Potato River Falls

Gurney, Wisconsin, USA

About Potato River Falls

Hiking Distance: 0.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2015-09-28
Date last visited: 2015-09-28

Waterfall Latitude: 46.46101
Waterfall Longitude: -90.52922

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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.

Potato_River_Falls_018_09282015 - Potato River Falls
Potato River Falls

However, as you can see from the photo above, 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.

Any attempts to improve the experience appeared to require a degree of risk that we weren’t comfortable with.

Therefore, our visit pretty much consisted of a pair of sightings of parts of the Potato River Falls.

Experiencing 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).

Potato_River_Falls_032_09282015 - As much of the Potato River Falls as I would see from the overlook
As much of the Potato River Falls as I would see from the overlook

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.

Potato_River_Falls_011_09282015 - Julie and Tahia descending closer to the Potato River to get closer to the Potato River Falls
Julie and Tahia descending closer to the Potato River to get closer to the Potato River Falls

This was pretty much the extent of our short visit to the falls, which lasted roughly a half-hour.

This did not count a nice conversation we were having with some Wisconsin residents who also happened to be visiting Potato River Falls, and they 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 trailhead parking as well as a very steep gully nearby the first lookout by the parking 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).

Potato_River_Falls_014_09282015 - Julie and Tahia at some kind of lower overlook for the Potato River Falls though the view from here wasn't very satisfying
Julie and Tahia at some kind of lower overlook for the Potato River Falls though the view from here wasn’t very satisfying

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 Potato River Falls, 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.


Potato River Falls resides by the town of Gurney near Hurley in Iron County, Wisconsin. It is administered by Iron County Forestry and Parks. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Potato_River_Falls_004_09282015 - Obstructed view of the Lower Potato Falls from the lookout near the parking area
Potato_River_Falls_006_09282015 - This was the lookout of the Lower Potato Falls, which was just a few paces from the large parking area
Potato_River_Falls_007_09282015 - Full context of the Lower Potato Falls, which was very obstructed during our September 2015 visit
Potato_River_Falls_009_09282015 - Julie and Tahia following the blue-diamond-labeled path defining the trail leading to another lookout of the Potato River Falls
Potato_River_Falls_013_09282015 - Julie and Tahia getting further down the steps to the Potato River while it started to rain again
Potato_River_Falls_016_09282015 - This was the view of the Upper Potato Falls from that lookout deck that we descended towards
Potato_River_Falls_024_09282015 - Our last look at the Lower Potato River Falls from the lookout by the parking area (just in case we might have missed something about this overlook)

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.

Driving from Duluth, MN to Potato River Falls

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 DuluthSuperior and 22 miles west of the Hwy 169 turnoff near Cedar).

Potato_River_Falls_001_09282015 - Julie and Tahia at the very spacious parking area for the Potato River Falls
Julie and Tahia at the very spacious parking area for the Potato River Falls

Turning right to go south onto Hwy 169, we then continued for 2.7 miles into the small town of Gurney.

Then, we made 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.

Overall, it took us about 2 hours to drive from Duluth, Minnesota to the trailhead of the Potato River Falls.

Driving from Ironwood, MI to Potato River Falls

Coming from the other direction, Hwy 169 was about 16 miles west of Hurley, Wisconsin / Ironwood, Michigan along Hwy 2.

Potato_River_Falls_033_09282015 - Looking towards the other end of the very spacious parking area for the Potato River Falls
Looking towards the other end of the very spacious parking area for the Potato River Falls

Turn left onto Hwy 169 to go south and follow the directions as above.

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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Sweep of the frontal view of the Upper Falls

Examining the distant and partial view of the Lower Falls from the lookout by the car park

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Tagged with: gurney, iron county, wisconsin, waterfall, potato river, great lakes

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Johnny Cheng

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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