Like others who have written about Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park, Douglas County, I came across it by accident on a trip up north. The website Only in Your Statecaptures the experience well:
“In far northwestern Wisconsin, there’s an expansive state park that’s simply magical. Pattison State Park is a land of wild forests and roaring waterfalls, a place to seek out when you truly need to get away from it all. It’s unlike any state park in Wisconsin, and it was nearly lost to a development project. If you need to escape to someplace special, this park is the place to go. Here’s what you need to know about Pattison State Park in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin Trail Guide provides a good trail guide and map for the park. The source for Big and Little Manitou Falls is the Black River, which rises in eastern Minnesota and flows northward to join the Nemadji River. The Nemadji then empties into Lake Superior.
This is the dam just before the falls, shown here on the east side of Hwy 35. It has created Interfalls Lake. It’s hard to believe this little dam can create such a lake and even more challenging to think that it feeds such mighty falls.
The park is visitor friendly. You see the falls from its side and get a frontal view across the way. I got a good shot of the dam, and you can see the water tumbling just before going over the 165 ft. high falls.
This shows the water just as it starts its 165 ft. descent over the falls. There is a fallen tree crossing over the cliff atop the falls.
You see the falls just as it begins their ride down the steep embankment. You can see the fallen tree I mentioned earlier in the upper left of the photo.
That the park planners enable visitors to get such a close glimpse of the top of the falls is wonderful.
There are waterfall viewing paths that take you to the bottom. I did not go on it.
These two photos show the falls when they hit bottom and flow northward.
Look closely at this photo. FIRST, I WANT TO HIGHLIGHT THE DENSE WHITE PINES, CEDAR, AND SPRUCE. THEY SURROUND THE FALLS AND THE GORGE. TAKE IN A DEEP BREATH AND SMELL THE WONDER OF THIS FORESTED AREA. SECOND, LOOK TO THE TOP OF THE PHOTO, WHERE IT APPEARS THERE ARE NOT TREES.
That’s the viewing overlook from the other side of the gorge. You can walk over there and few the falls in all their splendor.
For example, like this!
The geology at this park is intense, way above my pay grade. A dominant feature is the Douglas Fault. It runs between Pattison and Amnicom State Parks. Viewed more broadly, it runs from Ashland, WI, to the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area.
“When the fault line was active, the area was rocked by many earthquakes as the two sides of the fault pushed up against one another. Over thousands of years the force of the earthquakes created the ridge that runs through Amnicon Falls State Park and Pattison State Park. “
“The escarpment that forms the waterfalls and the rocky walls of the (Big Manitou Falls) gorge are remnants of two ancient geologic events. First, lava flows covered the surrounding region approximately 1.2 billion years ago. Then, a massive fracturing of the basalt bedrock occurred about 500 million years ago. This fracturing, or crack, is named the Douglas Fault, and starts on the floor of Lake Superior just north of Ashland and extends in a long westward arc to just north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The Douglas Fault is a thrust-fault, where the bedrock south of the crack was pushed up at a 50 to 60 degree angle over the bedrock north of the crack. Today, the fault-line is most visible where it crosses the riverbed several hundred yards down-river from Big Manitou Falls.”