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Category Archives: Grand Portage State Park

Our final destination on our Minnesota North Shore road trip was High Falls at Grand Portage State Park. This was an unusual visit because it was the first time that we had been at the falls, other than during the winter, that we didn’t get drenched by the spray from the water coming over the falls.



The following morning I was up before sunrise hoping to catch a nice sunrise down at the Grand Marais Harbor. Unfortunately there was no sunrise so I didn’t even take the camera out of the bag. I returned to the hotel to grab a bite to eat before heading up to Grand Portage State Park.

We normally make a drive up to Grand Portage State Park in the spring. On this occasion we wanted to test some gear before heading off to Iceland later this summer. We figured High Falls would mimic conditions in Iceland fairly well. As it turned out we found that it might be difficult to photograph some of the larger Icelandic waterfalls. This photo was taken by my wife on her camera phone.


I’ve seen more water flowing over the falls in the spring but I’ve never seen as much spray hitting the viewing platforms. High Falls can be a difficult place to photograph because the falls creates its own weather. Normally you can expect to get wet on the viewing platforms. This is what my lens looked like after a few seconds.


We gave some thought of driving over to Canada to view the falls from the other side but it looked like the conditions on the Canadian side were even worse so we gave that idea up.




When we returned to the visitors center we stopped to watch a video that Travis Novitsky has created of High Falls during the various seasons. If you stop at the park be sure to watch it. Travis works at the Park and has some great photographs from the far north.

The next morning there wasn’t much of a sunrise in Grand Marais so we headed up to High Falls in Grand Portage State Park. The Pigeon River acts as the border between Minnesota and Canada. Given the low water levels we had seen in the other rivers we assumed that the water flow would be relatively low. In fact it was the lowest I’ve seen it on any of my visits. Typically it is difficult to photograph the falls because of the heavy spray falling over the observation points. It is particular the case in the spring when there is generally a heavy water flow. On this day there was no spray at all. In talking with the ranger, later in the day, she said that it was a very early ice out this year and a low flow spring.

High Falls

High Falls

High Falls

High Falls



While we were visiting Grand Portage State Park we asked Travis about the trail to Middle Falls. The trail had not been cleaned up from the harsh winter and there were trees down and it was muddy in spots but folks had been hiking to the falls.Middle-Falls-Grand-Portage-State-Park-14-5-_2435

We had wanted to make this trip so decided to head up to the falls. There is quite an elevation gain on the way out and back but this was a good thing since we were heading to the Black Hills in a week and thought this would be a good way to get in shape.Middle-Falls-Grand-Portage-State-Park-14-5-_2463

When we reached the falls there was a lot of water coming over the falls. Actually a bit too much to get any really good photos of the falls itself. while we were looking at the falls we noticed some folks taking pictures from the Canadian side of the river. We then notice a road which goes right past the falls. We will leave that for another trip.Middle-Falls-Grand-Portage-State-Park-14-5-_2471

More photos from Grand Portage State Park can be found on my website.

A few weeks ago my wife and I visited High Falls on the Pigeon River located at Grand Portage State Park. There was a lot of water still going over the falls but we were a bit late for the full spring melt. Actually that is a good thing because a heavy water flow makes it difficult to take photos because it is constantly raining on the observation platforms. On this particular day there was a light mist but nothing like it usually is this time of year. We were there early in the morning where there was a beautiful rainbow at the falls.High-Falls-Grand-Portage-State-Park-14-5-_1905



We were fortunate to run into Travis Novitsky at the falls. Travis is a self-taught Native American photographer living in Grand Portage and has captured some Beautiful photographs of the area. If you haven’t seen his work check out his website.

On a recent trip to the Minnesota North Shore I decided to drive up to the Canadian Border and check out conditions at High Falls in Grand Portage State Park. I’ve been to the park in all of the other seasons but never in the winter. It happened to be one of those days when things weren’t going right. When I left home I had forgotten my tripod. On the walk to the Falls I remembered that the camera I intended to use was back in the car. I did have a camera with a wide angle lens so I used it to take a few photos. Fortunately I wasn’t too disappointed because there was not a lot to see at the falls. I would have expected considerably more ice but with the drought the water flow is much lower than normal.  As the ranger said someone turned off the spigot upstream.


