High Falls of the Baptism River

Tettegouche State Park / Silver Bay / Lake County, Minnesota, USA

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 2.5
High Falls of the Baptism River

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The High Falls of the Baptism River was a gushing waterfall that really impressed Julie and I with its size as the Baptism River dropped 100ft (said to be the highest entirely in the state of Minnesota) surrounded by native forest protected by Tettegouche State Park. Although we didn't visit them, the Baptism River possessed many other waterfalls such as Ilgen Falls and Two-Step Falls among others. That said, judging by the sheer volume of water that we happened to see the falls in, I'm sure these other waterfalls would've been impressive in their own right. Although we had seen pictures of this waterfall in lower flow during our pre-trip research, we suspect that the waterfall's high flow must've been the result of some heavy (flooding) rains that hit the area in the weeks prior to our arrival in late September. So I guess, we lucked out in terms of the weather (that we weren't caught in the bad weather but benefitted from its after effects).

Julie, Tahia, and I had to go on a modestly long hike of about 0.7 miles (at least according to the signs) in each direction from the nearest trailhead (see directions below). Although the 1.4-mile round trip distance didn't seem too bad, it still took us 90 minutes away from the car (including stops) so it wasn't as short as the distances would've led us to believe. We suspect that the reason for this seemingly slow pace was either incorrect labeling (as our GPS tracks indicated that we had hiked closer to 0.9 miles in each direction than only 0.7 miles), the up-and-down nature of the hike, the muddy conditions which made it tricky for Tahia to do the hike, or a combination of all these things.

Crossing the steel suspension bridge just upstream from High Falls of the Baptism River Nevertheless, the hike began in earnest from the trailhead parking by climbing immediately. When the climb flattened out after some 10-15 minutes, the trail then pretty much went level though we encountered more muddy stretches along the way. At worst, I had to carry our daughter over the parts where it would've gotten real messy for her. And on the warm, sunny day that we did this hike, most of this trail was shaded as it was flanked by trees. After about 20 minutes of hiking, we started to encounter stairs as well as other trail junctions (attesting to the many options available for experiencing this falls or partaking in longer hikes). The sign said it was only 0.1 miles to the falls from this point, but I think the signs only meant reaching the first (partial) views of the High Falls of the Baptism River. There was still a bit more of trail to get to the best views at the very end.

Once we started to see where the High Falls of the Baptism River was, we started to see spur trails or lookout railings revealing various aspects of the waterfall. The first one yielded a nice top down view from the brink of the falls. As the main trail veered in the upstream direction while continuing to descend, we then crossed the river on a bouncy, enclosed, steel-wired suspension bridge. Once we were on the other side, we continued along the trail in the downstream direction, which revealed a few more spots to check out the impressive waterfall from its brink on this side.

Eventually, the trail continued further downstream as it descended even more steps while junctioning with other longer trails following the Baptism River. The final flight of steps descended all the way to the banks of the Baptism River, where we were able to enjoy a somewhat distant view of the High Falls. Now given the high flow that we happened to see the falls in, our options for trying to catch other angles of the falls from its base were limited, especially given the high flow of the river. While we did see some of the more daring folks scramble closer to the falls, we were content with our distant views while keeping a very close eye on our daughter so that she wouldn't get swept away.

This was the turnaround point of our hike. And even though the excursion required quite a bit of time and exercise, it was still a very busy trail as this spot was shared with other families either picnicking or camping nearby, trekkers with backpacks hiking parts of the multi-day Lake Superior Trail, or other individuals or groups doing what we were doing as we were merely content with visiting the falls before returning to the car and continuing with other waterfalling excursions along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I'm sure the combination of gorgeously sunny weather along with the fact that we visited on a weekend further exacerbated the amount of foot traffic here.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Tettegouche State Park was about 28 miles north of Gooseberry State Park, which was another place to go waterfalling as well as get views of Lake Superior like this oneTettegouche State Park was about 28 miles north of Gooseberry State Park, which was another place to go waterfalling as well as get views of Lake Superior like this one
Duluth, Minnesota (60 miles from Tettegouche SP) was the base of our Lake Superior North Shore waterfalling excursions, and as you can see from this photo, it was a great place to enjoy the waterfrontDuluth, Minnesota (60 miles from Tettegouche SP) was the base of our Lake Superior North Shore waterfalling excursions, and as you can see from this photo, it was a great place to enjoy the waterfront
Julie and Tahia beginning the climb just as we left the car park and started the High Falls TrailJulie and Tahia beginning the climb just as we left the car park and started the High Falls Trail

