North Shore waterfalls can be enjoyed anytime of the year, but did you know that there is a waterfall season? In the spring, increased water flow from snow melt and heavy rainfalls create beautiful cascading falls all over the area. You can see several sprout out of nowhere as your drive along Highway 61, especially in the area between Two Harbors and Grand . The waterfalls in the State Parks also come to life with increased water flow.
If you love waterfalls, you’ve come to the right place. There’s even a waterfall checklist that you can print off and use to discover all of our beautiful falls during your next North Shore visit. Some require hiking in one of our many state parks, while others are able to be enjoyed right from highway bridges or short, easy hikes.
A must-see on the drive through Beaver Bay is the incredible rushing Beaver Falls. The falls can be viewed right from MN-61 plummeting down several rocky drops. These gorgeous falls offer the perfect backdrop for any hike. While you can see all four drops from the highway we highly encourage you to stop at the nearby rest stop to them in person.
The Superior Hiking Trail runs parallel to the falls before meandering back into the woods. The trail offers fantastic views of falls. If you are coming from the rest stop there is a short and easy trail that allows you to explore both upstream and downstream of the falls.
Much like any other waterfall, the Beaver Falls are very impressive when the water level is high as it is easier to the true scale of the falls. Make sure to bring your camera and maybe even a lunch to enjoy it with a view.
Getting to Beaver Falls: The falls and rest area are located on Highway 61 on the east end of Beaver Bay.
North Shore hikes are a one-of-a-kind adventure especially when you pair it with gorgeous views of a 35-foot waterfall. Just travel sixty miles north of Duluth on MN-61 just past Little Marais. There you will find Caribou Falls rest stop. This premiere rest stop has recently been redone now boasting even more trail.
The trail, marked with a Superior Hiking Trail sign, will take you half a mile into the forest before you arrive at the Caribou River gorge. The trail can be managed by most ability levels only containing some elevation. If you pick the right day you will likely be guaranteed a very peaceful hike due to the parks low traffic.
Once arriving at the falls there is a staircase that leads down to the base of the cascading water allowing you to explore the pool or just enjoy the fall. After you have enjoyed the waterfall you can either continue down the Superior Hiking Trail to Crystal Creek or can turn around and return to the rest stop.
If you’re a fisher(wo)man, we recommend you bring your pole. The Caribou River is a designated trout river with several species of trout to catch. The best time to take advantage of this opportunity is in the Fall.
Cross River Falls
Beautiful waterfalls dot the North Shore landscape, and the Cross River Falls is probably one of the easiest to see on your next visit to the north woods. Located right in the small town of Schroeder, Minnesota, these falls are part of a wayside rest park that is actually larger than nearby Temperance River State Park. One of the falls cascades down literally within feet of Highway 61 and can be easily viewed from the highway overpass, which has a pedestrian walkway.
There’s also a special, hidden surprise waiting for you just on the other side of the bridge. After enjoying the views of the waterfalls, cross the street (heading toward Lake Superior) and look for a trail that leads down to another portion of the river. Take the steep, short trail and you’ll be able to see the second drop of the falls at an amazing angle that most visitors overlook. You may have to do some rock-hopping to get there, but the views are worth it.
The best time to view the Cross River Falls is in the spring when the raging waters caused by snow melt rushes toward Lake Superior. They are also exceptionally beautiful after a heavy rainfall in the summer and fall months, and remain active even during most of the dry season. If you can’t stop to see them, at least take a moment to roll down your car windows so you can hear the rushing water as you pass over the bridge.
The Cross River Heritage Center is located on the southwest side of the river and is worth a stop-in, as well!
Getting There: Drive into the town of Schroeder and the falls are hard to miss! There are two parking lots: one on the southeast side of the falls and one on the northwest side.
Devil’s Kettle: The Biggest (Mostly) Unsolved Mystery on the North Shore
In the Judge C.R. Magney State Park 20 miles north of Grand Marais lays arguably the world’s most perplexing waterfall. One side of the river rumbles onto a stone embankment and down the rocks as waterfalls typically do. The other side, however, flows into a geological wonder known as the Devil’s Kettle, and… disappears?
