The waterfalls of the Manitou River are a scenic highlight of the North Shore — but few people are able to see them.
A lengthy segment of the river gorge upstream from Minnesota Highway 61, including some cascades, is part of George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park. But the quarter-mile or so of river below Highway 61, which includes a couple sets of falls, passes through private property and is largely inaccessible to the public.
They can be seen by boaters and kayakers who venture out on Lake Superior along the rocky North Shore — or they can be seen from the air. Liftoff Aerials videographer Cory Fechner of Duluth shared photos of the Manitou River falls he shot Monday using a drone launched from along Highway 61.
The highway crosses the Manitou River about 3 miles northeast of Little Marais, or about 65 miles northeast of Duluth. The falls below the highway include a drop of several dozen feet into Lake Superior — one of the only waterfalls that drops directly into the lake.
While few people may get the chance to see the falls today, they were more accessible in years past. “The WPA Guide to Minnesota,” published in 1938 by the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, provides this description from that time:
“Most trout fishermen use ropes to climb down to the mouth where fine rainbow and speckled trout usually lurk beneath the protective rocks. Sometimes a sand bar, 10 to 15 feet in width, closes the mouth and forms a shallow lagoon into which the waterfall plunges, but this bar has a transient existence, coming and going according to the action of waves and current.