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My favorite waterfall for winter photography is Willow falls located in Willow River State Park near Hudson, Wisconsin. What I like about Willow falls is the fact that during most of the winter the falls is not entirely frozen so you have the opportunity to photograph ice formations in combination with running water.

Ice Formation

I generally start photographing toward the end of December. If we get a cold snap and some fresh snow it signals that it is time to head to Willow falls. I typically use a 28-300mm lens which allows me to take in the full falls as well as shoot close-ups of ice formations. Occasionally I use a wide angle lens. If we have a real cold snap and there is a lot of open water you can encounter considerable frost buildup on the trees and ground cover surrounding the falls. I spend most of my time shooting individual ice formations usually in combination with open water.

This is the site of my greatest photographic disaster. It was my first winter photographing at willow falls and I became so excited at seeing the great ice formations that I accidentally turned the wrong knob on my tripod head and loosened the camera from the tripod. When I picked up the tripod to move it the camera fell into the water. The camera seemed to fall in slow motion as I watched.

Willow River Frost

Access to the falls is somewhat limited in the winter because most of the trails are groomed for cross country skiing. If you drive to the park on county road A and drive past the park entrance you will see a parking lot on your left. Note that a fee is required for parking. You can walk on the ski trail down to the falls from this parking lot. This is also a cross country ski trail so walk with care and don’t walk on the ski tracks. The walk down into the river valley is steep and can be treacherous if it is icy out. I always wear STABILicers traction devices on the bottom of my boots. They have steel cleats that provide excellent traction even on steep icy slopes and Velcro straps that make them easy to put on and remove. There are a variety of such devices on the market that work well on ice and hard packed snow. These are also helpful in walking around the falls.

Willow River

Additional photos of Willow Falls can be found on my Website.



  1. What a great tip! I’m quite often in the Twin Cities and will check out this place soon. I suppose the water fall is pretty during all seasons. Nice winter shots!
    Regards, Andreas

    • Willow Falls is a nice place to photograph at any time of the year. In warm weather you will find lots of folks playing in the falls. It makes it difficult to photograph just the falls but you can get some great photos of people enjoying the park. I’ve broken my photos down by season so you can see what Willow Falls is like during different times of the year.

  2. Phil – The second image (“Willow River Frost”) is excellent. Definitely among my favorites of yours. Very nice!

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