Fox Along the North Shore: Gooseberry Falls

TWO HARBORS, Minn — There are eight state parks spread out along the scenic North Shore. One landmark in particular started to gain popularity among tourists during the 1920s. Then, in 1937, Gooseberry Falls became the first designated state park along the North Shore. Nearly 100 years later, Gooseberry Falls remains a popular stop along the shore as we wake up from a long winter.

“Coming to Gooseberry Falls in the spring is spectacular because of the amount of water that’s coming over the falls. We had so much snowpack this winter that all that water is just running off into the streams,” said Park Naturalist Michaela Rice.

The water is rushing through a park built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It was constructed as an accessible destination for all travelers starting with the bridge overlooking the falls. Today, several paved trails line the park so all can visit the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls with ease. The trail up to Fifth Falls is not paved but is worth the short hike. Park Naturalist Michaela Rice explained to us the uniqueness of the individual waterfalls.

“Every waterfall has a little bit of a different personality, a different flow pattern, different noise.  This one is your typical roar, kind of constant roaring sound that you hear.  Also, throughout the year the waterfalls change. So depending on when you’ll come, you’ll see some different things. So right now, our spring melt is continuing to be at full force,” said Rice.

The heavy winter snowfall and quickly melting snow create a stark contrast to what the park looked like just two years ago when drought conditions nearly dried up the falls. Now, with the roaring water this spring, it isn’t just a stop for tourists, but many wildlife visitors as well.

“Some of the birds that will come and visit right now, we have loons that are fishing in the river which I think is pretty spectacular.  Some of the fish are starting to spawn, so I think that’s what they are looking for.  We had a loon upstream yesterday that was just beautiful to see,” said Rice.

Loons are not the only ones fishing the river this time of year. Anglers can also try their luck at catching some fish.  While some may enjoy success, others have to settle for the beautiful sights and sounds of the falls. While most of the attention is on the waterfalls themselves, Michaela shared with us some hidden gems that can be found in the park.

“One of my favorite locations that’s often missed is the picnic flow area. So, this is a lava flow area that is down by the mouth of the river, it’s about a mile downstream and its igneous rock – that dark rock that you see all over the North Shore, but it brings you right down to the water. So, there’s no sand, no rocks, it’s just one bedrock. It’s one of the most calming places I’ve ever been,” said Rice.

Located just 15 minutes north of Two Harbors, Gooseberry Falls State Park can be turned into a full day adventure, or a simple afternoon visit.

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