Tag Archives: Minnesota State Parks

Fort Snelling State Park

It was a bone-chilling 19 degrees when we awoke Saturday morning.  It felt cold, but it wasn’t the cold that chills your core and burns your face, you know that type of cold that hits you around the end of January when you wish Winter were over.

Cyndie & I, along with our good friend Linnae, arrived at Fort Snelling State Park shortly after sunrise.  Traces of Autumn can still be seen, but for the most part the brilliant colors are gone – almost. We found some lovely color enhanced by the rising sun along the western shore of Snelling Lake.

Our primary purpose of this trip was to photograph Whitetail deer – specifically [& hopefully] big bucks.  It is that time of the year when bucks break away from their traditional habits and venture out of the thick stuff in search of receptive does in the day light.


We found such activity quickly on Picnic Island.  We noticed several scrapes and rubs.  Pre-rut signs galore.  There were no shortages of photographers on-hand to witness this spectacle.  We spent a good amount of time watching a dandy 9-pointer pursue does all over Picnic Island.  There were other smaller bucks darting about and avoiding direct contact with the bigger buck.

It is pretty remarkable to be in the presence of such magnificent creatures and such numbers of them.  We had not had enough though.  We decided to delve further in and explore another area of the park.  Pike Island, a walk in only area,  was just down the road.  I am glad we opted to do this.  The temperature was rising as was our excitement; we had buck fever.  We walked around the perimeter of Pike Island (mostly; except the eastern third) without seeing so much as a yearling.  We decided to walk a game trail up the center.  There were brush piles everywhere – all kinds of places for deer to bed down for a mid-day rest.  It wasn’t long and we located a small buck.  As I began to photograph him I noticed there was another buck behind him – a much bigger one.  I continued to shoot and eventually saw the doe that was hunkered down in the grass next to them.  I think we spend the next hour hanging out with those three deer.  At one point a dozen or so turkeys came wandering down the trail and just walked on by like we were not even there.  That was fun.  What a great day.

*Just a side note on gear, you regularly see photographers hauling out the big lenses for wildlife.  Thousands of dollars of gear.  With the exception of the first few landscape shot, the balance of these images were shot with a Tamron 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 – a $449.00 lens; not a $2500 or $10k lens.  The 70-300 was attached to a Nikon D700 shooting at ISO 2000 between f/5.6 – f/7.1.  I am not going to lie, I would gladly shoot with a $10k lens if I had it.  I am simply demonstrating that you do not need all that if you want to get out there and have a great time – especially at this location.  I will say that the high-ISO performance of a full-frame sensor was beneficial given the low light.





The In-Between, Day 2 | Minnesota North Shore

Fall 2013 North Shore series
[Honeymoon Bluff – Gunflint Trail] [Sunrise @ Grand Marais] [Sunrise @ Hollow Rock] [North Shore Abstracts] [Grand Portage State Park]
[The In-Between, Day 1] [The In-Between, Day 2] [The In-Between, Day 3]

Day 2 began exquisitely.  We made our way down to waters edge for the Sunrise @ Grand Marais shoot.  Nature cooperated nicely.  From there, we back-tracked a bit to Cascade River State Park for a beautiful morning hike up the river gorge among the picturesque cascades.  Next we got off the beaten path (Hwy 61) and made our way towards another destination (Hollow Rock Resort).  After checking in we were off on the Gunflint Trail to drive a loop through the forest in search of Devilfish overlook.    We got closed, but missed a road and stumbled on a Red Fox – cute little bugger; then just continued on our way.  We decided to take another run at a sunset at Honeymoon Bluff that overlooks Hungry Jack Lake off the Gunflint Trail.  The second attempt yielded better results than the first.

Another full day on the MN North Shore.  Love this place.  There is a surprise around every corner.

Grand Portage State Park – Gunflint Trail | MN North Shore

Fall 2013 North Shore series
[Honeymoon Bluff – Gunflint Trail] [Sunrise @ Grand Marais] [Sunrise @ Hollow Rock] [North Shore Abstracts] [Grand Portage State Park]
[The In-Between, Day 1] [The In-Between, Day 2] [The In-Between, Day 3]

A favorite destination along the North Shore – actually all the way up to the northern tip – is Grand Portage State Park where the Pigeon River flows over the tallest waterfall in Minnesota.  It is a pretty spectacular site.  It is one of the destinations along the shore that Cyndie and I very much enjoy photographing.  A great attribute of the park is that it is handicapped accessible with a paved trail, boardwalk and ramps to a viewing platform.  The path the falls is a short distance through the forest.  It was overcast that day, but that didn’t seem to dampen the glow of yellow and orange of the Autumn color – it was quite brilliant.

