First Visit to Canyon River Gorge

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On a quick visit to the well-known Canyon River Falls on their way back from Appleton the group finds wet trails and impressive waterfalls. published on by

Katie, Emily, and Logan along the river

We were on our way back up north after a fun wedding weekend in Appleton, WI. It was Katie, Emily, Logan and I in a small vehicle on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and by the time we reached Covington I had convinced them to stop by Canyon River Falls before reaching Houghton. The original plan was to visit both Falls River Falls and Canyon River Falls on the drive down but we ran low on time. Plus, Canyon River Falls would give us all a chance to stretch our legs with a good hour left in the drive.

The rain had stopped when we reached the roadside park though the foliage and path was still soaked. I wanted to do a thorough exploration and headed down a grassy side trail almost as soon as we left the parking area, with Katie and Emily staying back on the wide gravel trail. What I found was worth the soaked jeans. The original wooden sign for the falls, now with moss starting to overtake it, and a surprisingly beautiful bridge for US-41 over the river lay down this path. I returned with wet pants and a dripping dog excited to see what the actual trail had for us.

Old park sign in the woods

Old park sign in the woods

Highway bridge over Sturgeon River

Highway bridge over Sturgeon River

The maintained trail was scenic, crossing over Bacco Creek on a small wooden bridge and weaving around large, damp cedars. When it started following the banks of the Sturgeon River closely I took some time to cut onto the flat rock banks, taking pictures of the swollen waters and smaller upstream drops. The flat slate made for excellent vantage points and crisp drops on the river. Between multiple pauses for pictures and occasional puppy moments it took us a fair amount of time to reach the waterfall.

Dropping down clunky shelves of slate

Dropping down clunky shelves of slate

A viewing platform near the crest of the falls marks the end of the maintained trail. As usual, though, I wanted to get a closer a look. Handing the puppy off to Katie I clambered over the rock ledges, down a few levels until I was eye-level with the falls and well below the fenced platform.

Next to Canyon River Falls

Next to Canyon River Falls

The main drop here is actually the beginning of a long canyon. Sturgeon River falls into a wide crack straight down the layers of slate, probably about ten feet down, before swerving right down the gorge and continuing downstream. Only side views of this drop is possible, as the opposite bank is almost an overhang and the river is tight against both edges of the canyon.

I spent some time looking around these ledges and admiring the blocky waterfall before heading back up. Some footpaths continued downstream so we followed them, over the rock wall and past some lush green moss. We didn't go too far, just past the first bend. I found out later that there are more drops along the river, in the gorge, but today Katie and Emily were ready to head back. After one last look back at the main drop we turned around and headed back to the car, meandering slowly through the rain-fresh woods.

Trip Photos

  • Old park sign in the woods
  • Highway bridge over Sturgeon River
  • Gnarled roots along the path
  • Water snaking around the slate
  • Dropping down clunky shelves of slate
  • Next to Canyon River Falls
  • Katie, Emily, and Logan along the river
  • Mossy rock wall marking the paths end

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