Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Search for gooseberries on riverside trail

Gooseberry bush ripening in early summer. Photo courtesy of University
of Minnesota Extension.
Map of Gooseberry River Trail, courtesy Minnesota DNR.

waterway named
for red berry 

Day hikers can discover the berries that a major waterway feeding Lake Superior was named for on the Gooseberry River Trail in Minnesota’s Gooseberry Falls State Park.

The 3.9–mile round trip trail (The Gooseberry River Trail is not the official name of trail but is used here for convenience’s sake.) heads deep into the state park’s northwest corner. While you won’t be out of sight of other people on the first leg of the hike, after a quarter of the way through, you’ll largely walk in solitude except for songbirds and the gurgling river.

To Fifth Falls
To reach the trailhead, from Two Harbors heads north on Minn. Hwy. 61. Turn right/east into the park’s main entry and use Gooseberry Falls’ main parking lot.

From the main parking lot, walk northeast past the visitor center. At the first T-intersection, go left/north toward Upper Falls. Cross the bridge over the Gooseberry River and continue north along the waterway’s east bank past Upper Falls.

This part of the route, which is shared with the Superior Hiking Trail, is wider and generally better maintained than the route on the opposite shore. It offers views of both Upper Falls and the river’s fourth waterfalls.

Where the Superior Hiking Trail heads west across the river, go briefly onto the bridge for a view of Fifth Falls. With a 15-foot drop over ancient volcanic rock, Fifth Falls is most impressive in spring when water levels are higher from the snow melt. Autumn offers a chance to see more of the rock formations and potholes, however. You can continue north past the bridge to the falls and explore the rocks up close, but be careful of wet stone, which can be slippery.

Upstream of Fifth Falls
Return to the trail on the river’s east bank and head north west along the river. In 0.5 miles, you’ll reach a trail junction. Go left/northwest to continue along the river.

Upstream of Fifth Falls, the river flows over gravel that was left here about 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. This glacial till is being washed out of the highlands into Lake Superior. The river water comes almost entirely from runoff, so its flow will be heaviest in spring as snow melts.

Along the shorelines, look for gooseberry shrubs, which prefer moist, uphill locations. They have pale green, leaves and thorn-covered stems and grow up to five feet high. Their round berry grows red and when ripe – usually in July and August – turns burgundy.

In a little more than a half-mile from the junction, the trail loops inland, away from the river. About 0.2 miles later, it reaches another trail intersection; go right/south. You gradually will head downhill. In about a half-mile, the trail reaches the junction just above Fifth Falls; go left/southeast and retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Learn about more day hiking trails at and near Gooseberry Falls State Park in my Day Hiking Trails of Gooseberry Falls State Park guidebook.