It’s the time of year when I start getting excited about the fall colors. Already some states have their fall color reports active. I started thinking about the places I would like to travel to this fall and came up with a list of my top 5 destinations. I’ve listed the ironwood area first because, for some reason, the leaves turn in this area before they do in any other area.

Ironwood, Michigan

Gile Flowage– is located just south of Ironwood, Michigan. What I like about Gile Flowage is that you can photograph at sunrise and sunset and get some great photos. In fact, at both times you can photograph the color of the trees and just turn around and then photograph the rising or setting sun.

Gile Flowage Sunrise


Gile Flowage Sunrise

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hillis the largest ski jump in the world and the top of the jump is nearly 1200 feet above lake Superior. On a clear day you can see for over 40 miles. Lake Superior and the Porcupine Mountains are visible from the top. The ski jump is open on weekends during fall color season.

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill

 Black Riveris just down the road from Copper Peak and offers some great fall views of waterfalls along the Black River.

Rainbow Falls

  Munising, Michigan

Hiawatha National Forestis located just south of Munising and offers some great photography opportunities along the many lakes in the area. The peak colors in the national forest are usually a week or so before the colors in Pictured Rocks. Most of the lakes are best photographed early in the morning. More information can be found in an earlier Blog.

Thorton Lake

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshoreoffers some spectacular photo opportunities. The fall sunset boat cruise is not to be missed. The many mile of hiking trails through the park offer a wide range of subjects for photography.

Grand Portal Point

Seney National Wildlife Refugeis located at the eastern end of Pictured Rocks and offers some great chances for sunset and sunrise photography. Large numbers of Trumpeter Swans can be found in the Refuge.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Sunset

WaterfallsThere are a large number of great waterfalls within a short drove of Munising. This is a shot of Laughing Whitefish Falls.

Laughing Whitefish Falls

 Baraboo, Wisconsin

 Pewits Nestis located in the southern part of Wisconsin just outside Baraboo. It’s a small gorge with a stream flowing through it. The top of the gorge is covered with large maple trees. If you hit it right the maple trees are spectacular. The gorge itself is worth the trip even after most of the leaves have fallen.

Pewits Nest

Devils Lake State ParkIs also located just outside of Baraboo. It is one of the premier Wisconsin parks and a popular destination any time of the year but particularly in the fall. We usually combine the trip with a visit to Ski-Hi Fruit Farm which lies just outside the park.

Devil’s Lake State Park

Gibraltar RockIs just a short drive from Baraboo and offers some stunning views of the Wisconsin River valley. We usually combine a visit to Gibraltar rock with a trip on the Merrimac Ferry which crosses the Wisconsin River at Merrimac Wisconsin.

Gibraltar Rock

Minnesota North Shore

There are photography opportunities all along the Minnesota North Shore from Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Portage State Park on the Canadian Border. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites. The fall leaves turn first in the interior away from the lake. The Maples turn earlier than the Birch. Generally it will take several trips at different times to take in all of the fall color along the North Shore. If the leaves disappoint the Lake will not so there is always something to photograph.

 Gooseberry Falls State ParkThis is usually my first stop on any trip to the North Shore. I try to time my visit so I’m not there on a weekend because it is one of the most popular parks in Minnesota.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

 Tettegouche State Park –  They are building a new visitors center at the park so the visitors center will closed for the fall 2012 season. Lots of nice hiking trails into the back country.

Mic Mac Lake

Oberg Mountain – My favorite place for fall photographs on the North Shore. The top of Oberg Mountain offers stunning 360 degrees of the surrounding forests and Lake Superior.

Oberg Mountain

 Cascade River State Park is a great place to photograph any time of the year but it can be beautiful in the fall if the water level is high. Best photographed early in the morning or late in the day when the cascades are in the shade and provide a uniform light.

Cascade River

Grand Portage State Parkis located on the border with Canada. It offers spectacular views of the highest waterfall in Minnesota. Late in the fall color season the Birch Trees at the top of the falls turn brilliant colors. If you happen to be there late in the day the sun will highlight the fall colors while the falls is in the shade.

