Aug 25

Now and Then Falls – Wisconsin

Now and Then Falls
The Now and Then Falls is all up to waterflow.  From the pictures that I have seen online to my own experience it all comes down to how wet the season has been.  I guess I was lucky to see some sort of waterfall at all.  While others were there when Now and Then Falls was really flowing.  The name certainly fits this waterfall.
Now and Then Falls SignLocated in Amnicon State Park, one of the best spots to see waterfalls in the state of Wisconsin.  Now and Then Falls is the least scenic of the four named waterfalls.  Lower and Upper Amnicon Falls are the namesake of the park. While Snake Pitt Falls has several small drops before leading to its main attraction.
Now and Then Falls Close up
Hopefully during your visit Now and then Falls will be flowing if not take solace in the many other waterfalls found in the area.

To see our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here

Now and Then Falls
Located at 4279 S County Road U, South Range, Wisconsin in Amnicon State Park
Roadside Falls- Located on the opposite side of the parking lot from the other falls
There is an admission fee to enter the state park.

Aug 14

Lower Amnicon Falls – Wisconsin

Lower Amnicon Falls
Lower Amnicon Falls is the other and dare say lesser half to what amounts to the park’s main attraction.   While not my ideal type of waterfall.  Lower Amnicon Falls roughly 100 yards away its counterpart and worth the quick way down to see.  Now if my visit to here occured in August then I might have a completely different opinion of the falls.  It seems like an excellent swimming hole in what I imagine is a short window of opportunity to enjoy.  Located in the far northern part of Wisconsin near Lake Superior.  This Amnicon Falls State Park waterfall was just begging for a dip.  However, a chilly June day was not the day to do it.

Lower Amnicon Falls is a 20-foot waterfall with a 10-foot crest.  Almost identical in size to Upper Amnicon Falls.  But that is where the similarities between the two falls end.  Lower Amnicon Falls has a gradual drop almost like a slide.  Scenic due to the fact that it sits below a covered bridge, but it makes for a much better swimming hole than a beautiful waterfall.

Overall, this was my least favorite of all the named waterfalls in the park.  The very scenic Horton bridge is a nice touch to what amounts to a natural waterslide.  Since swimming is allowed I could see this being a wonderful spot to be during the dog days of summer. However, a cloudy day at the beginning of June and Lower Amnicon Falls is just worth a few pictures before moving on.

To read our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here.
Lower Amnicon Falls As is
Upper Amnicon Falls
Located at 4279 S County Road U, South Range, Wisconsin in Amnicon State Park
Roadside Falls- Located right below the covered bridge near the parking lot
There is an admission fee to enter the state park.

Aug 13

Upper Amnicon Falls – Wisconsin

Upper Amnicon Falls
Upper Amnicon Falls is not the biggest or best waterfall in the area.  However, it is the namesake to a state park that should not be missed.  Amnicon Falls State Park was a blast to visit. Everything was accessible not far to walk to and incredibly scenic.
Upper Amnicon Falls Wisconsin
Amnicon Falls State Park has to be one of the easiest spots to see multiple waterfalls named and unnamed in the Midwest.  Four named waterfalls all off the same parking lot long with multiple unnamed cascades in the same area.  Upper and Lower Falls Amnicon Falls, Snake Pit Falls, and Now and then Falls.  As an amateur photographer who loves taking pictures of waterfalls this place along with Patterson State Park down the road made for an incredible morning of Wisconsin waterfall hunting.
Upper Amnicon Falls Horton Bridge
Upper Amnicon Falls is a 20-foot waterfall with a 10-foot crest.  A nice sized waterfall that can be viewed from multiple angles all of which are very easy to get to.  Making this a wonderful waterfall to photograph and work on my craft.  Overall, a nice waterfall that became more scenic when a local country bridge was given a roof and added to the state park in the 1930s.  The Horton Bridge adds a bit of aged charm with its arched support beams and covered bridge appeal.

To read our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here.
Base of Upper Amnicon Falls
Upper Amnicon Falls
Located at 4279 S County Road U, South Range, Wisconsin in Amnicon State Park
Roadside Falls- Located right off the covered bridge near the parking lot
There is an admission fee to enter the state park.

