Day 2 began exquisitely. We made our way down to waters edge in Grand Marais for a sunrise shoot. Nature cooperated nicely. From there, we back-tracked a bit to Cascade River State Park for a beautiful morning hike up the river gorge among the picturesque cascades. Next we got off the beaten path (Hwy 61) and made our way towards another destination (Hollow Rock Resort). After checking in we were off on the Gunflint Trail to drive a loop through the forest in search of Devilfish overlook. We got closed, but missed a road and stumbled on a Red Fox – cute little bugger; then just continued on our way. We decided to take another run at a sunset at Honey Moon Bluff that overlooks Hungry Jack Lake off the Gunflint Trail. The second attempt yielded better results than the first.
Another full day on the MN North Shore. Love this place. There is a surprise around every corner.
Grand Portage is the last and final state park along the North Shore. It was the newest state park in Minnesota until 2010. Lake Vermilion State Park is now the newest. I look forward to visiting this location soon. For more information, check out the Master Plan.
Grand Portage State Park is situated on the northeastern tip of Minnesota on the Canada-Untied States border. The tallest waterfall in the state is located here; at 120 feet, it is impressive. I can only image how it must have been to happen upon this waterfall in a canoe loaded down with supplies, crew and furs. The nine mile portage around this falls and rapids downstream was a very laborious process no doubt.
The day we visited there was rather think fog to contend with. At times, the visibility of the falls was impossible and you just had to stand there listening to the thunder of the water until it came back into view. This is one of the few handicap accessible park that will bring you up close and personal with this gorgeous waterfall via ramps and board walks. This is a day use only park with 5 miles of hiking trails. The views of the falls and river are very picturesque.
Pigeon River – High Falls (video)
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The land adjoining High and Middle Falls was purchased as a possible commercial property by Lloyd K. Johnson, an attorney and land speculator from Duluth, who held onto it for decades. In 1985 a park advocacy group, the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, suggested complementing Ontario’s Pigeon River Provincial Park with a Minnesota state park. Johnson, who in the 1930’s and 40’s had sold hundreds of thousands of acres to the U.S. Forest Service to help create Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, agreed to sell 178 acres and donate a further 129 acres. The Parks and Trails Council raised Johnson’s asking price of $250,000 through contributions from individuals and foundations and completed the sale in 1988.
Since the land was within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, the state park bill was drafted with several provisions establishing a novel collaboration. Legislation establishing the park passed unanimously in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature in 1989. The Parks and Trails Council sold the land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for $316,000, an amount well under its appraised value. The DNR then began the complicated process of transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would hold it in trust for the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, who in turn would lease the park back to the DNR for $1 a year. Grand Portage State Park finally opened to the public in September 1994. It took so long to finalize the land deal that another entire Minnesota state park, Glendalough, had been authorized, developed, and dedicated in the meantime.
Git-che-O-ni-ga-ming and Grand Portage are Ojibwe and French words for “a great carrying place.” Grand Portage State Park and the surrounding area is rich in Indian and fur trade history. To American Indians, voyageurs and fur traders in the 1700s, the natural features of the area were an awesome sight. Travelers and traders were faced with a 120-foot waterfall, the thundering rapids of the Pigeon River, cliffs, and rocky terrain that was impossible to cross. The only option was to go around these obstacles. The nine-mile trek became known as “The Grand Portage” and ultimately gave the area its name. The park lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and is bordered by Canada on the north and east. Lake Superior is about one mile east of the park. The park was established in 1989 through the cooperative efforts of the State of Minnesota and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians. A unique situation exists in that this is the only state park not owned by the State of Minnesota. The land is leased from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which holds it in trust for the Grand Portage Band. The development and operation of the park rests primarily with the Department of Natural Resources and is implemented through the Division of Parks and Recreation.
Here are my shots from my recent visit to Grand Portage State Park.