High Falls

 Crex Meadows

Crex Meadows stands alone as a destination for photography. It is a great place to photograph fall colors, sunrises and sunsets. It is also the one of the best locations in the country to photograph the fall migration of the Sandhill Cranes. You will want to plan on spending the night in Grantsburg, Wisconsin so you can take in the evening and morning flights of the cranes. About an hour before sunset the cranes start returning to the meadows. Folks bring their lawn chairs and just sit and watch them fly into their rousting grounds. You can return to the same location at sunrise and watch the cranes leaving to feed for the day in the surrounding fields. During the day you can drive the back roads south of town to watch the cranes feeding. Make sure you make the trip this year because if the Wisconsin creates a Sandhill Crane hunt you may not be able to see this spectacular event in future years. I have more details on photographing at Crex in an earlier Blog.

Sunset Crex Meadows

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes Sunset Flight

Our destination on the recent trip to the Minnesota North Shore was Grand Portage State Park more specifically High Falls on the Pigeon River. The Pigeon River divides the U.S. and Canada. High Falls is the highest and in my opinion the most dramatic waterfall in Minnesota.

Lake Superior

As we neared the border on the drive up to the falls we stopped at the newly reopened parking lot that has a great view of Lake Superior. It has been under construction for some time and I’m glad to see that is open. There should be some spectacular photos to be had when the colors turn in the fall. The area is covered with aspen trees.

High Falls

On the hike up to High Falls we could hear there was a lot of water going over the falls. The North Shore had received large amounts of rain the previous week. Water levels were extremely high in most of the rivers during the early part of the week. Although water levels had gone down there was still a lot of water flowing over the falls.

High Falls

There were more people at the park than I had seen in any previous visit. When we reached the first overlook it was crowed so we started with the second overlook. I originally set the camera up with a neutral density filter and a polarizing filter but soon realized there was way too much mist in the air to take long exposures. I went back to my UV filter and decided to shoot freehand.


It was a good thing I did because when we went back to the first overlook it was raining. Someone suggested that an umbrella would have been handy but it wouldn’t have helped with photography because the rain was coming up from below with considerable force. When large amounts of water flow over the falls it creates its own weather system including beautiful rainbows. This was the most water I have seen coming over the falls with the exception of last year when I was there during the spring melt.

High Falls

When there is a heavy water flow it is spectacular at the falls and well worth seeing. If you want to photograph it’s better to time your visit when there is less water flowing so you don’t have to photograph in the “rain”. Actually it wouldn’t be bad photographing in the rain because an umbrella would probably work but it is difficult with rain blasting straight into the camera lens.

More photos of Grand Portage State Park can be found on my website.

This past week we took a road trip up the Minnesota North Shore. This time we didn’t stop at the border and went all the way to Thunder Bay. This was my first visit to Thunder Bay in about fifteen years.


Snake Pit Falls

As is our normal routine we made our first stop at Amnicon Falls State Park. I was surprised to find the water levels in the Amnicon River at a high level. Typically at this time of year they are much lower. Swimming was prohibited in the park because of the high water levels. This shot was taken at the top of Snake Pit Falls.


Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

Our second stop was Wisconsin Point. This was my second visit to Wisconsin Point this summer. The wind was really kicking up and it was difficult to stand on the breakwater in the strong winds. The water in the bay was really churned up and was a brown color. In this shot of the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse you can see movement in the grass from the strong winds.


We then went on to Gooseberry Falls State Park. The water levels were really low along the North Shore. This was a little surprising given the high water at Amnicon Falls. The place was packed with visitors. I would have liked to get some photos of the falls with the lower water levels but it was impossible to take a photo without getting at least a half dozen people in it. This is why I rarely visit the North Shore from mid June until after Labor Day.


Split Rock Lighthouse

We then drove up to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. I thought we would have to purchase a park sticker but you can visit the lighthouse without a sticker so we saved a little money. It was really windy at the lighthouse and it was difficult to hear the tour guide with the wind blowing. This photo was taken on an earlier trip. Too many folks on the tour to get good photos this trip.


After leaving the lighthouse we encountered some rain squalls on our drive to Grand Marais. There were several rainbows along the lake. One of them lasted from Split Rock to just south of Grand Marais. I’ve never seen a rainbow last this long.


