DULUTH – We heard it before we saw it. The sound built and filled our space. It could only mean one thing: waterfall.
It was late April, and my son Nick and I were on the eastern edge of the city to find one of the gems that Gary and Eve Wallinga write about in their authoritative guidebook, “Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore & More.”
Clearly owing to spring, Tischer Creek was coming fast and furious in spots. Especially where we encountered it just off Superior Street toward the bottom. The falls were an eye-catching combination of verticality and curve, with several tiers higher than others, all the while carving their way through a stunning gorge of red rock, tall cedars and footbridges. It felt like we stumbled on a hidden world.
The steep walls contained the tumbling water, which charged the air as it rolled on itself and past us, down and through the hilly Congdon Park neighborhood. Meanwhile, we went against the flow along the creek’s western trail, up and up farther still for going on a half-mile, encountering more falls. In the midafternoon sun and shadow, a particularly large pool demanded attention — and got it. We saw a fly angler anchored at the base of a falls, trying his hand.
Tischer Creek might be regarded as a trickle compared to some of the Wallingas’ entries in their book, but it makes their cut for North Shore waterfalls to consider this spring. Partly it’s because Duluth was their starting point for the book, which was first published in 2006, but also because the couple likes waterfalls that have more going than, well, water. As they write in the guide, their attention is to “the waterfall experience.”
Height of the cascade is but one factor. Criteria such as a falls’ surroundings, the volume of water, and ability to view a falls mattered to them, too. In the guide (find it at evewallinga.com), they also give each waterfalls entry a rating for hike difficulty and quality of its trail.
“In the beginning we had to have some parameters because we would have been overwhelmed,” said Gary Wallinga. “But it also evolved the more we got into it.”
Of course experiencing some of the falls can be exceedingly different depending on the season. A surge in May might reduce to a moderate flow by August. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The Cascades of the Manitou River is a good example. In the spring the flow was so massive, it was one solid sheet of water, and you couldn’t get close. But it was impressive in terms of the magnitude of the flow,” said Eve Wallinga. “Later in the summer, you could see much more of the rock formation underneath the waterfall and you could get much closer to it. In that way the experience was in some ways better.”
Forced to pick a favorite location, both mentioned Partridge Falls on the Pigeon River, on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. Eve Wallinga said it nearly didn’t make the book, broadened in a second edition to include some falls in Ontario and Wisconsin. An editor mentioned Partridge Falls.
“There is so much water coming through … it hasn’t mattered what time of year we’ve gone there,” she said. In the book, they talk of its “30-foot mountain of white froth.”
“That’s one we consider really spectacular, and it’s so different, so mighty a waterfall, but you can be so close to it,” said Eve Wallinga, adding that many people they encounter haven’t heard of it. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Bob Timmons • 612-673-7899