Autumn on the North Shore

Dan and I cannot get enough of Minnesota’s North Shore area.

MN State Parks north of the Two Harbors

MN State Parks north of the Two Harbors

The landscape is riddled with an abundance of beautiful scenery and waterfalls. Every time we take this trip, we stumble across something new. We enjoy the outdoors and what excitement the hiking trails of this area can bring especially during Autumn. This season marks the transition from Summer to Winter and in Minnesota, the green leaves give way to an array of colors providing a showy performance of red, orange, and yellows. In this post, we made a brief stop at Temperance River Falls, then were off to explore what we could find in the area.  As we made our way closer to Grand Marais, we ran across Honeymoon Bluff Trail which has an amazing lookout over Hungry Jack Lake (perfect for sunset images). Please enjoy the view in and around the area.

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Judge C.R. Magney State Park

In 1963, the park was renamed Judge C. R. Magney State Park in honor of this late advocate who helped establish 11 state parks and wayside rests along the North Shore. Over the years, many parcels of land have been added to the state park, which now totals over 4600 acres.

Dan and I were excited to see what this park had in store for our viewing pleasure. We were not disappointed, however, I would have to say this 2 mile round trip trail, which includes over 200 ascending and descending stairs, is for advanced hikers but will lead you to the most famous formation on the Brule River… The Devil’s Kettle.

Half of the Brule River plunges 50 feet into a pool as it continues on its way to Lake Superior; the other 50 percent disappears into what we call the Devil’s Kettle. The famous cauldron is rumored not to have a bottom. Researchers have dropped brightly colored dyes and other objects into the Devil’s Kettle without result of finding the water’s outlet. This formation is another example of the amazing wonders Mother Nature can create.

Information taken from the MN DNR website about the geology of this area may explain a wee bit, but the mystery of Devil’s Kettle will remain hidden for the time being.

The bedrock exposed along Lake Superior’s North Shore has a geologic history that goes back some 1.1 billion years. During the dramatic volcanic activity of that time, molten lava poured through great fissures that developed in the Earth’s crust. One particular flow complex, the Devil’s Kettle rhyolite flow, visible along the Brule River, is thought to be as much as 770 feet thick. As these flows accumulated, the land along the rift zone sank to form a great basin, into which huge volumes of sediment were deposited after volcanic activity ended. A long period of erosion followed. The local Sawtooth Mountains of the Grand Marais area are the remnants of these great, tilted lava flows. Much more recently, glaciers took their toll on the area as massive ice sheets gouged out the Lake Superior basin, mainly from the post-volcanic sediments, and scoured the bedrock surface. In Cook County, where the park is located, the glacial action eroded more earth and bedrock than it deposited.

We enjoyed this day immensely and may have even shed a few pounds that day. Please enjoy the views from in and around Judge C.R. Magney State Park.

The Area Between a Pine Tree and a Drop of Water

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:

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.

Taconite Harbor98809-2

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.

Information below taken from the MN DNR website:

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 and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park: A Beacon of Light.

Goosberry Falls State Park is 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.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

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.

Split Rock Lighthouse tram image
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.

Grinding our way south… Pickwick Mill

grist•mill (ˈgrɪstˌmɪl)
a mill, esp one equipped with large grinding stones for grinding grain.

We were tipped off earlier in the year about a gristmill located in Southern Minnesota that is still operational after all these years. After more research, we actually found a few within a days drive from home that we would like to visit.  Our eyes opened to a beautiful June morning, so we decided to pack up our gear and the girls (Tindra and Audrey) and head out for a day trip to Southeastern MN in search of the whispered gristmills.

The first stop was the Pickwick Mill located near Winona, MN.  Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis built the mill during the years 1856 to 1858 and is one of the oldest water powered gristmills found in southeast Minnesota.   This old gristmill has some history as it ran 24 hours a day during the Civil War and produced 100 barrels daily for the Union Army. After the war, the mill became a flour-milling center for most of southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Wisconsin.

The mill was built from locally quarried limestone, with a timber frame that was so closely fit, that nails were not used (outside of the floor). The six-story building is now registered as a historic site by Pickwick Mill, Inc., a privately funded, non-profit organization.

As we walked into this old mill we were greeted by a courteous volunteer who was so eager to share its history.  After a brief video, the volunteer went over to the water-shoot and opened the forces that powered this mill.  As the creaking noise of the turning waterwheel became louder and louder, the vibration started and shook the entire building.  Feeling the power of this mill straight down to your bones was an amazing sensation.

We had a great time learning about this mill and I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

Click on the following link for more information:    Pickwick Mill

Days and Hours of Operation
The Pickwick Mill will be open
* Weekends during May, September, and October
* Tuesday through Sunday during June, July, and August
Hours of operation:
10AM – 5PM Tuesday through Saturday
11AM – 5PM Sunday
Tours at other times available by appointment. Call 507-457-0499,
507-457-3296, 507-457-9658

Ticket Purchase
Tickets cost $3 adults, $2 teenagers over age 12, $1 children age 12 or under. Group tour prices available.

Off we go…  Into the wild blue yonder to our next destination, Schech’s Mill located south of Houston, MN.