Aug 10

Snake Pit Falls – Wisconsin

Snake Pit Falls
Looking for waterfalls?  Look no further than Amnicon Falls State Park. They have 4 named ones including Snake Pit Falls.  Finally, a waterfall with an interesting name.  Upper, Lower, Bridal Veil, Punchbowl heard of those?  I bet you have.  “Where you going?” I am going to go see Snake Pit Falls.  Now I sound like an explorer.  At least it has a much better ring to it than saying, “oh just going to see upper falls.”
old stone bridge ruins with waterfall
All joking aside.  Snake Pit Falls is a scenic small multiple drop waterfall.  It was hard to determine exactly which part of the falls is actually Snake Pit Falls.  That part of the river has many small drops as it winds its way through Amnicon Falls State Park.  Does it start with the small cascade by the remnants of old stone bridge?  The small drop a short distance down river where a small branch forks from the Amnicon River or is the multi-tiered drop at the end.  Never figured that out and don’t mind because it was all beautiful to me.
Snake Pit Falls Wisconsin
Snake Pit Falls like all the waterfalls in Amnicon Falls State Park is user friendly, easy to get to.  There is a large main parking lot with a loop trail that is under a quarter mile that takes its visitors to all the drops of Snake Pit Falls.  The trail is not wheel chair accessible but I would say it was suitable for any able body person.

To see our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here
Snake Pit Falls Top Part
Snake Pit Falls
Located at 4279 S County Road U, South Range, Wisconsin in Amnicon State Park
Trailhead is located at the main parking after crossing the covered bridge.
.2 mile roundtrip easy level hike.
There is an admission fee to enter the state park.

Aug 09

Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center – Superior Wisconsin

P-38 Lighting
It is amazing what a person can find if they are just aware enough to look.  That is pretty much how I came across the Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center.  As I was heading back from seeing some fabulous Wisconsin Waterfalls I noticed out my side window a pretty interesting military museum.  Made a mental note of it.  A few days later my family went back to check it out.  Once there both my daughters attention turned to the nice looking playground near the parking lot.  After declining my invitation to go into the museum, my gracious wife offered to watch the kids giving me a chance to tour the museum.  Incredible lady that wife of mine.  After sizing up the museum I told her I would not be long seeing that it was a little on the small side. Though I found out that the Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center made up for it by having one incredible story to tell.
Army Jeep
Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center named after the Ace of Aces of World War II.  History teacher, World War II buff, grandfather fought in the war, but I had no idea who Richard I Bong was.  If I had come along his name during my studies it had been long forgotten.  Not anymore.  His story was incredible.  Clean cut all-American kid.  Small town boy that makes good during the war.  Adventurer that fell in love with flying while growing up.  Went to school to become a pilot enlisted at the breakout of WWII before the United States was involved.  While training showed off his wild-side by high-hatting all over San Francisco Bay, buzzing streets, flying between buildings, blowing the wash off of people’s clothes lines.  Once the war broke out for the States he was sent to the Pacific where he knocked down 40 Japanese planes, flew 200 combat missions, and over 500 combat hours. Recipient of the Medal of Honor.  Bong returned home as a war hero.  Unfortunately, in one of those strange twists that are found throughout history.  Richard I Bong died the same day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  He was testing a new jet plane.  As the war that made him an American hero was coming to a close Bong lost his life helping the U.S. prepare for the next one.  He was only 24 years old.
Japanese WWII Artifacts
I learned a lot from my visit.  While the museum is a memorial to Richard I Bong’s heroics in World War II.  It also serves as a tribute to all the brave men and women who protected the freedoms of the United States during the 20th century.  Home to a variety of artifacts, weapons, uniforms, and a few vehicles from World War I through the Cold War.  It is not a large museum but it was packed full of information about America’s military history throughout the 1900s.
Lake Superior Military Museum
The centerpiece of the museum is a P-38 Lighting which was the same type of plane that Bong flew in World War II.  But the Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center does not stop there.  They had a WWI trench display, a replica nuclear rocket, and lots of small personal artifacts on display from letters, uniforms, and field equipment.
Veterans Historical Center
The Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center also does a nice job showcasing the local history.  Obviously with the museum’s namesake but also other local veterans.  Their Korean War exhibit is made up of personal stories and photographs from people from the Lake Superior area that served. On the museum grounds, there is also a war memorial paying tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice.  The Homefront was not forgotten with an exhibit explaining the important role local industry played during WWII.
War Memorial
Military museums are not for everyone.  Though I like to go for the history lesson but more importantly to learn about the sacrifices brave men and women made to protect the freedom my family and I enjoy.  It is the least that I could do to keep their memory and service alive. They should never be forgotten.

