This scenic river-edge park is located near Kennan in the southwest corner of Price County along the South Fork of the Jump River. Flanked by tall white and red pine, the Jump River cascades around huge granite rocks and provides viewers with a wild river environment.
The park’s facilities include a campground, picnic area, children’s play area, swimming area, and hiking trails. Visit the park in the winter for spectacular scenery.
Some friends told us to search out Big Falls County Park, so I did. Fortunately, they gave me some directions. I have a pretty good map of the state, but it took me a long time to find it on the map, even with their directions. I’m glad I hunted the place down because it was an absolute delight. You have to go here when you've had it with the world!
As always, let's get our bearings. Price County is in north-central Wisconsin, just below Ashland and Iron Counties, both of which border Lake Superior. You are looking at a portion of a map for canoeing enthusiasts of the area they call "Jump River 1." The hash marks at Little Falls and Big Falls denote rapids, Class II or higher.
The class designator describes what to expect after you enter the water, let's say over at Yellow Banks to the east. Class A is a lake with little to no water movement; Class VI is extraordinarily difficult, where a paddler must contend with the possibility of dying because of the danger. Class II is moderate, medium quick water with regular waves, with rocks demanding maneuver, best handled by intermediate paddlers. Expert canoeists will tell you that a stream can change from Class II to Class IV, difficult, quickly, especially after a storm. I’ll show you a bunch of photos soon.
If you take US 8, which runs east-west north of Big Falls, you will come to County N in the town of Kennan. Take County N south about 10 miles to Big Falls Road and hang a right. Take this road until it ends, at the park.
Big Falls is actually on the South Fork Jump River. Shortly downstream of the falls, the South Fork joins the North Fork to form the Jump River, which makes its way through several counties to Holcombe Flowage in Chippewa County of the Northern Highland Geographic Province.
Interestingly, the rivers shown here and to the town of Jump River, about 5-10 miles to the southwest, have been designated as "Exceptional Resource Waters." After walking along the shore of the South Fork, I’ll have to agree with that.
I’d like you to focus on the Big Falls area between the two yellow arrows in the lower right quadrant of the above photo. I’ll give you a zoom Mapquest aerial photo of this area and then show you a series of images that will walk you from the bottom (south) to the northwest up to the point of the upper second arrow of the two.
This is a blowup of the area I showed you in the first aerial shot. The yellow arrow at the bottom points to the beginning of the falls-rapids site, while the top spot points to where the water starts to smooth. Remember the island shown at the top. I’ll show you what heaven might be like in our close-ups of that spot later.
Okay, here's where the action starts—first one more aerial zoomer, then our ground-level photos.
Remember, the water is flowing on the South Fork of the Jump River, from lower right to upper left, from the southeast to the northwest. This is the direction I’ll walk, starting where the falls begin.
Okay, now I round a slight curve and look downstream.
Now I’ll keep walking along the trail to the right of the water and peak at the river in a few spots as I walk toward that island I mentioned.
This is a glimpse of the trail. It is very well marked, a nice, easy walk, though you do have to watch your step as the land is filled with rock.
These shots give you a sense of the rock underlying the land. Over these many years, the river has cut into these, and they've broken off, falling into the water, getting moved about very slowly by the water over long periods.
Believe it or not, the rocks in the river are starting to thin out!
Though if you are in a canoe or kayak, you've still got to pay attention to be sure you're ready to navigate through these narrows.
Much to our surprise, as I approached that island we showed you earlier on the aerial overview, I came across three guys, dad and two sons, fishin'. The island I mentioned earlier starts directly behind dad and his one son and extends to the right of the photo. Dad said he brings his boys here every year. He relaxes while the boys fish. These two kids will have great memories of this when they grow older.
You can see the one lad fishing with a small strainer. He was looking for crawfish. They had a tin can filled with their catches when I got there.
This is a look downstream beyond the island. Soon, there will be very few rocks in the water, as seen in this closing aerial shot of the island area.