop of around a foot farther downstream.
Finally, a look at the largest drop, far to the right (west bank) and close to the bridge.

Big Eric's Falls can be reached by heading out of L'Anse on Main St./Skanee Rd. for a little more than 18 miles, then turning right onto Eric's Rd. when a fork presents itself. It's a little over a mile to the parking area for the campground and falls, the bridge will be in view and only a hundred yards away. 
Below is a video I shot in April of 2012:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Keene Creek Waterfalls - Duluth, Minn.

One of my favorite things about Duluth, MN (and there are many, many things I love about this city) is the presence of waterfalls within the city limits. With numerous creeks and rivers flowing towards Lake Superior, these falls provide places of serenity hundreds of feet from busy urban areas. One creek that features small yet unique waterfalls is Keene Creek, which can be accessed from several spots on the Skyline Parkway.
The first falls are reached by parking in a large dirt lot near Skyline Drive and Highland St. Across the street there is a short trail into the woods that reaches an old bridge over the creek. There was some "interesting" graffiti there on our visit, further driving home the point that this is a very urban waterfall.
The falls here look to vary between 3-10 feet depending on waterflow. The Wallinga's book lists them at eight feet but they were closer to four in August of 2012. The gently flowing creek splits over some rocks here, before landing in a reflective pool that had quite a collection of trash and debris in it (pop cans, shoes, etc).
The creek flows directly under the old bridge mentioned above, and this appears to be a favorite target for graffiti artists. The vibrant colors on the wall contrast with the tranquil calm of the greens and blues in the area, but almost have a beauty of their own when viewed solo:
From these falls, a short (.3 mile) trip east on Skyline Drive to another, smaller dirt pullout leads to another short trail through the woods to a more breathtaking spot on Keene Creek. Here the creek drops over rock at a height of around five feet, in three distinct sections before it makes a few smaller drops below.
A close-up view of the "upper" section here shows the moss/lichens attached to the rock. While these falls are not going to be featured on a calendar anytime soon, they must look spectacular during spring runoff.
These falls don't appear to be visited very often either, so if you're looking for a quiet, scenic hike away from crowds this is a good spot to start. Below is a short video I took in August 2012.