Gooseberry Falls is the first state park you will encounter heading North from Duluth. This “gateway to the North Shore” is situated 40 scenic miles North from Duluth along Hwy 61 and the beautiful Lake Superior shoreline. Known primarily for its waterfalls, five in all, this park offers some tremendous views of the awesome power of water. The 23 mile long Gooseberry River runs through the park with varying degrees of volume as it is highly dependent on rain water runoff. The river was plump with water for our visit in July; we photographed all but Fifth Falls. Other items of interest include Agate Beech and the 18 miles of hiking trails, of which 8 are mountain biking trails. There is no shortage of things to see at this park.
The area known as Gooseberry Falls State Park is intricately tied to human use of Lake Superior. At different times, the Cree, the Dakotah, and the Ojibwe lived along the North Shore. As early as 1670, the Gooseberry River appeared on explorer maps. The river was either named after the French explorer Sieur des Groseilliers or after the Anishinabe Indian name, Shab-on-im-i-kan-i-sibi; when translated, both refer to gooseberries. In the 1870s, commercial and sport fishermen began to use this area.
By the 1890s, logging became the principle use of the land around the Gooseberry River. In 1900, the Nestor Logging Company built its headquarters at the river mouth and a railway was used to carry the pine to the lake for rafting to the sawmills. Because of fires and intensive logging pressures, the pine disappeared by the early 1920s.
With the rise of North Shore tourism in the 1920s, there was a concern that the highly scenic North Shore would be accessible only to the rich. As a result the Legislature authorized preservation of the area around Gooseberry Falls in 1933. The following year, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began to develop the park. CCC crews built the park’s stone and log buildings and the 300-foot long “Castle in the Park” stone retaining wall. They also laid out the original campground, picnic grounds and trails. The area officially became Gooseberry Falls State Park in 1937. The CCC camps closed in 1941, but the park’s CCC legacy lives on. Designed with ties to the CCC, a new visitor center/wayside rest and Highway 61 bridge was opened in 1996. CCC camp photo albums: Camp life , Buildings/historic site , Legacy Self-guided Tour checklist & map .