Cascade Falls

We stopped briefly at Cascade Falls State Park. The water levels were low but I find that Cascade Falls is more impressive with less water flowing over the falls. With less water the falls is framed by the black rock surrounding the falling water.





Grand Marais Harbor Lighthouse

I was able to spend a couple of days shooting in Grand Marais. The sunset was very interesting with a rain squall in the background and a rainbow dropping through the clouds. The sunrise was less spectacular with almost no clouds around. This is a shot of the harbor light with interesting cloud formations in the background.


High Falls of the Pigeon River

Later in the morning we headed for Grand Portage State Park to photograph High Falls on the Pigeon River. The sun was out by the time we reached the falls. It was a beautiful day and I managed a few photographs of the falls with a rainbow appearing and disappearing at the base of the falls.


Kakabeka Falls

At Thunder Bay we stopped at Kakabeka Falls. There was not a lot of water coming over the falls. In fact it was extremely dry in the Thunder Bay area. I was also photographing in bright sunlight so the conditions were not the best. You have to pay to visit the park and we had quite a time making our payment at the automated ticket machine. Apparently we don’t get out enough.


Fur Stores

Fort William Historical Park was on our agenda for the afternoon. We were too late for some of the events but did walk around the park. I have to say that our previous visit when our son was about seven years old was a lot more fun since many of the activities are geared to kids. This is a shot of the fur stores.


Blue-winged Teal

We drove around Thunder Bay in the evening. I can’t say that I was all that impressed. They are working on the waterfront and when that is done it should be spectacular to visit. We stopped at International Friendship Gardens where I snapped this photo of a friendly Blue-winged Teal.


Voyageur Child

The next morning we headed back down to the border. Our first stop was at Grand Portage National Monument in Grand Portage. There is a nice visitors center and a restored fort on the waterfront. Normally when I stop the fort is closed for the season. This time the fort was open and, as luck would have it, Rendezvous Days and a Traditional Pow Wow were going to be starting the next day. About half the participants had already arrived by Thursday so we were able to wander around the encampment talking to folks. This is a shot of one of voyageur’s daughters entering the Kitchen at the fort.


schooner Hjørdis


We then headed back to Grand Marais so my wife and her sisters could tours the shops and I could take some photos of the harbor. I was lucky enough to catch the schooner Hjørdis sailing into the harbor. Also in the harbor were lots of Inuksuks. This was a particularly impressive one. We finished off the visit with a lunch at Sven and Ole’s.

The first week of June has been really hot. Earlier in the week the temperatures started rising. What to do? I hoped for a late spring blizzard but that didn’t seem to forthcoming. I could stay home and photograph birds from my air conditioned living room but even the birds were saying in the woods where it was cooler. The other option, if you live in the upper Midwest, is to drive up to Lake Superior where it was 40 degrees cooler. I decided it was time for my spring road trip to the Minnesota North Shore. I had planned on going a week later but the chance to cool off couldn’t be ignored. The last thing my wife said to me was to take some warm clothes. Why? it was still in the 60’s on the North Shore.

High Falls

I drove up to the Canadian border to check out High Falls at Grand Portage State Park. I had visited high falls earlier in the spring during the spring melt and there had been so much water coming over the falls that it was almost impossible to photograph. This time the water levels were considerably lower. Late in the day the sun reaches the trees above the falls but the falls is mainly in the shadows.

Grand Marais Harbor

After photographing at Grand Portage I drove back to Grand Marais, Minnesota to spent the night and hopefully capture some nice sunset shots in the harbor area. Things looked promising during the drive back because it was clear in the west and there were some nice clouds overhead. Unfortunately by the time I reached Grand Marais all of the clouds were gone and it was a drab clear sunset. After a quick dinner at Sven and Ole’s I went out to get some shots at Artists Point. I was a little surprised to find that it was cold really cold. There was a strong wind blowing off of the lake and it felt like winter. Where were those warm cloths I was told to bring?

Cascade River

The next morning I had hoped for some sunrise shots but there was a heavy fog over the harbor so I drove down to the Cascade River State park, my favorite waterfall location on the North Shore. I wasn’t disappointed. The water levels were such that photography was good. The fog had burned off by this time but the cascades were still in the shade.

