Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day hiking trail heads to 31-foot twin waterfall in northern Wisconsin

Little Manitou Falls. Photo courtesy of

Little Manitou
Falls tumbles
over volcanic rock

Day hikers can enjoy one of Wisconsin’s highest waterfalls on the Little Manitou Falls Hiking Trail in Pattison State Park.

The 2.2-mile round trip trail heads to the smaller of the state park’s two waterfalls. Only part of the hike described here is the Little Manitou Falls Hiking Trail, as the Beaver Slide Trail must be taken to arrive at the trailhead.

To reach the park, from Superior, head south on Wis. Hwy. 35. The park road for Pattison is on the left/east. Park in the lot and take the walking paths to the beach on Interfalls Lake. At the beach, head left/south to pick up the Beaver Slide Trail.

Black River shoreline
This section of the trail is an easy route for families with children, as the trail surface consists of packed gravel and dirt and averages about 3 to 5 feet wide. The exception is a section running along a marsh, in which boardwalks make up the surface. Seasonal creeks flow into the river, so there also are several small wooden bridges along the way. And while there are plenty of dips and rises, the trail avoids any hills.

The best views of Interfalls Lake are on the segment of the trail heading south from the beach. About 23 acres in size with a maximum depth of 13 feet, Interfalls Lake is home to largemouth bass, northern pike, panfish and trout.

Along the way, the trail intersects the Logging Camp Trail. Continue straight/right as the Beaver Slide begins to parallel the Black River.

The river in this stretch is about 30 feet wide and offers a number of rapids that provide a backing track of rushing water. Cedar, a variety of pines, and spruce hug the river’s rocky banks.

At about a half-mile into the hike, cross the bridge over the Black River. Continue straight/south along the river. You’re now technically on the Little Falls Hiking Trail.

Glacial Lake Duluth
At one time, this part of the park was the southeastern shore of ancient Glacial Lake Duluth. About 11,000 years ago during the last ice age as the Superior Lobe glacier advanced westward, it blocked the outlets of rivers flowing eastward. The water collected between the ice wall and the basin, resulting in several lakes.

As the lobe retreated, those lakes coalesced to form a larger one called Glacial Lake Duluth. Located in modern Lake Superior’s southwestern corner, it stretched as far east as Marquette, Mich., and north of Grand Portage, Minn. It also covered what is now dry land in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, as Glacial Lake Duluth was 500 feet higher than modern Lake Superior.

In 0.6 miles from the bridge, the trail reaches Little Manitou Falls. Wisconsin’s eighth highest waterfall at 31 feet, the Black River rushes in twin torrents over basalt. Known among the Ojibwe Indians who preceded the pioneers as Cacabeeca Bunghee (or Little Waterfalls), this falls is less than a fifth the height of Big Manitou Falls downstream.

For those in your party who may not be able to handle the hike, a parking lot with picnic tables and toilets can be found near the waterfall at the trail’s south end. This lot can be reached via Hwy. 35 south of the park’s main entrance.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.