Minnesota North Shore – Grand Portage State Park

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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Park Creation

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.

History

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.

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage

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Minnesota North Shore – Judge CR Magney State Park

DSC_7835-EditJudge 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

History

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.

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage

Minnesota North Shore – Tettegouche State Park

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.

History

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.

Here are my shots of our visit to Tettegouche.

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage