This particular morning Dan and I headed on our way to the very top of Minnesota with plans to stay in Grand Portage for a few days. We were to hit the last state park on our northerly trip, Grand Portage State Park. I was certainly excited to see the park as it holds the tallest waterfall in Minnesota (120 foot drop). One side of the waterfall is located in Grand Portage State Park in Minnesota, the other side is located in Pigeon River Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. This morning’s mist was heavy which made every color of the landscape pop; a photographers dream. We arrived at the park mid-morning and made our way down the very easy hiking trail that lead to the High Falls on the Pigeon River. As we started on our hike, we could hear the low rumble of the water as it passed over the crest of the waterfall and we felt the vibration of the water as it hit the base. What an incredible feeling!
We took our time this morning stopping to take in every scent, every scene. Adding to the ambience of this outing, were the lichens that were covering the trees, the animals scurrying around gathering their morning meal, and the mist as it danced through the trees. As we got closer to the high falls, the sound and vibration increase its’ intensity, which only increased our excitement. I walked up the few stairs to the first observation deck and my eyes laid upon an amazing sight… It literally took my breath away. Low and behold, the High Falls of the Pigeon River in all its glory.
To read more about the history and geology of this area, please visit the DNR website for Grand Portage State Park. This is a highly recommended stop if ever along the North Shore of Minnesota!
The area between Tettegouche State Park and the city of Grand Marais, MN holds much beauty and power is felt through the water that the rivers bring to deposit into Lake Superior. This post includes two of my favorite Minnesota State Parks in this area: Temperance River State Park and Cascade River State Park. But first, let us stop in Taconite Harbor:
In 1986, the twenty-one families remaining in the harbor were told they would have to relocate by Erie Mining Company (Now LTV Steel Mining Company). The last family left Taconite Harbor in June of 1988. Shortly after the last family left, the mining company filed for bankruptcy.
As we pulled into the boat launch and bay area of what used to be a flourishing community, all we were greeted with was the large ship dock used to load the ships with the product this area was well known for, Taconite Pellets.
Taconite Pellets: The Taconite rock is mined and the iron within is separated out and formed into pellets that are shipped to steel mills to be made into steel.
Temperance River State Park
The Temperance River is narrow but flows fast with an abundance of force. One look upon the river will explain how the water has carved its way through rock and to see the numerous potholes created by its force along the banks; truly, a force not to be reckoned with. I can still hear the sounds of the river water as it makes its way into the lake. This river has so much power that there is no bar at its mouth- no build up of sand, rocks, or debris before it spills into the lake. The Park is awe-inspiring, we will make a point to stop at this park every chance we get.
The steep-gradient river has cut through the fractured, ancient lava flows of the river bed. Swirling water carried gravel and rocks which wore away the basalt and created large potholes. Over thousands of years, these potholes were dug deeper and wider, eventually connecting and creating the deep, narrow gorge. Nearby, more potholes were left high and dry as the river found its new, lower channel. Carlton Peak, the high knob in the northeastern part of the park, is made of a hard, massive rock called anorthosite. It consists of several huge blocks of this rock, which were carried up from many miles below the surface by the molten basalt lava.
Cascade River State Park
Cascade: “ A mass of something that that falls or hangs in copious or luxuriant quantities.” The Cascade River does just that; water cascades down a steep rocky slope, falling 900 feet in the last 3 miles of its journey to Lake Superior. This park has well groomed trails that will surprise you with every turn. Views produced here by Mother Nature are breathtaking. It is also said that this park has excellent Cross Country Ski Trails; a reason to return in every Minnesota season! We will make a point to stop at this state park to investigate with every return trip to the MN North Shore.
Goosberry Falls State Parkis known for its amazing waterfalls and spectacular hiking trails. I would highly recommend getting out and exploring this area. The Gooseberry River falls over 1100 feet in 23 miles until it enters Lake Superior. Your choice of hiking trails leading to the Upper, Middle, and Lower falls all have their own surprises and beauty.