There is a 3.5 mile trail out to middle falls as well.  We found the third waterfall on the pigeon river too (Partridge Falls).  Partridge Falls is pretty good size, but it lacks a decent down-river vantage point.  More on that later…

Here are two views of the high falls and another of the pigeon river flowing toward Lake Superior.

Judge CR Magney State Park | Minnesota North Shore

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage


Judge C.R. Magney is the seventh park you will encounter along the North Shore.  Devil’s Kettle Falls is the main draw here. This is a very unusual, and even mysterious waterfall.  As you can see in the featured image, the river is split in two as it goes over the falls.  The section on the right, lands at the base of the falls and continues downstream.  The section on the left vanishes into a pothole known as the Devil’s Kettle and no one knows where it goes.  It is believed that the water makes its way out to Lake Superior by means of underground passages, but the exact details are unknown.   They have thrown dyes and logs and other things into the pothole, but apparently nothing ever comes out. If you have ever worried about falling over a waterfall, imagine falling into the Devil’s Kettle.  Read more on Devil’s Kettle


Concrete foundations in the campground and picnic areas of the park are remnants of a transient work camp built there in 1934 by the State. The camp provided work and lodging for men displaced during the Depression years. In addition to building trails, logging, and completing public service projects, these men helped fight a fire in 1935 that burned more than 10,000 acres in the area. Later the men set up a sawmill and began to salvage fire-damaged wood.

In 1957, a 940-acre parcel of forest along the Brule River was set aside as Brule River State Park. The park became Judge C. R. Magney State Park in 1963 when the Minnesota legislature selected this park as a memorial to the late Judge Magney, a lawyer, mayor of Duluth, justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and a strong advocate of Minnesota State Parks, especially those along the North Shore. With his influence, he was instrumental in establishing 11 state parks and waysides along Lake Superior. Over the years, parcels of land have been added to the park which today totals 4,642 acres.

More than half of those 4,642 acres have no trails.  The upper two-thirds of land this park occupies has almost no trails.  The only trail runs parallel with the Brule River and eventually veers off to connect with the Superior Hiking Trail.    There are 9 total miles of hiking trails in the park.  this park has a good amount of semi-modern drive-up campsites.  Fishing opportunities are plentiful here on the Brule River or a tributary, Gauthier Creek, for brook and rainbow trout.  The spring time brings on the steelhead run and fall host the salmon run.

Here are my shots of Judge C. R. Magney from a recent visit.

Cascade River State Park |Minnesota North Shore

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage


Cascade River is the sixth park you will encounter while traveling the North Shore.  This park doesn’t have much of a presence right off the road; there is a wayside that looks out over Lake Superior, but the best parts are along the easy hiking trails opposite the lake.  These cascades are spectacular.  The River cascades over one ledge after another as it drops 900 feet in the last three miles as it makes its way to Lake Superior.  The volcanic canyon is home to many fragrant cedar trees and we even stumbled upon some lady slippers in bloom.  The 18 miles of hiking trails loop up around Lookout and Mouse mountains as well as parallel Lake Superior right along the beach (1.5 miles) where you will find seven picnic sites.  This park offers a variety of camping options which include several semi-modern drive-up, two group camps and five back pack-in sites.

I think this was by far our favorite park of the trip.  The cascades are just so beautiful as our you complete surroundings.  I definitely would like to make plans to return here in the Fall for the leaf color.  From Temperance River on up is my favorite stretch of the North Shore.  I stumbled upon the Trifecta:  Three Parks.  Three Trails.  Three Days.  This would be absolutely fantastic to do – especially along this stretch of the North Shore.


Years ago, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had a camp at the Cascade River. The men in this camp worked on a variety of conservation projects. Today, you can see some of their handiwork on the trails that wind along the river. One enrollee told how they cut and moved the large pine logs from Cascade down to Gooseberry Falls State Park to finish buildings in that park. From the beginning, Cascade was thought of as a state park, but it wasn’t until 1957 that it was officially designated as such.

Here are my shots from my recent visit to Cascade River State Park.

