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.
It was a beautiful day so we decided to drive up to Grand Marais, Minnesota. Our eventual destination was Grand Portage State Park.
At Tettegouche State Park We decided to hike up to the High Falls on the Baptism River. There were quite a few cars along the road and in the parking lot but most of them were fishermen. The water flow was good although it was very dry with fire warnings all along the North Shore.
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.
It has definitely been a bummer of a winter so far. We had a nice early snowfall in November but nothing since. Northern Wisconsin and the North Shore of Minnesota haven’t seen much snow either. We have not been able to cross country ski around home or in the Duluth Area because of the lack of snow. I suppose the positive is we have been able to do some hiking along the North Shore and there hasn’t been a mosquito in sight.
High Falls Tettegouche State Park
My favorite winter photography subject is the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they will open this year. We stopped at Meyers Beach last week when we were up for the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. We expected to see some ice but we found open water. A friend said they were close to opening a few weeks ago ice pack was just about frozen solid and the National Park Service was counting down to open them but a strong wind came up and the ice pack broke up and was pushed out into the lake.
We stopped in Duluth overnight after our ski trip and intended to drive home the next morning. When we woke up we decided that it might be fun to drive up to Tettegouche State Park to do some hiking. The Minnesota North Shore has almost no snow so we didn’t need our snowshoes which we forgot at home.
As we were getting ready to leave for the day we noticed that it was snowing quite hard. This hadn’t been in the forecast and when we looked at the radar on our phone it look like a small band of snow extended from Duluth all the way north of Tettegouche.
We kept driving and reached Tettegoushe at mid morning. We decided to take the hike along the north side of the Baptism River to the High Falls. Although there wasn’t much snow we decided to use our ice cleats because the trail was icy in spots.
It continued to snow off and on during our trip to the falls. Our first stop was Two Step Falls. This was not very impressive since it was iced over and covered with some snow.
Our next stop was High Falls. This was very impressive with a lot of definition and color in the ice.
The river was frozen so we were able to walk up to the bottom of the Falls.
We noticed a couple of flags that someone had planted at the top of the falls. I forgot to ask the ranger if someone was ice climbing at the falls and planted the flags.
The fresh snowfall left some nice patterns on the ice and the rocks surrounding the falls. This trip was well worth the walk.
More photos from our hike 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend I received word that the spring melt was underway along the streams flowing into Lake Superior. On Monday I headed for northern Wisconsin and the Minnesota North Shore.
Now and Then Falls
The first stop was Amnicon Falls State Park. I had been in the park two weeks earlier and found the river flowing but still a lot of ice in the river. The river was now open with only a small amount of ice to be found. The water levels were high but I have seen them a lot higher. I managed to find a new shooting location from a gully that leads down to the bottom of Snake Pit Falls. Water was also flowing over Now and Then Falls.
I then drove into Minnesota with the first stop Gooseberry Falls State Park. The park had reported that the ice went out during the weekend. Two weeks ago the falls were almost solid ice. The sudden onset of warm weather had resulted in the rapid rise of the water. By Monday water levels were was already going down.
It was a bright sunny day so I headed up to Grand Marais to get a place to stay for the night. I stopped only briefly before heading up to the Canadian border and Grand Portage State Park. I have photographed at High Falls late in the day with some success even when the sun is out so I had high hopes. As soon as I hit the trail from the visitors center I could hear the falls so I knew something special was going on. The trail in was icy in spots. When I reached the falls there was a lot of water coming over. In fact there was so much water it was creating its own weather system. It was impossible to shoot from two of the overlooks because there was so much spray in the air and it was blowing down the canyon directly into the camera. The first lookout also had spray but it wasn’t constant so I did manage to get some shots. When the water hit the base of the falls it exploded into the air reaching almost to the top of the falls. At one point there were three different rainbows below the falls.
After spending some time at the falls and getting more than a little wet I headed back to Grand Marais and a fine dining experience at Sven & Ole’s. By the time I was done eating it was almost sunset so I walked out onto the harbor to take a few photographs. I thought it was going to be a really nice sunset because there were a lot of thick clouds earlier in the evening but they dissipated leaving only a few clouds in the west. I noticed a Seagull perched on of the harbor lights and tried to get a photo with the sunset in the background. By the time I was ready to take the photo the Seagull was gone but I did manage to get one of the light.
In the morning I had hoped to get some sunrise shots but at daylight it was raining out and there was no sunrise shots. After an early breakfast I headed back south. The first stop was Cascade River State Park. The trail was a little icy in spots but I hiked into the cascades. Even though the sun was now out it is possible to photograph up through the cascades early in the morning. There was quite a bit of water flowing but I have seen much higher water at the cascades. Some of the familiar logs that have been jammed in the canyon for several years were missing this year.
I then drove on to the Temperance River. Unfortunately I have a habit of driving past this river on bright sunny days. The river consists of some deep canyons that are very difficult to photograph when the sun is out. If you get there early in the morning it helps. Quite a bit of water was running and it made for dramatic views in the canyons. There was some ice on the trail so it was a little tricky getting around.
Split Rock Lighthouse
The next stop was at Split Rock Lighthouse to use the facilities and ask about hiking trails north of the Lighthouse. I was more than a little surprised to find the lighthouse visitors center closed. Apparently it doesn’t open until mid May. The gate was open so I wandered around the grounds and took a few shots of the Lighthouse and other buildings.
Lunch was at Betty’s Pies. This could get to be habit forming. After lunch I decided I had enough of trying to photograph waterfalls in bright sunlight so I drove down to Wisconsin Point. A couple of weeks ago the ice along the shore was so high that I could hardly see the lighthouse. Now there was still ice along the shore but not nearly as much. Most of it was covered with sand which apparently blew onto the ice from the beach. There were quite a few Seagulls around so I spend some time walking along the beach taking photos of them on the ice. At one point a large section of ice broke off surprising the Gulls.
That ended my day and I headed home. I did conclude that even though it was fun to see the waterfalls during the spring melt I would much prefer to photograph them when the water is lower. Low water means many more photographic opportunities.