Judge C.R. Magney is the seventh park you will encounter along the North Shore. Devil’s Kettle Falls is the main draw here. This is a very unusual, and even mysterious waterfall. As you can see in the featured image, the river is split in two as it goes over the falls. The section on the right, lands at the base of the falls and continues downstream. The section on the left vanishes into a pothole known as the Devil’s Kettle and no one knows where it goes. It is believed that the water makes its way out to Lake Superior by means of underground passages, but the exact details are unknown. They have thrown dyes and logs and other things into the pothole, but apparently nothing ever comes out. If you have ever worried about falling over a waterfall, imagine falling into the Devil’s Kettle. Read more on Devil’s Kettle…
Concrete foundations in the campground and picnic areas of the park are remnants of a transient work camp built there in 1934 by the State. The camp provided work and lodging for men displaced during the Depression years. In addition to building trails, logging, and completing public service projects, these men helped fight a fire in 1935 that burned more than 10,000 acres in the area. Later the men set up a sawmill and began to salvage fire-damaged wood.
In 1957, a 940-acre parcel of forest along the Brule River was set aside as Brule River State Park. The park became Judge C. R. Magney State Park in 1963 when the Minnesota legislature selected this park as a memorial to the late Judge Magney, a lawyer, mayor of Duluth, justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and a strong advocate of Minnesota State Parks, especially those along the North Shore. With his influence, he was instrumental in establishing 11 state parks and waysides along Lake Superior. Over the years, parcels of land have been added to the park which today totals 4,642 acres.
More than half of those 4,642 acres have no trails. The upper two-thirds of land this park occupies has almost no trails. The only trail runs parallel with the Brule River and eventually veers off to connect with the Superior Hiking Trail. There are 9 total miles of hiking trails in the park. this park has a good amount of semi-modern drive-up campsites. Fishing opportunities are plentiful here on the Brule River or a tributary, Gauthier Creek, for brook and rainbow trout. The spring time brings on the steelhead run and fall host the salmon run.
Here are my shots of Judge C. R. Magney from a recent visit.
Cascade River is the sixth park you will encounter while traveling the North Shore. This park doesn’t have much of a presence right off the road; there is a wayside that looks out over Lake Superior, but the best parts are along the easy hiking trails opposite the lake. These cascades are spectacular. The River cascades over one ledge after another as it drops 900 feet in the last three miles as it makes its way to Lake Superior. The volcanic canyon is home to many fragrant cedar trees and we even stumbled upon some lady slippers in bloom. The 18 miles of hiking trails loop up around Lookout and Mouse mountains as well as parallel Lake Superior right along the beach (1.5 miles) where you will find seven picnic sites. This park offers a variety of camping options which include several semi-modern drive-up, two group camps and five back pack-in sites.
I think this was by far our favorite park of the trip. The cascades are just so beautiful as our you complete surroundings. I definitely would like to make plans to return here in the Fall for the leaf color. From Temperance River on up is my favorite stretch of the North Shore. I stumbled upon the Trifecta: Three Parks. Three Trails. Three Days. This would be absolutely fantastic to do – especially along this stretch of the North Shore.
Years ago, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had a camp at the Cascade River. The men in this camp worked on a variety of conservation projects. Today, you can see some of their handiwork on the trails that wind along the river. One enrollee told how they cut and moved the large pine logs from Cascade down to Gooseberry Falls State Park to finish buildings in that park. From the beginning, Cascade was thought of as a state park, but it wasn’t until 1957 that it was officially designated as such.
Here are my shots from my recent visit to Cascade River State Park.
Temperance River is the fifth state park you will encounter along the shore. George Crosby Manitou is the fourth, but we missed it. I’ll chalk our drive-by up to the park not being right off Hwy 61. We will have to catch it next trip.
In 1957, Minnesota organized 539 acres into the Temperance River State Park. This park is a gorgeous. The river plunges through a narrow gorge just before reaching Lake Superior; the surround tails provide ample opportunities for viewing the wonderous water. There are several miles of hiking trails to explore and direct access to the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking Trail passes through the park, along the river gorge before climbing to the top of Carlton Peak, almost 1000 feet above Lake Superior. Two campsites grace the shoreline here, one on either side of the river.
Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart, Sier des Groselliers, were probably the first white visitors to the North Shore when they traveled up the shore of Lake Superior during 1660. Along with the Ojibwe Indians, the French controlled the North Shore area until 1763. The first white settlers in the area were probably clerks at American Fur Company posts located along the shore in the 1830s. It is said the park got its name because, unlike other North Shore streams, the river had no bar at its mouth. At one time, the waters of this particular river flowed so deep and so strong into Lake Superior that there was no build-up of debris. This meant that there was no “bar.” What could you call a river without a bar? For an appropriate, if slightly tongue-in-cheek selection, “temperance” fits perfectly. The area became a state park in 1957. Campsites on both sides of the river, plus the park’s hiking trails and picnic areas, draw a steady stream of visitors to this North Shore park.
Here are my shots of our visit to Temperance River.
Tettegouche is the third state park you will encounter on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It sits 58 miles northeast of Duluth in Lake County on scenic Minnesota Highway 61. The park’s name stems from the Tettegouche Club, an association of local businessmen which purchased the park in 1910 from the Alger-Smith Lumber Company. The club’s members protected the area until its sale in 1971 to the deLaittres family. In 1979, the state of Minnesota acquired 3,400 acres from the Nature Conservancy, including Tettegouche Camp. The land was added to Baptism River State Park, which was renamed Tettegouche State Park.
The park covers some 9000+ acres which is home to six lakes and the Baptism River. There are four waterfalls total, but the 70 foot High Falls is the jewel of the park. There are 22 miles of hiking trails and access to the Superior Hiking Trail. Shovel Point and Palisade Head cliff’s offer climbing directly over Lake Superior. Diverse camping opportunists await you here as you can drive-in, walk-in, cart-it and even kayak-in to a campsite.
There is a new visitor center under construction and the main park entrance has shifted to a new location temporarily as a result. Read more…
At this park we photographed Two Step Falls and High Falls; we didn’t venture around to the other side of the river to capture the staight-on view of High Falls. There wasn’t any fog at this park as it was far enough off Lake Superior and it was quite bright. These were not good conditions to capture the falls without ND filters 😦 High Falls is the highest waterfall entirely inside Minnesota’s border whereas High Falls in Grad Portage State Park on the Pigeon River is the tallest in Minnesota (on the border with Canada). I completely missed Illgen Falls on the map – next time. There is a rental cabin right at Illgen Falls. I would love to stay here some day and catch the sunrise through the stone arch on the beach.
In 1898, the Alger-Smith Lumber Company began cutting the virgin pine forests of Northeastern Minnesota. A logging camp was set up on the shores of a lake the loggers called Nipisiquit, an Indian name from a tribe in New Brunswick, Canada, the logger’s native country. They took the Algonquin names for New Brunswick landmarks and gave them to the lakes in Tettegouche.
In 1910, after removing most of the Norway and white pine, the logging company sold the camp and surrounding acreage to the “Tettegouche Club,” a group of businessmen from Duluth who used the area as a fishing camp and retreat. One of its members, Clement Quinn, bought the others out in 1921 and continued to act as protector for the area until 1971 when Quinn sold Tettegouche to the deLaittres family. The deLaittres continued Quinn’s tradition of stewardship for the land, beginning negotiations several years later for the preservation of Tettegouche as a state park. During these years, the Nature Conservancy, a private land conservation organization, played a vital role (along with other concerned individuals and groups) in the transfer of ownership. Finally, on June 29, 1979, legislation was enacted establishing Tettegouche as a state park.
Split Rock is the second state park along the North Shore. This park is best known for its historic lighthouse – which is touted as one of the most photographed in the United States. The lighthouse and other buildings have been restored to pre-1924 appearance on this 25 acre site and is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society. The park is 2200 acres in all and features a unique cart-in campground and many scenic trails. The east and west branches of the Split Rock River join in the park. There are ten waterfalls on the river, all of which are a moderate hike away via the Superior Hiking Trail and most are not actually inside the park boundaries.
