Pattison State Park, Wisconsin, Our Tallest Waterfall and Lasting Flood Damage

Next up in the mini-moon adventure tale is a day filled with waterfalls. If you like waterfalls, this region of Northern Wisconsin is for you.

Waking up at Brunet Island State Park we packed up the campsite, loaded the car, and said farewell to the campsite friends we made the night before. We were off on our 2 hour and 15 minute drive north to Pattison State Park. We did a pretty good job of trying to explore the state parks in sections to limit travel time but there was no avoiding having to lump this much driving together at once.

Driving up highway 53, we passed by a number of towns. One of these was the small town of Minong, WI. I’m sure they’re known for more but this town is home to beef jerky royalty, Jack Link’s. There’s an outlet store in town you can stop at. We didn’t stop there but did buy some jerky from the obscenely large selection at the gas station off the the highway. Highly recommend it.

If you’re planning a trip to Pattison make sure to be aware of any closures before you go. As of the end of the 2019 season, the park’s website continued to list several trail closures due to the heavy rainfall and flooding in the summer of 2018. Even a year later, the evidence of the flood was visible in portions of the park.

Links to Follow Along:
Pattison State Park Website
Park Map
Trail Descriptions
Map of Park Closures

We began the park visit at the main attraction, Big Manitou Falls. If you’re camping in the park, there’s a tunnel for easy access from the rest of the park. Driving in for the visit, there is a parking lot across the street for easy access.

There are two access points to view the falls and I recommend both. One point brings you in front of the falls while the other brings you behind and above it.

You can hear the roar of the water long before you see the falls.

At 165 feet, Big Manitou Falls is Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall!

Jon tried to hold the falls in his hand.

Since I first noticed these I now see them everywhere. Travel Wisconsin’s selfie stands help you get the perfect selfie or group photo.

After stopping at the second lookout point, we decided to walk the trail down to the river.

Big Manitou Falls River Trail

Length: 1 mile there and back
Difficulty: Moderate
Description: This trail brings you from the lookout point down to the river below. The trail is a little steep in sections and includes stairs

The trail surface is flat and wide but the steep hill definitely left us winded. This was good after spending 2 hours in a car.

The final push to the river is a few sets of stairs.

At the river you can walk along the rocky bed as you see the smooth rock wall made by the river.

After visiting the river we walked back up the path to the road to check out the side closest to the waterfall.

From this vantage point you can see the river that flows over the rock. It’s cool to see the water start to speed up as it nears the fall.

Water flowing towards the water fall

Evidence of the 2018 flooding is everywhere. Parts of the region received over a foot of rain resulting in washed out roads, downed trees, and loss of crops.

This photo was taken in June 2019. You can see the washed out path and downed tree. Notice the pedestrian tunnel in the distance. The photo below was taken from the road above the tunnel.

So much water.

The view from this side is equally amazing.

After finishing at Big Manitou Falls, we got back into the car and drove down the road to Little Manitou Falls. Like the big falls, this falls is easily accessible from a parking lot.

A short walk on the Little Manitou Falls Trail brings you to more water falls. This time, twin falls!

The green foliage makes a natural photo frame.

The Little Manitou Falls trail is closed immediately beyond the waterfall. When open, this trail brings you to the beach area and Big Manitou Falls. As of the end of 2019, the trail was still closed. There is no word online about the severity of the damage or an expected date to reopen.

Takeaway: This park is gorgeous and worth your time. I can’t speak to the majority of the trails as we only hiked the one. I hope to make a return visit to check out the other trails as they too seemed interesting. If you are interested in waterfalls, this park and others in the area are for you. Next I’ll focus on another nearby state park dedicated to waterfalls.

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