To know the history behind this beautiful landscape will explain it all. According to the MN state parks website:
Geology of the area between Goosberry Falls State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Geologists have determined that about 1.1 billion years ago, the Earth’s crust began to split apart along a great rift zone now covered by Lake Superior. Huge volumes of lava flowed out onto the surface and cooled to form volcanic bedrock, mainly the dark type known as basalt. Several lava flows can be seen at the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls and south of the Gooseberry River along the Lake Superior shore. The rifting also caused the flows to tilt gently toward the lake. These basalt lava flows, all along the North Shore, are also the birthplaces of Lake Superior agates.
About two million years ago, the Great Ice Age began as periodic glaciers (up to a mile thick) advanced into the region from the north. As they ground across the area, they changed the landscape dramatically, especially by excavating the whole basin now occupied by Lake Superior. About 10,000 years ago the last glacier melted back, allowing the basin to fill with water and starting the erosional process that creates the river gorges and waterfalls. Today, water, wind, and weather continue to shape the North Shore.
In 1905, a November gale that Lake Superior is famous for claimed the ships Edenborn and the Madiera, among others, within miles of the Split Rock River. The lighthouse and fog signal building were completed in 1909 and remained as a steady beacon of light for ships until 1969. Even after the light was dimmed, the horrifying November gales took the Edmund Fitzgerald and her 29-crew members. The loss of the ship and its crew members are remembered every year on November 10, with a public program and the lighting of the beacon at dusk in remembrance.
Building Split Rock Lighthouse and the buildings on the property presented many obstacles. Hiking the path leading southwest down to Lake Superior will show you a glimpse into this amazing feat. The lake isolated the station, as there was no land access, all supplies and visitors needed to come by boat until 1934 when a road was built from the lighthouse to the Lake Superior International Highway.
In 1915-1916 a much needed elevated tramway was built for delivery of supplies
We enjoyed our time spent hiking and photographing the Split Rock Lighthouse and the grounds of the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. To walk through the grounds and the restored 1920 lighthouse learning about the history of this property is intriguing to say the least. Listen to the life saving calls of the fog signal as heard today and of the 1920; to hear up close and personal was bone chilling.
Fog Signal as heard today:
Fog Signal as heard in the 1920’s
Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse will forever be, in my mind, a highly recommended stop if ever in the area.
After our walk around Cove Point Lodge, we headed back into Two Harbors, MN to take in some city scenery. On our way, we noticed a sign alongside the road for “Cooter Pottery”. Dan quickly took the sharp left onto the road heading us in that direction. Off the beaten path and down a dirt driveway, we came to a creative hotspot that Dick and Debbie Cooter have built. The kiln and pottery showcased here was absolutely amazing and the colors that Debbie used for her rug weaving was spectacular. Walking into the showroom was to say the least; inspiring. A stop highly recommended!
A quote taken from Dick Cooter from his website. To view the website and gallery click on the following link Cooter Pottery.
“My pots are fired in a 125 cu ft wood burning kiln inspired by traditional Korean kilns. The pots I make are sturdy, bold, and reflect the processes of making them, simple decoration enhances the rich surface created by long wood fires. “
A quote taken from Debbie Cooter about Cooter Handweaving:
“I was introduced to rug weaving 27 years ago as a folk art. The tradition using recycled clothing to weave and household items appealed to both my creative and thrifty nature.”
After spending some time photographing the Cooter Pottery grounds, we headed into Two Harbors and stopped to photograph the two lighthouses in the bay. While driving around this quaint little town, our eyes laid upon the signs of abandonment in a large building not far from main street. What we ran into that day required a trip back later in our vacation. The buildings that we ran across was the old Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway 30 acre lake front property (DM&IR). Oh my… My heart skipped a beat as the excitement poured into my body. This was going to be a good! We stopped for only a short period of time photographing just a small portion of this property. The feeling these building put forth is far beyond any words that can spew out of my mouth. Look for a post on this site in the near future as it has been recently demolished and is no longer standing. We were extremely lucky to have noticed this gem when we did.
The next leg of our trip will bring you along with us as we tour Split Rock Lighthouse and the grounds of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
Typical July weather on the Northern Shores of Minnesota range between 70-85 degrees, but because of Lake Superior, the temperatures can easily drop to a cool 50-60’s. This July trip was well needed; the goal was to cover all 8 State Parks north of Two Harbors, MN.