This confusing spectacle has been stumping visitors and geologists alike for decades. Where does the water go? The rock in the kettle and river is Rhyolite a rock that is formed from volcanic eruptions. It isn’t uncommon to find shallow kettles and dips in the rock from the erosion of the river. However, the Devil’s Kettle is special in that this isn’t a small, shallow pothole — the bottom cannot be seen and it’s true exit point remains, mostly, unknown. So where does the water in the kettle go and how was this modern mystery created?
Well, there are a few theories of where the water in the kettle goes. Perhaps the most believable theory was developed in 2016 when a group of geologists measured the amount of water flowing above the kettle, and below finding it to be the same despite half of the water supposedly disappearing into the kettle. Because of this, the most pervasive theory to date is that the water flows into the Devil’s Kettle and then flows back out right at or right below the waterfall.
This is still disputed, however, for several reasons. This is primarily because everything that has ever been thrown in the kettle has never been seen again.
Before the geologists developed their theory in 2016 the most common belief was that the kettle emptied into a cave system that emptied out into Lake Superior about a mile and a half away. Everything from dye and GPS trackers to ping pong balls and rubber ducks has been thrown into the kettle. However, none of these items were ever seen again in Lake Superior or below the kettle as the geologists would have predicted.
The second reason some people don’t believe that the kettle empties right below the river is no exit point can be found. Even in periods of very low water, no one has seen an opening. The kettle’s mouth is very large and many logs, branches, and other debris fall into it. Yet, it has never been clogged. Many reason that if there were really an opening then it would be visible in some way.
Publications in 2016 indicated that the geologists would return the following year in a time of low flow to prove their theory with dye. This unfortunately never happened due to the DNR’s strong recommendation to avoid this test for ecological reasons. The sliver of doubt that still remains about the kettle’s true exit point is enough to keep locals and visitors alike curious about the mystery of the Devil’s Kettle. And until we have a definitive answer we still declare that Devil’s Kettle an unsolved mystery.
P.S. Rumors that locals dropped a whole car in the kettle is highly unlikely. We doubt it ever happened. How would it even get up there?
Illgen falls is definitely not a very well-known or popular waterfall for the North Shore but it has one of the best vantage points from which to view the falls. This waterfall is viewed from above and allows for visitors to walk right up the river. This vantage point truly demonstrates the power that the falls have. Even during the driest period of the year Illgen is still rushing with water.
You will notice that the falls are lined with large round boulders. If you look around the top of the falls, and water levels are low enough, you will discover ancient potholes created by large tumbling stones and rushing water.
Illgen Falls is located in the same area as Illgen city used to be. The city was constructed when a man, Illgen, created what was said to be the most spectacular hotel from Duluth to Thunder Bay. The hotel was an Old Mexico Inn style with a large, fancy bar that carried expensive liquor and housed slot machines. All this supposedly attracted the criminal elite of Chicago, even Al Capone was rumored to have stopped there on his way to secret Northern Lodges.
Getting there: From Silver Bay turn left (north) onto Highway 1, about 6.5 miles north of Silver Bay. About 1.6 miles up the road you will see a parking area on the left (west) side of the road. Once parked follow the trail away from the road and towards the sound of the falls. The area is easily accessed by following the trail past the cabin to the waterfall (it takes less than five minutes to walk from the parking area).
Split Rock Falls
With the perfect peaceful hike and falls – Split Rock Falls is hard to beat. This section of the Superior Hiking Trail offers great views, a wooden bridge, and of course the gorgeous 20-foot waterfall.
The hike begins with an easy half-mile before taking you down across Split Rock Creek on the awesome wooden bridge. To the left, you’ll find the water crashing over the steep cliff with trees and shrubs giving a little privacy from the sky. On the right, there is a perfect place to picnic while taking in the beauty of the waterfall. The rushing waterfall and calmly gurgling stream make the perfect atmosphere to relax with friends and family.
Getting There: On Highway 61 around mile marker 43 (about 18 miles north of Two Harbors), look for the Split Rock River pullout/parking lot. Take the Superior Hiking Trail from the parking lot and hike away from Lake Superior on the trail. As soon as you reach the first branch of the trail (about a half-mile in), take a right and follow the stairs to the falls.
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