The Potato River Falls (sometimes just called Potato Falls) was one of the more obscure waterfalls that we had encountered while passing through Northern Wisconsin. We were lured to this falls based on our pre-trip research, where it seemed like it promised to be one of the best of the state's waterfalls given the seemingly wide and rugged nature of the Potato River. However, as you can see from the photos on this page, it seemed like there was something missing from our visit as our views of the waterfall's accessible tiers were either obstructed or very difficult to reach requiring a degree of risk that we weren't comfortable with.
Our visit pretty much consisted of a pair of sightings of parts of the Potato River Falls. The first sighting came shortly after a short jaunt to an overlook with a very obstructed view of what appeared to be the main lower drop (sometimes called the Lower Potato Falls). That view left a lot to be desired. So naturally, we looked around for trails leading to more satisfying views. It turned out that there was an established trail that followed the rim of the gorge in the upstream direction from the car park (see directions below). After a couple of minutes, it led us to a series of steps that descended to a wooden lookout platform of a different tier of the Potato River Falls (sometimes called the Upper Potato Falls). This one was a series of shorter waterfalls, which appeared to be accessible with a bit more steep scrambling, but we opted to remain on the trail and not chance it any further from here.
This was pretty much the extent of our short visit to the falls, which lasted roughly a half-hour (not counting a conversation we were having with some Wisconsin residents who also happened to be visiting this falls and suggested that we visit the nearby Copper Falls). In addition to the very steep trails of use that we saw from the lookout platform, I did notice another one closer to the car park as well as a very steep gully nearby the first lookout by the car park and picnic area. Again, we weren't comfortable with the risk to improve the waterfalling experience here (especially since it had been raining during our visit), and thus we were left with that unfulfilled feeling that I'm sure could be more fulfilling for those willing to take that risk under better conditions.
That said, while most of the worthwhile natural features in Wisconsin had well-developed infrastructure under the protection of State Parks, with this one, we were kind of on our own. So I guess that could also be the allure of this falls for those willing to chance it.
The Potato River Falls was near the town of Gurney, Wisconsin, which was a small farming town. While there are other much larger towns closer to the falls like Hurley, Wisconsin / Ironwood, Michigan or Ashland, Wisconsin, etc., we started our drive from Duluth, Minnesota so we'll start by describing that drive.
From Duluth, we drove into Superior, Wisconsin by going south on the I-35 then heading east on the Hwy 2. We would follow the Hwy 2 for roughly 89 miles to turnoff onto Hwy 169 near the town of Cedar (note that Ashland was about 67 miles east of Duluth-Superior and 22 miles west of the Hwy 169 turnoff near Cedar). Turning right to go south onto Hwy 169, we then continued for 2.7 miles into the small town of Gurney before making another right onto the unpaved Falls Road (there was a small sign telling us that the Potato River Falls was on this road).
We then followed this well-graded unpaved road for the last 1.5 miles to the wide clearing representing the picnic area and car park for the falls.
Coming from the other direction, Hwy 169 was about 16 miles west of Hurley, Wisconsin / Ironwood, Michigan along Hwy 2. Turn left onto Hwy 169 to go south and follow the directions as above.
Overall, it took us about 2 hours to drive from Duluth, Minnesota to the trailhead of the falls. It took us about another couple of hours to get from Gurney to Paulding via Ironwood.
For context, Gurney, Wisconsin was 215 miles (4 hours drive) northeast of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 282 miles (about 5 hours drive) north of Madison, Wisconsin, and 422 miles (under 7 hours drive) northwest of Chicago, Illinois.
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