The Land Between the Lakes: Wisconsin to Minnesota

September 20th:

I spent most of the day working (thankful for remote work) but was able to go hiking in the Wisconsin backcountry on my work break before driving to Minnesota (prepping to return home to NC after a ‘superior’ trip).

My Lake Superior Adventures could also be dubbed – ‘Land of Enchanted Waterfalls.’ Each byway and trail seems to lead to a beautiful river flowing with rocky cliffs and gorgeous waterfalls.

After leaving the Washburn-Bayfield area near The Apostle Islands, I drove south ninety minutes through golden farmland where the finest fruits are grown from apples and berries. Dairy farms hugged roadsides in picturesque quintessential Wisconsin fashion.

I always check area state parks on my routes as many state parks are equal in beauty to National Recreation sites. Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota offer ‘superior’ park facilities and scenery.

And being a waterfall lover, I couldn’t resist a detour to Pattinson State Park – the home to Wisconsin’s most powerful waterfall – Big Manitou.

Nestled in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin just south of Superior (30 minutes roughly) near Amnicon Falls…Pattison State Park is worth getting off the beaten path. Surrounded by gorgeous ambling forests and farmland, this state park plays homage to The Black River of Wisconsin, a tributary of The Mississippi River…this is NOT the same Black River we saw in Michigan.

I actually searched ‘Black River’ and it is a common name for rivers across the US and beyond.

The Black River meanders through rambling rocks until it suddenly drops 175 feet into the gorge below. The rock is blackish and chiseled – akin to something I’d imagine in western NC or out west in Montana. It is striking.

Fun fact: Big Manitou is the fifth tallest waterfall east of The Rockies…We’ve been blessed to see some fantastic waterfalls this summer on American Nomad from Yellowstone to Tennessee to NC and now Lake Country

The good news is that Big Manitou Falls are very accessible for the impaired. An easy walking trail gives you several views of the thundering waterfall.

You can also take a short walk to the brink of the falls.

Little Manitou Falls is also accessible from a separate parking lot trail.

The State Park includes a relaxing campground, small gift shop, several miles of hiking trails and a dammed lake.

I then drove through the St. Croix River scenic byway (we visited the park on my first day in Minnesota) and headed through Danbury.

I will be working in the Twin Cities area for a few days so I wanted to take in a bit more scenery en route.

Mille Lacs is one of the larger lakes in MN and was not far off my route. I ended the day with a relaxing view of the lake from Father Hennepin State Park. Named after 1600s French missionary and explorer, Fr. Hennepin, this state park has gorgeous beaches for swimming and clear calm waters. Be aware of the zebra mussel though – an invasive species that is hurting the regional lakes.

Mille Lacs has several lakefront rentals, but the nearest larger towns are Brainerd and Baxter.

Thanks for taking this adventure with me and following the blog.

I’ll summarize my Minneapolis travels in a few days.

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