Temperance River State Park | Minnesota North Shore

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage


Temperance River is the fifth state park you will encounter along the shore.  George Crosby Manitou is the fourth, but we missed it.  I’ll chalk our drive-by up to the park not being right off Hwy 61.  We will have to catch it next trip.

In 1957, Minnesota organized 539 acres into the Temperance River State Park.  This park is a gorgeous.  The river plunges through a narrow gorge just before reaching Lake Superior; the surround tails provide ample opportunities for viewing the wonderous water.  There are several miles of hiking trails to explore and direct access to the Superior Hiking Trail.  The Superior Hiking Trail passes through the park, along the river gorge before climbing to the top of Carlton Peak, almost 1000 feet above Lake Superior.  Two campsites grace the shoreline here, one on either side of the river.


Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart, Sier des Groselliers, were probably the first white visitors to the North Shore when they traveled up the shore of Lake Superior during 1660. Along with the Ojibwe Indians, the French controlled the North Shore area until 1763. The first white settlers in the area were probably clerks at American Fur Company posts located along the shore in the 1830s.  It is said the park got its name because, unlike other North Shore streams, the river had no bar at its mouth. At one time, the waters of this particular river flowed so deep and so strong into Lake Superior that there was no build-up of debris. This meant that there was no “bar.” What could you call a river without a bar?  For an appropriate, if slightly tongue-in-cheek selection, “temperance” fits perfectly. The area became a state park in 1957. Campsites on both sides of the river, plus the park’s hiking trails and picnic areas, draw a steady stream of visitors to this North Shore park.

Here are my shots of our visit to Temperance River.

Tettegouche State Park | Minnesota North Shore

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage


Tettegouche is the third state park you will encounter on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  It sits 58 miles northeast of Duluth in Lake County on scenic Minnesota Highway 61. The park’s name stems from the Tettegouche Club, an association of local businessmen which purchased the park in 1910 from the Alger-Smith Lumber Company. The club’s members protected the area until its sale in 1971 to the deLaittres family. In 1979, the state of Minnesota acquired 3,400 acres from the Nature Conservancy, including Tettegouche Camp. The land was added to Baptism River State Park, which was renamed Tettegouche State Park.

The park covers some 9000+ acres which is home to six lakes and the Baptism River.  There are four waterfalls total, but the 70 foot High Falls is the jewel of the park.  There are 22 miles of hiking trails and access to the Superior Hiking Trail.  Shovel Point and Palisade Head cliff’s offer climbing directly over Lake Superior.  Diverse camping opportunists await you here as you can drive-in, walk-in, cart-it and even kayak-in to a campsite.

There is a new visitor center under construction and the main park entrance has shifted to a new location temporarily as a result.  Read more…

At this park we photographed Two Step Falls and High Falls; we didn’t venture around to the other side of the river to capture the staight-on view of High Falls.  There wasn’t any fog at this park as it was far enough off Lake Superior and it was quite bright.  These were not good conditions to capture the falls without ND filters 🙁  High Falls is the highest waterfall entirely inside Minnesota’s border whereas High Falls in Grad Portage State Park on the Pigeon River is the tallest in Minnesota (on the border with Canada).   I completely missed Illgen Falls on the map – next time.  There is a rental cabin right at Illgen Falls.  I would love to stay here some day and catch the sunrise through the stone arch on the beach.


In 1898, the Alger-Smith Lumber Company began cutting the virgin pine forests of Northeastern Minnesota. A logging camp was set up on the shores of a lake the loggers called Nipisiquit, an Indian name from a tribe in New Brunswick, Canada, the logger’s native country. They took the Algonquin names for New Brunswick landmarks and gave them to the lakes in Tettegouche.

In 1910, after removing most of the Norway and white pine, the logging company sold the camp and surrounding acreage to the “Tettegouche Club,” a group of businessmen from Duluth who used the area as a fishing camp and retreat. One of its members, Clement Quinn, bought the others out in 1921 and continued to act as protector for the area until 1971 when Quinn sold Tettegouche to the deLaittres family. The deLaittres continued Quinn’s tradition of stewardship for the land, beginning negotiations several years later for the preservation of Tettegouche as a state park. During these years, the Nature Conservancy, a private land conservation organization, played a vital role (along with other concerned individuals and groups) in the transfer of ownership. Finally, on June 29, 1979, legislation was enacted establishing Tettegouche as a state park.

Here are my shots of our visit to Tettegouche.