To see our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here

Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center
Located at 305 E 2nd St. Superior, WI
Cost as of this Posting: 18 to 64 $9, Students 12- 17 and 65 and over $8 Children 6 to 11 $7
Hours of Operation May through October 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 12 to 5 on Sunday from November to April 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday
For more information visit their website at

Aug 07

Little Manitou Falls – Wisconsin

Little Manitou Falls
Little Manitou Falls is the perfect complement to its big brother just up the road.  Both falls make Patterson State Park a great visit for waterfall lovers.  At 30-feet tall it is a decent sized waterfall in its own right, but pales in comparison to Big Manitou Falls.  Though it has its own features that make it worth seeing.  A split waterfall that I would wager is twice as wide as it tall. Plus, unlike the other fall found in Patterson State Park Little Manitou Falls allowed me to get down to its base.

Personally, I enjoyed Big Manitou Falls more than this one.  However, I found both of them worth seeing.  A nice thing about both falls is their ease of access.  Both waterfalls had nearby parking spots and short hikes to get to. Really a great place for almost all types of people to see two beautiful waterfalls.
Base Little Manitou Falls
We were a little rushed with several different areas planned to see that day.  From what I took in at Patterson State Park it looked like a great place at which to spend some time.  The highlights to me were obviously the two waterfalls, but I thought the short hike I took down from Little Manitou Falls that ran along the Black River was very scenic.  If you like hearing rushing water, feeling the cool mist of a waterfall, and getting out into nature.  Patterson State Park needs to be on your list of things to see.

To see our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here
Little Manitou Falls Wisconsin
Little Manitou Falls – Patterson State Park
Located 6294 WI-35, Superior, WI
Trailhead is off state Highway 35
.1 Mile to Falls overlook
Easy level hike.

Aug 06

Big Manitou Falls – Wisconsin

Big Manitou Falls
Go big or go home.  That has been our motto on family vacations for a while now.  Discovering that the tallest waterfall in Wisconsin, Big Manitou Falls, was a short drive from where we were staying in Duluth, Minnesota we knew we had to see it.  Being from the plains it is not every day you get to a 165-foot waterfall.  The fourth largest east of the Rockies and as tall as Niagara Falls, how could we not go and see it.

Big Manitou Falls is aptly named.  Big but skinny. One of the main things that stood out to me was the root beer tint to the falls.  Like many of the falls in the area they flow with a tannish tint that comes from the decomposition of the heavy foliage of the area.  At first it was a little off putting, but once learning that it is a natural occurrence and caused by tannins I started to enjoy the strangeness of this waterfalls versus others I have photographed.
Big Manitou Falls Wisconsin
While Patterson State Park is a very large area to explore it is quite easy to see both waterfalls that are found there.  Big Manitou Falls is located near the park entrance on the opposite side of the main parking lot.  Found on Road B near InterFalls Lake there is a small parking lot that serves Big Manitou Falls.  A short walk across the road and very easy .1-mile trail took us to the falls overlook.  The trail continues down to the base of the Black River Gorge but the falls are only visible from the first set of overlooks.

The whole area is chalk full of waterfalls and Big Manitou Falls is certainly one of the better ones to see.  So glad that we made the drive over from Minnesota to Wisconsin.  Make sure if you go see Big Manitou Falls also check out Little Manitou Falls as well as Amnicon Falls State Park.

For our reviews of other Wisconsin attractions, click here
Patterson State Park
Big Manitou Falls – Patterson State Park
Located 6294 WI-35, Superior, WI
Trailhead is off the parking lot on Road B
.1 Mile to Falls overlook
Easy level hike.

