Spring waterfall season: 3 raging rivers to watch

Northeastern Minnesota, especially along the North Shore, still has at least one foot of snow on the ground, and in some places nearly three feet. All that snow has to melt sometime, and when it melts, it will run down the fabulous streams of the North Shore. Waterfalls that are quiet and pretty in the middle of summer turn to muddy raging torrents. It’s a great time to explore.

Most of the North Shore rivers shed their ice in mid-April. Andrew Krueger of the Duluth News Tribune caught the exact magical, monstrous moment at Gooseberry Falls State Park when the river let go of winter, sending huge chunks of  ice plunging downriver and down the Falls. Watch the video below at least through 1:40, when an entire tree slips over the falls. Awesome!

Here are the three best North Shore waterfall viewing locations:

Gooseberry Falls State Park. Follow the well-worn path from the Visitor Center down to Middle Falls and watch safely from the platform as the Gooseberry River rolls down toward Lake Superior. Then take the wide path upstream a hundred yards to Upper Falls. Learn more about the park here.

Cascade River State Park. The waterfalls here are a little harder to reach, and the trail might still have some snow and ice. But the gorge is beautiful and the falls are dramatic as the spring melt seems to fill the canyon with its root beer float flow. Either park on Highway 61 at the lakeside rest area or, with a park permit, drive in to the trailhead at the park campground. Driving directions here.

Illgen Falls at Tettegouche State Park. This is a little-known corner of Tettegouche State Park, with a barely-marked parking area on the left off Minnesota Highway 1 about 1.5 miles inland from Highway 61. It’s an easy walk down to the falls. You can learn about the DNR’s Illgen Falls Cabin rental here.

If you like scientific data (and really, who doesn’t?), check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Stream Gaging webpage here. You can download graphs of North Shore streams to see how high they’re flowing. Data is available from the Poplar, Pigeon, Baptism, Knife and Beaver rivers.

Now, what are you waiting for?

Here are a couple older posts of mine from past Aprils about spring waterfall season. Enjoy!

Hike Gooseberry Falls…Five Falls in One Loop

North Shore Snow: It’s Waterfall Season!


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