Superior, Wisconsin, across the bay from Duluth, Minnesota, was where we were staying. In conversation with some very friendly local residents, they recommended that we check out a couple of state parks south of town. One afternoon, we set out for these two parks.
Amnicon Falls State Park
The first state park that we came to was Amnicon Falls State Park along the Amnicon River. The river’s name comes from the Ojibwe words meaning “where the fish spawn.” Over its 30 mile course, the river descends 640 ft. In the park boundaries, it falls 180 ft. as it tumbles over the Douglas Fault. The Amnicon divides into two streams creating a series of waterfalls and cascades as it meanders through the park. There are four named waterfalls there: Upper, Lower, Snake, and Now and Then. The Upper Falls and Lower Falls drop 20 ft. each.
The Snake Pit Falls is the highest waterfall and the Now and Then Falls is the smallest. The latter only flows when there is plenty of water, hence its name.
Early on the local residents enjoyed spending time along the Amnicon River banks. To help preserve it, the county bought 60 acres and an additional 60 were gifted to them. Over time the town of Amnicon purchased more acreage and in 1965 sold 522 acres to the state of Wisconsin. Today the park covers 828 acres.
The Horton Bridge is another attraction in this state park. In 1930, this 55 ft. long bridge was placed over one of the streams near the Lower Falls. Designed by Charles Horton, it has a unique construction. Instead of using rivets and bolts to assemble it, Mr. Horton used arched beams and secured them with hooks and clips. He believed that the bridge was stronger, lighter, and more durable than a conventional one. An added advantage was that it could be assembled without expensive machinery. Mr. Horton applied for and obtained patents for his bridge designs. Today only five of them remain. Other than the one in the state park, the others are in La Crosse County.
While admiring the Horton Bridge, we met an older couple and their daughter who were visiting the park as well. They were originally from Superior, WI but now live in Madison, WI. They still have a cabin nearby and come here often when they are in the area on vacation. They were very kind and told us how to get to the Snake Falls. We ran into them several more times as we made our way through the park.
Amnicon Falls State Park was a lovely, quiet respite and well worth the effort to get there.
Pattison State Park
Pattison State Park is located on the Black River. The Ojibwe, who have lived in the area for more than 3,000 years, called it “Mucudewa Sebee” which means “dark” or “black.” The water often looks like the color of root beer due to the tannins in the decaying vegetation and minerals found the river’s path.
This state park is 1,436 acres and has two main waterfalls, gorges, and a lake. Big Manitou Falls has a 165 ft. drop and is the highest waterfall in Wisconsin. We found these falls to be most impressive.
The Little Manitou Falls is lovely but only 31 ft. high.
Interfalls Lake has a beach which is a draw for a lot of people who want to cool down on hot summer days.
The park owes its very existence to its namesake Martin Pattison. He was a wealthy man who made his fortune in the lumber and mining business in the late 1800s. In 1917 there was talk of building a hydroelectric dam on the Black River which would have effected the Falls. To ensure that Manitou Falls was not compromised, he began to buy up property along the river and donated it to the state. Thanks to Mr. Pattison, the state park opened on January 20, 1920.
We were glad that we took the advice of our new found friends in Wisconsin and visited both of these lovely state parks. Being out in nature, seeing the waterfalls, and hearing the rivers as they cascade and fall over rocks and cliffs is good for the soul.
Superior Entry Lighthouse
David and I really like the lighthouses on Lake Superior so we wanted to visit as many as we could during our stay so we made the 15 mile drive to Wisconsin Point to see the Superior Entry Lighthouse. This light is not located on top of a cliff but rather on a ten mile sandbar between Duluth, MN and Superior, WI. This sandbar is the longest freshwater sandbar in the world. There is a split in the sandbar near its center. The 70 ft. tall light sits at the end of a rocky breakwater. First lit in 1913, it had a fourth order Fresnel lens that broadcast a beam about 16 miles and it served to guide mariners to the port’s entry. In 1970, the Coast Guard replaced the lens with an aerobeacon.
The lighthouse’s age and its unusual round white tower with a red lantern and the white light keeper’s house with a red roof earned it the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places.
Interestingly, the U. S. General Services Administration put the Superior Entry Lighthouse up for sale in 2019. Steven Broudy, a 34-year old tech executive who lives in San Francisco, won the auction and paid $159,000 for it. The government still owns the navigational aid and the breakwater beneath the building. The new owner plans to renovate the two-story living quarters and use it as a vacation spot and also rent it out through Airbnb. Apparently, the government has sold 139 lighthouses to private citizens over the past two decades. Some are private residences while others are museums now. So, if you are interested in owning your very own lighthouse, you might be able to do so. Who knew?
We had a wonderful stay in the city of Superior. We met some lovely and welcoming Wisconsinites, visited two beautiful state parks, and discovered yet another picturesque lighthouse on Lake Superior.