April 8, 2015

Manitou Falls | Pattison State Park, WI

We crossed the bridge to Wisconsin last week and headed for Pattison State Park, located nearby in the northwest corner of the state.  
The park, at a glance, looks very... park-like.  There are large groomed grounds for picnics and playing, and some good old CCC buildings for gatherings, all near a small man made lake (which is a strange concept coming from northern MN.)  The campground looks nice.  But what drew us were the waterfalls beyond the recreation area.
Pattison State Park features the highest waterfall in Wisconsin.  At 165 feet high, Big Manitou Falls is roughly the same height as Niagra Falls (but a great deal skinnier!) and is claimed to be the 4th highest waterfall in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. 
The Native Americans who originally settled in the area around the falls believed they heard the voice of the Great Spirit within the roaring of the falls and gave it the name "Gitchee Manitou."

The kids and I stopped here with family last fall, but it was a hurried visit, and we missed the smaller falls.  This was a great day to return for a closer look.  With spring thaw there was plenty of rushing water while still some nice ice formations. 

Approaching Big Manitou Falls..

Nearing the drop off, a long way down!

(Photo above taken last Fall.  Spring 2015 below.)

Viewing of Big Manitou Falls is limited from lookouts on the wooded rim.  There is no access to the gorge, and climbing in it is prohibited.  These limited vantage points make for deceiving photos taken at a downward angle.  It looks so much larger in life!
At the bottom of the falls, the Black River quickly disappears, hidden by treetops in the rugged gorge, flowing on toward Lake Superior.  It would be amazing to look down and see the depth of the gorge and the river winding along, but I appreciate that it's been left wild and full of trees.
(Photo of the gorge and horizon also taken during our Fall visit.)

We had a pretty good view from the other side of the gorge. 
Notice the ice arch over the falls, really cool!

Headed upstream to Little Manitou Falls, which did not disappoint! 
Little Manitou Falls drops just 31 feet, but makes up for height in width and open views. The falls form a bit of a punchbowl before the river moves on.  I'm guessing that in summer months when the water is low, one might be able to climb around in this open area.
We walked downstream along the river.  Spring runoff had created huge frozen veils of ice coming down the sides of the ravine.

Back to Little Manitou Falls, I climbed down a steep wooded hill for a better photo opp. 
If you've been around for any of my other waterfall adventures, you'll notice I never think to bring a tripod along, but prefer a longer exposure for moving water.. so I have to make do. 
All of these photos were taken with my camera wedged on a stump or rock.  They aren't great, but I'm always pleased that they're better than I expect, given the circumstances.  Holding still is hard!
I found a place to sit between trees and watched and listened for a while.

"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water."
— Loren Eiseley

I took some short video clips to capture the movement and sound.
I don't usually do video, I hope it works!

A little history:
Martin Pattison was a lumberjack and miner who began logging the Black River in 1879. He eventually sold his lumber interests, but in 1917, he heard about a plan to build a hydroelectric dam on the river which would've destroyed the waterfall.  To block the development, he secretly purchased 660 acres along the river, saving Big Manitou Falls.  In 1918 he donated this land for public use, saving the waterfall and surrounding forest.

"In being able to grant this site to the public, I have accomplished one of my chief ambitions. For years I have spent much time amid the surrounding of the falls and have received so much enjoyment there that it gradually became a part of my life."

Our thanks to Mr. Pattison.  We had a great day here! 

Peace, Love, and the Voice of Gitchee Manitou,

Sharing with Our World Tuesday


  1. Wonderful photos . . . video.
    I enjoyed "hiking" along with you . . .

  2. What a tremendous falls. The video worked just fine, too. Glad that stretch was saved from development.

  3. All of your pictures are wonderful, but those last two are indeed magical. What a beautiful place! Thank you for bringing me along on this great adventure. :-)

  4. Thank you for sharing these waterfalls (and park) with us. I think you got some wonderful photos of both waterfalls. I enjoyed your video as well.

  5. the water flows with the ice on both sides - just amazing! thanks for sharing the rushing sound, too!

  6. What lovely waterfalls! I especially like how you've captured the ice rim around the outside. Great captures, you did good making do without a tripod.

  7. How fantastic to see and HEAR those falls. Amazing to see it running with the ice on the sides.

  8. Gorgeous waterfalls---both of them... I would love to see them. You got some awesome pictures, Amanda... Thanks for sharing.

  9. Beautiful ! I love the touch of wilderness and the waterfall with the ice framing the rushing water. My very first visit to the US was spent in Wisconsin! I loved the landscape and the Lake Superior.
    I never made it to the Pattinson Park though, maybe one day...

  10. Wow that is an awesome falls and made even cooler looking with the ice build up. So glad this man saved the falls so that people could enjoy them. Loved your photos and the video.

  11. Your video clip captures it well and I love the historic note, what a wonderful thing for Martin Pattison to do, a beautiful gift to future generations.
    The combination of ice and waterfall is rather spectacular for viewing but also cold too!

  12. Stunning photographs and such description! I felt like I was there with you! Thanks fr sharing.

  13. Wonderful post and photography, Amanda. Pattison brings back fond memories of my childhood. My parents, me and my younger brothers left St. Paul to take our first ever camping trip ever to Minnesota's North Shore. Our first night was spent in Wisconsins Pattison State Park south of Superior. I remember it now some sixty years later as if it was yesterday. Thanks......:)

  14. Gorgeous waterfalls and great pix!

  15. What a great looking place - I wonder if there are any waterfalls in Australia that get iced up - probably not!

    I had not noticed the jagged edge of the water lilly leaves until you mentioned it - probably a different species to the 'classic' one - and it does not have a frog sat on it!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  16. What a great park and I loved seeing the ice mixed with the falls. We have done Ice Caves in the U.P. which are frozen waterfalls, but never had the pleasure of seeing it in the melting stage.

  17. Gorgeous photos! The video really shows just how high the falls are. Wow - what a view looking down!

  18. Wow - those falls are so gorgeous! They must have sounded lovely too.

  19. Magnificent photos, Amanda - your long exposure images are always beautiful! I enjoyed hearing the sound of the water in the video - wow - and the distance ... hight ... Amazing!

  20. You doing okay up there in MN? You haven't posted in 2 months!

  21. I am about to ask the same question as Marcia : Are you ok ? Love and greetings from Switzerland .
    Ps Every time when I am in Africa and see elephants I think of Beau and
    his school project...

  22. Hi Amanda, I have been roaming all around 'our funwith five' now for a few months and every visit I wonder as busy as you are I wonder if you've thought of putting all of this into a book, a lovely coffee table one, a beautiful way to share Minnesota and the Watkins family. I have a couple done by French women done over 10 years ago and they are dog earred now, we and all of our guests love them. /-) Fondest regards Lynn