One of the places that I visited last week was Grand Portage State Park. I had never been north of Grand Marais before, and since I had an entire Saturday to myself I decided to spend it exploring. I first hit Judge CR Magney Park, but I’ll save that for another day.
Grand Portage State Park is on the border between Canada and Minnesota and is wholly contained within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. It’s place along the Pigeon River makes for a picturesque setting due to the many waterfalls on this part of the river. There are two waterfalls within the park and I decided to hit both of them.
The first was the High Falls, which are located a short half a mile from the visitor center. The path to these falls are completely paved, making it easy for anyone to visit the site. When you arrive you travel up to one of two different platforms that give you a stunning view of the falls. This waterfall was truly spectacular, and its height meant that there was a slight mist in the air from the crashing water. I managed a few night shots of the falls and then decided to embark on the trek to the middle falls, deep within the park.
The hike to the Middle Falls is 2.5 miles out and back from the visitor center, and once you leave the paved path, it’s very rugged terrain, much like most of the Superior Hiking Trail. Additionally, there is a ridge that you need to get over, and to the other side of, resulting in a 300 foot climb in both directions. The path was easy to follow, although the mud got to be annoying after a while.
Eventually I made it to the falls, and I have to say, I was rather disappointed. The falls were not very high, forming more of a simple step in the river than something amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind hiking to see cool things in nature, but what really let me down is that directly across the river was a road. Ontario Highway 593 runs along the Pigeon River, and goes directly past these falls. What that means is that I hiked 2.5 miles through semi-rugged terrain to see something I could have driven to. Not exactly what I had planned.
It was still a very nice hike, and it felt good to get a solid 5+ miles of trail under my feet. I finished the hike with a short jaunt to the survey marker right on the edge of the river. There was a nice sign there describing the significance of the border and the treaty that formed it. At first I didn’t even notice the marker until I looked down and saw it embedded in the ground. That was a neat way to end my time at Grand Portage.
This is the closest I’ve ever been to Canada, and at some point I’ll need to come up and cross the border to visit places like Thunder Bay, and various parks on that side of the river. I was happy to have gotten to visit Grand Portage, and if you’re ever heading that far north I’d highly encourage you to check out the High Falls in particular. It’s well worth the stop.