Construction of the lighthouse and fog horn buildings was complete in 1909. The Minnesota Historical Society has used this site as a museum since 1971. This lighthouse was erected in 1910 from materials offloaded from ships on Lake Superior with a steam-powered hoist and derrick. The hoist and derrick was problematic in high winds and waves; not to mention extremely dangerous to operate. Supplies for operation were also delivered using this method until a tramway was constructed in 1915.
The tramway stretched from the water’s edge at the dock location to the South of the lighthouse to the top of the hill where the tram house is located. An extension of the rail spur allowed the flat car to be pushed over to the oil house and storage barns. Remnants of the tramway are still present to this day. There are stairs that parallel the tramway path all the way to the water. Delivery via Lake Superior came to an end 1934 when a flatbed pickup was used to haul supplies along the Lake Superior International Highway.|
We were introduced to the sound of the Split Rock Lighthouse Fog Horn; even at a faction of operation day decibels, it was plenty loud. I can only image how that building shook every 18 seconds when visibility was poor. The glass in the widows were “chicken-wired” to prevent them from shattering under the intense vibration. I am not sure how anyone could have gotten any sleep anywhere near that building.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park has a rich and varied history. From 1899 to 1906, the Merrill and Ring Lumber Company logged most of the original Norway and white pine from the area. During peak years, the company operated a short railroad up the river. Pilings from old wharf and dam can still be seen jutting out of the water at the mouth of the Split Rock River. In 1905, a punishing November gale (the kind Lake Superior is famous for), claimed the Edenborn and the Madiera (a barge the Edenborn was towing) as well as five other ships, within a dozen miles of the Split Rock River. The tragic sinking of these ships fueled the demand for a lighthouse. The fog signal building and lighthouse were completed in 1909 and commissioned one year later. For 59 years, the keepers at Split Rock warned ships away from the rock and treacherous North Shore with its 370,000-candlepower beacon. In 1971, the federal government deeded the lighthouse station to the State of Minnesota to be operated as a historic site. In 1976, the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) assumed operation of the site.
Here are my shot from my visit to Split Rock Lighthouse.
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.
Wow what a trip. I’ve been up the North Shore several times. I’ve been through the area in the Spring, Winter, and Fall, but never in the Summer. The funny thing though, it didn’t exactly feel like Summer. With the weird and delayed warmer weather this Spring – Spring is just reaching points Duluth and North. The lilacs are just blooming now along with all the other wild flowers including lupine. The roadsides where vibrant with color for the duration.
Leaving the twin city metro area, the weather was the typical July like 90+ degrees; there was a touch of stifling humidity in the air and the possibility of a thunderstorm was very likely. Life is usually a bit cooler along the North Shore with the breezes blowing over that 40 degree water. You could say it is a natural air conditioner. If you have ever been to Duluth, you know full well that there is a chance that you won’t see most of the town and none of the lake when heavy fog sets in. This is exactly what we were met with. From 90+ to 50 degrees in what seemed an instant. Very heavy fog clogged up any hope of a panoramic view and inhibited visibility on the road significantly, but hamper our spirits it did not. Such is life traveling the shore.
Over the next few days we made our way up the shore seven of the eight state parks in the fog. This trip was mostly about photographing the waterfalls in each state park, with the exception of Split Rock, the lighthouse is just cool to tour. It turns outs that fog makes waterfall photography interesting. It was a godsend considering some neutral density (ND) filters were left behind and one lens (with ND filters) was not functioning correctly. The fog naturally filtered out the harsh sunlight and created some interesting shooting conditions to say the least.
We are truly lucky to live is such a beautiful area with wonderful and abundant natural resources so close by. Our state parks are so beautiful. Aside from the parks, the rest of the scenery along the way is pretty awe-inspiring as well.
We were also fortunate enough to sneak a peek (and several shots) of an old abandoned 3-story warehouse/distribution center in Two Harbors, MN. It was lovely as were many other places along the way.
In the coming days I will post the photos from each park. I have a ton of photos (1100+) to look through. Until then, here are a few shots of our travels along the way and in between the parks – more of these to follow as well.