Aug 01

Black Beach – Silver Bay, MN

Black Sand Beach Highway 61
My wife and girls never thought they were going to get their beach vacation when we headed to the North Star State of Minnesota.  But there we were on a beautiful black “sand” beach.  Girls running towards the waves and retreating squealing with glee as the waves would touch their toes.  Spending some time on Black Beach was like having a vacation in a vacation.  It really took us away from Minnesota.  Until the cold frigid Lake Superior water snapped us back.
M Kick
When we go on vacation we hardly ever visit the same spot multiple times.  Trying to see as much of an area as we can there is just not much time for repeat visits.  We enjoyed Black Beach so much that we saw it twice.  If the weather would have cooperated we would have visited it a third time.  Bar none it was my girls favorite spot in Minnesota.
Black Sand Beach Lake Superior
Located right below Silver Bay on Lakeview Drive.  Follow the road to the end where there is a small parking lot to Black Beach.  From the parking lot, a short hike will take you to a large beach area with a scenic rock formation in the background.  Amazing that what started out as mining waste of taconite tailings has turned into one of the more unique spots of Lake Superior’s Northshore.
Happy Girl
We had a blast playing in the small gravely tailings.  They look grey in the sunlight but once water hits it is as black as night.  We were constantly going from the beach to the water.  The black “sand” was hot on the toes so a quick cooling off in Lake Superior was a necessity.  Unfortunately, Lake Superior is as cold as it sounds.  After a few seconds in the water a numbing pain would overtake our feet and we would quickly have to get out.  Only to repeat the process again and again.  All of that probably does not make much sense towards explaining how great of place we found Black Beach to be.  Words can’t really explain how great of destination Black Beach was for us.  It just was.  Sitting in the sun, looking out at the waves rolling in, listening to them crash on the shore and especially seeing our daughter’s gigantic smiles really sealed the deal for us.

To see our reviews of other Minnesota Attractions, click here
Cold Water
Black Beach
Located off of Highway 61 about an hour north of Duluth at Silver Bay
Free to visit

Jul 25

Wolf Creek Falls – Minnesota

Wolf Creek Falls
Wolf Creek Falls was supposed to just be a side note in our Minnesota adventure.  A place to stop as we made our way from Minneapolis to Duluth.  It ended up being one of my fondest memories of the whole trip.  All because of my wonderful daughter and her incredible imagination.
Dirt Girl
My oldest and I have had several “adventures” over the last couple of years.  Our first was at properly named Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas.  She was just getting out of a momma only phase and about the last ten minutes of the hike she wanted to be with her.  Once we made it to that waterfall all was well. We have been hooked on those types of adventures ever since.  So, I look for them wherever we go.  Short hikes that we can do together and Wolf Creek Falls looked like the perfect one for us.  Flat, easy to follow (so we thought), and a short trail.  Big payoff at the end in the form of a waterfall.  It is also located about halfway through Minneapolis and Duluth which was our drive for the day.  A win-win if there ever was one.
Banning State Park Waterfall
After stopping at the park’s information center, filling out the form, paying the day use fee, and getting a map, we headed to the Wolf Creek Falls trailhead.  Located at the park’s campground it was a really easy find.  There is a sign at the trailhead and wide mowed path to follow.  The hike is very level for three quarters of the way down the path.  However, the last bit gets a little tricky.  The path ends up on a rocky bluff where it becomes less easy to see.  Best advice is listen quietly for the sound of a waterfall and follow what looks like the most likely path to the sound.
Wolf Creek Trail
The first view of the waterfall will take place from a rocky area that is slightly above and to the side of Wolf Creek Falls.  It’s a good place to sit down and enjoy the area.  From there a path will take you to a small sandy area that lies directly across from the falls.  A great little play area.  My daughter and I kicked off our shoes and dug our feet into the sandy mud and splashed around in the shallows.  After a few minutes of fun, I asked if I could go and take a few pictures of Wolf Creek Falls.  She was ok with that.  So, I walked up a little mound set up my tripod and went to work.
McKenna at Wolf Creek falls
While taking some pictures I started to hear McKenna hum a little tune.  That humming is something she picked up from her mother.  Something they do when they are content.  Well, pretty soon this tune ended up becoming a full-blown song about what she was doing.  Playing in the dirt, splashing around, that she is Dirt Girl out on an adventure with Sandy Dad. We saw many great things on that trip but watching her play and come up with a superhero theme to our quest together topped them all.  My only regret was that I did not record her song.  I was worried that if she caught me she would have stopped singing and I would have ruined the moment. I have tried that in the past but as soon as she sees I am recording her she clams up.  So, I just sat there and enjoyed our joy.  Ever since then I have become Sandy Dad and she has become Dirt Girl whenever we go out on an adventure.