MN State Parks north of the Two Harbors
Dan and I adore the North Shore and are blessed to live so close to this natural wonder. I have fond camping memories of the North Shore as my family went camping there often. We loaded the girls and headed on our way early, our first stop was “grandma’s house”. The girls always enjoy spending some cuddle time with her and even know when we are getting close to grandma’s home. Thanks mom for watching the furry grandkids on our trips!
Normally, you can see Lake Superior when you reach the top of the hill when coming into Duluth on MN Interstate 35. This scenery is absolutely beautiful as the view includes the enormous body of water we call Lake Superior and the grandeur of Duluth. This morning was a little different; as we reached the top of the hill, we could not see the lake or Duluth. A thick blanket of fog covered the city and the lake. We were not disappointed though as fog can add so much feeling to photography.
Our first stop was at Kendall’s Smokehouse where Dan purchased the fresh smoked fish that he was craving since we started out. After the fish was devoured, we were off to meet up with friends in Two Harbors, MN but of course, we had to stop and photograph along the way. We had a great time visiting and stayed at Cove Point Lodge. I would highly recommend a stay in this lodge, the grounds are stunning and the cove offers spectacular views around every corner. We also noticed that the Spring flowers were still in bloom and stopped to smell them every chance we got- Wild Lupine, Daisy’s, Orange Hackweed, just to name a few. The fog this morning was inspiring, little did we know, this fog would stay with us for the majority of the trip adding to the beauty and enriching the colors of the North Shore in July.
What is the next stop you ask? Well, Dan and I will take you on a quick tour of Two Harbors, MN and an exploration of this area’s backroads.
A collection of liquid water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth’s surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term “fog” is typically distinguished from the more generic term “cloud” in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated locally. Fog is distinguished from mist only by its density, as expressed in the resulting decrease in visibility. Fog reduces visibility to below 1 km (5/8 statue mile), whereas mist reduces visibility to no less than 1 km.
The sensation that fog or any condensation adds to photography is one of mystery, one of magic. The eeriness that those little water droplets can add to a scene may bring forth visions of fantasy. What lies within the clouds? The way that light intertwines with moisture in the air adds to the atmosphere of the landscape. Not only are you mystified by what lies behind the curtain, the mist can add the feeling of surprise, fear and admiration.
We had a few days when the fog stayed with us until the late afternoon- a rarity in our parts. We were lucky to be out in countryside on these days traveling the back-roads of Southeastern Minnesota lucky that we could share this abnormality together. Next time the fog rolls into your area, grab your camera, and capture the light that dances gracefully with the water droplets. Be quick though, the fog can form and then dissipate just as fast.
A group of photographers from the Red Wing Photography Club set out late last summer for a day of photography. What better way to learn different techniques or aspects in photography, than to spend time with fellow photographers- How do they see the world through their view finders?
It was in the wee morning hours that Jeff Marcus, Dan, and I set out for our destination in Southeastern MN. The morning arrived and the sky was changing to the color of lavender as the nighttime blue was mixing with the light of the sun; changing from dark blue, to light blue to lavender, and just as if that wasn’t enough- the sun peaked her head closer to the horizon and the pinks, oranges, and yellows came out to play.
LOCATION FOR THIS SUNRISE SHOOT: Weaver Bottoms off of Hwy 61 South of Wabasha, MN.
Located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Weaver Bottoms area is located just South of Wabasha, MN. The area is a 5,500 acre habitat complex dominated by open water, but also includes flowing channels, backwater lakes, isolated wetlands, and forested islands.
Turning onto County Rd 74 off of Hwy 61, in Weaver, MN was a great choice and a very well executed plan, organized by Dan (Thanks Honey for planning that route). As the sun rose, we were graced by fog in the area; the valleys, wetlands, and forest floors along this road was dotted with a wispy white haze. I believe fog or a misty morning adds mood to your surroundings; to watch the mist move and wonder what lies beneath is intriguing to say the least. Fog can form suddenly, and can dissipate just as rapidly, so we found our way through this area and spent some quality time shooting the effects that fog can add to a photograph.
We were very lucky to be there, at that time, on that day. We all enjoyed the travels through this area and were awe-stuck by the shadows created by fog. Off to meet the rest of the Red Wing Photography Club Members (Amy, Linnae, Ken, and Kendall) already playing in their own play ground – Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.