Sugarloaf Cove

One of my usual stops is Sugarloaf Cove. It was a nice day out so I decided to stop and look around. There was still some fog along the coast which made for a nice photo.

I then drove down to Tofte to get a bite to eat. As I drove into town I noticed the fog rolling in on Bluefin Bay, I

Bluefin Bay

thought this might make a good shot but didn’t see any place to stop. I turned around and found a place to park and took the trail along the bay to a nice vantage point. I took a few shots and decided to grab something to eat and brought it back down to the lake so I could watch the fog role in and out.

Schovel Point

After a relaxing breakfast I headed down to Tettegouche State Park. My wife and I had been at Tettegouche the end of March after the violent spring storm had hit and left much of the lakeshore enchased in ice. It had been a number of years since I had walked out to Shovel Point in the spring so I headed out to see what it looked like without the ice. For those of you who haven’t been in the area recently the first thing you will notice is that they are working on the trails and have made some improvements to the trail going down to the lake. The second thing is the arch has collapsed and is now called the tower. This happened last year.  It was a beautiful cool day. It didn’t look like the storm have done much damage to the trees.

Amnicon Falls State Park

Since it was a bright  sunny day I decided to head back toward Wisconsin and drive down to Wisconsin Point and forgo any waterfall photography along the way. As luck would have it as I reached Duluth the clouds came back making it a great time for waterfall photography. Rather than drive back up the North Shore I decided to stop at Amnicon Falls State Park. I normally stop at Amnicon when traveling through the area. I quickly realized that this is the first time I had been at Amnicon when it was entirely cloudy out. Normally it is a bright sunny day and I have to fight the high contrast light. The light was the best I’ve seen in the park for photographing waterfalls. I lucked out, because a group of kids had just finished swimming in the river so I didn’t have contend with them although there were enough people around that I have to shoot around them. A couple of lovers were particularly annoying because they seemed to want to make out every where I wanted to shoot.

Morgan Falls

After spending a couple of hours at Amnicon I decided to head to Ashland for the night and hopefully some nice sunset shots of the harbor. I arrived about 5 p.m. and concluded that there was enough time to drive out to Morgan Falls and back before sunset. It was late enough in the day that I knew Morgan Falls would be entirely in the shade. Normally Morgan falls has a large violent population of mosquitoes but today things were quiet. Fortunately the only people at the falls were on their way out when I went in so I had the falls to myself. There was a fair amount of water coming over the falls.

By the time I had gotten back to the car the clouds had come back and it was completely cloudy so there was no opportunity for sunset photos. I called home to check on the next day’s weather which was supposed to be sunny then partly cloudy. When I woke up at 4:30 it was still cloudy with only a sliver of light in the east. As it turned out if  sunset would have been an hour later it would have been spectacular because it cleared in the east with a heave cover of clouds overhead.

Bayfield Harbor

I decided to drive over to Bayfield to see what was going on. It is still a little early in the season and Bayfield is still a sleepy little town without much activity. That will all change in a few weeks. The light was good with a combination of sunshine and clouds. I walked around town for a while then decided to head down to Little Sand Bay.

Herring Shed

I don’t recall ever having visited the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore at Little Sand Bay and didn’t know what to expect.  The National Park Service has preserved the Hokenson Brothers Fishery at Little Sand Bay including most of the buildings and some of the equipment. It was well worth the stop.

Fishing Boat

The next stop was  Cornucopia and took a few shots of the old fishing boats preserved at a small park in town.

Lost Creek Falls

There were enough clouds around to make a visit to Lost Creek Falls worthwhile. I was a little worried as I neared the trailhead when I found four cars parked along the road. As it turns out they were four wheeling and had gone on a different trail. There were lots of flowers out along the trail. Most of the way I followed some tracks of a doe and fawn. The trail was muddier than I have ever seen it. I thought this might mean there was a lot of water coming over the falls but that wasn’t the case. The water flow was good but the water level in the pond below the falls was lower than I’ve seen it in some time. It was easy to work around the falls with the low water. The clouds kept moving in and out so I had to spend more time than I wanted waiting for cloud cover.

Word was that the warm weather was over so it was time to head back home.

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