Thus, the origin of Sandy Dad and Dirt Girl.  The dynamic duo that has expanded to include Kid Pebble and Muddy Mom.  When our powers combine we create family fun and memories to last a life time.

For our other reviews of Minnesota waterfalls, click here
Dirt Girl and Sandy Dad
Wolf Creek Falls
Located at Banning State Park, Sandstone MN
Trailhead is at the campground
1.5 mile out and back trail
Plan for about 30 to 45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Jul 24

Great Zoo Exhibit: Minnesota Trail

Many zoos have gone the route of designating an area filled with wildlife from their state.  It is a great way to get people interested in protecting their local resources as well as housing animals that are already adapted to the climate of the area.  Many of these exhibits are well done.  However, I think the Minnesota Zoo and their Minnesota Trail has topped them all.
bald eagle
The Minnesota Trail is indoor/outdoor immersion enclosure that shows off a rich diversity of Minnesota wildlife.  Home to small animals like raccoons, turtles, and frogs. All the way to the top of the food chain with black bears and wolves.  Walking down the trail is like a who’s who of Minnesota animals.  It seems like the only thing missing from the trail is a moose, but that animal can be found in a large enclosure at another part of the zoo. So, when I said they had it all, I meant it.
seeing the Turtles
One thing we really appreciated was the little add-ons that they have in their immersion exhibits.  Both the Grizzly Trail and Tropics Trail had them and the Minnesota Trail is no different.  The walkway is designed like an old backwoods log cabin with large wooden beams everywhere.  For the kiddos, they have a paper press for each of the major animals on display.  Each time a child sees one they put their scavenger hunt card in the little machine and press down.  It leaves an imprint of the animal on their card.  Both my little girls enjoyed looking for them and then getting their stamp.
Bear enclousure
We really enjoyed our walk down the Minnesota Trail.  The enclosures were well designed the animals seemed to be happy, about, and moving.  The exhibit starts off like you are visiting a large lodge.  There are some small tanks along the walls with turtles and frogs.  As well as a desk with zoo a volunteer to help answer any questions about the exhibit.  From there the Minnesota Trail took us through a variety of ecosystems found in the state.  Waterways with a large beaver bond that has a video monitor in case the animals are tucked into their lodge another area with river otters playing.  The woodland area with wolves, bears, and pumas.  As well as the forest glade home to animals like raccoons and lynx.  They even had a wild bird deck that attracts native birds to a viewing area.  All-in-all it was a really nice setup to introduce people to Minnesota’s natural wildlife.
Having Fun
While yes, a visit to most first-class zoos like the Minnesota Zoo can be a big hit to the wallet.  There is one simple step you may be able to take to save quite a bit of money along the way.  If you live close to an affiliated zoo buy a membership. After a few trips to your local place it usually pays for itself and then most zoos offer at least 50% off when you visit them.  It definitely takes the sting out of a visit.  Though with the quality of exhibits like the Minnesota Trail on display the Minnesota Zoo is worth the admission price.

For more of our reviews of Minnesota attractions, click here
Grace and bear
Minnesota Zoo
Location: 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley Minnesota
Hours of Operation: Summer Months May through September 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with extended hours on Saturday and Sunday and October through April 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Cost as of this Posting: Ages 13-64 $18.00 Ages 3 to 12 and 65 and over are $12.00
For more information visit their website at

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