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Paradise Valley is actually a small gully with a small spring fed stream that flows into the Red Cedar River. It is located about 1.5 miles outside Menomonie, Wisconsin.  You can hike up the gully for about a half a mile although the most interesting sections are found within the first 400 yards. There are a variety of winter photographic opportunities which include the stream, a large ice wall and several waterfalls.

Access to the area is via a steep trail which in the winter can be a little treacherous. In addition, it is difficult to walk around the stream and ice covered gully. The climb over the first waterfall can also be a challenge on the snow and ice.  I typically wear ice traction devices on my feet to prevent falls on the ice. I also wear a hardhat if the ice is melting because every once in a while a large section of ice falls from the wall. Using a lens cap and a plastic cover for the camera and lens is recommended because, even on the coldest days, you are likely to encounter dripping water which splatters onto the camera and lens. Most of the year you will encounter the same issues you would when photographing waterfalls when the sun is out. The best light is usually on a cloudy or overcast day.

Ice Patterns

As you walk down into the gully you will encounter the small spring fed stream. The stream itself is not large but offers a variety of shots. During transition seasons and during periods of warming and cooling the stream offers shots of the ice formations along the edge of the stream. When the stream is completely frozen you have the chance to shoot patterns in the ice and frost that forms on the ice.

As you walk up the stream you will next encounter a large ice wall in a small section of the gully surrounded by sandstone cliffs. Throughout the year water seeps from the cliffs and during the transition seasons fall to winter and winter to spring the water starts to form the ice wall. If you time your visit just right you can photograph ice covered leaves, twigs and ice formations that remind you of diamonds. This opportunity may occur for only a few days during the transition periods so timing is everything.

Ice Wall

In January and February the cold weather produces a large ice wall covering one side of the gully. One normally thinks of ice as a rather static element but as the weather changes the ice wall changes with it as do the photographic opportunities. You can shoot the entire wall or small sections and on cold days there are some close-up opportunities for shooting frost.

Frozen Waterfall

At this location you will also encounter the first of two waterfalls. This is the largest at about 10 feet and is not so much a waterfall as water tumbling down over a sandstone slope. At times the water is open and at other times it is frozen completely over. Normally there are opportunities for shooting ice patterns along the waterfall.

Waterfall

To continue up the gully you must climb along one side the waterfall. This can be a bit treacherous since at times it is solid ice. Once on the top you can walk up the stream a short distance to the second waterfall. This one is only about 3 feet but is a free falling waterfall. At this point I usually stop but if you can get up over the waterfall you can continue to walk up the gully for quite a ways. The springs that provide the water for the stream are found about 100 yards above the waterfall. There used to be a nice ladder to help get over the waterfall but it was destroyed by vandals last year.

You can find additional photos and driving directions to Paradise Valley on my website.

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