It didn't take long before we started to encounter some muddy stretches of trail, which conspired to slow us downIt didn't take long before we started to encounter some muddy stretches of trail, which conspired to slow us down

For the most part, the trail was shaded thanks to it being flanked by trees for almost the entire timeFor the most part, the trail was shaded thanks to it being flanked by trees for almost the entire time

At the muddiest parts of the trail, we had to carry Tahia so she wouldn't be mired in the muck and we'd wind up with a more extensive cleaning jobAt the muddiest parts of the trail, we had to carry Tahia so she wouldn't be mired in the muck and we'd wind up with a more extensive cleaning job

Roughly 20 minutes into the hike, we encountered stairs descending towards the Baptism RiverRoughly 20 minutes into the hike, we encountered stairs descending towards the Baptism River

Our first glimpse of the High Falls of the Baptism River and the extent of its massive plunge poolOur first glimpse of the High Falls of the Baptism River and the extent of its massive plunge pool

Looking down over the brink of High Falls with someone sitting near its brink on the opposite side for scale (after he decided to hop the barricade there)Looking down over the brink of High Falls with someone sitting near its brink on the opposite side for scale (after he decided to hop the barricade there)

Approaching the steel suspension bridge as the trail veered upstream from High Falls alongside the Baptism RiverApproaching the steel suspension bridge as the trail veered upstream from High Falls alongside the Baptism River

Looking over the brink of High Falls from the opposite side of the Baptism River as the trail now followed the river in the downstream directionLooking over the brink of High Falls from the opposite side of the Baptism River as the trail now followed the river in the downstream direction

Julie and Tahia descending steps as we were entering the gorgeJulie and Tahia descending steps as we were entering the gorge

Julie and Tahia doing the final descent to the banks of the Baptism RiverJulie and Tahia doing the final descent to the banks of the Baptism River

Our first look at High Falls of the Baptism River from the banks of the riverOur first look at the High Falls of the Baptism River from the banks of the river

Focused on the gushing High Falls of the Baptism RiverFocused on the gushing falls

Contextual look at the High Falls of the Baptism RiverContextual look at the falls

Finally, Julie and Tahia approaching the trailhead parking as our hike concludedFinally, Julie and Tahia approaching the trailhead parking as our hike concluded


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Checking out the High Falls of the Baptism River from the river's banks


Long movie checking out the brink of the High Falls of the Baptism River from both sides of the river


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We visited High Falls of the Baptism River as part of a very long drive between Duluth, Minnesota and Thunder Bay, Ontario along the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior. The falls is within Tettegouche State Park, which is right off the Minnesota Highway 61 on its east (lakeshore) side about 60 miles (about 1 hr 15 minutes) north of Duluth and 130 miles (2 hrs 30 minutes) south of Thunder Bay. The nearest town of significant size would probably be Silver Bay less than 5 miles to the south.

Once we took the turnoff into Tettegouche State Park, we then turned right at the next intersection, where we followed the narrow road (it's a slow 15mph paved road) for another 1.6 miles to its dead-end, where there was a parking lot for trailhead parking (passing beneath Hwy 61 as well as providing access to other campgrounds and trailheads along the way).

Finally, for geographical context, Duluth, Minnesota was 154 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) north of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 189 miles (about 4 hours drive) southwest of Thunder Bay, Canada, and 397 miles (6 hours drive) northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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