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Finding Minnesota: North Shore Waterfalls

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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GRAND PORTAGE, Minn. (WCCO) — Any state park that has a waterfall — weaving, tumbling and spilling its way over rugged cliffs — will draw that many more visitors.

“That’s one of the best views of the state right there,” said Robert Farrell of Apple Valley, who took his family to Gooseberry Falls State Park.

In fact, park leaders wish they could get people to stop and notice some of the other surroundings.

“Here on the north shore, the waterfalls are the attraction,” said Jordan Schaefer, the assistant park manager for Cascade River State Park and Judge C.R. Magney State Park. “It’s what people show up here for. Sometimes we struggle with trying to get people away from the falls to go see the rest of the park.”

The tallest falls are at Grand Portage State Park. That’s where the Pigeon River takes a spectacular drop of 120 feet.

The most accessible falls are at Gooseberry Falls State Park, just north of Two Harbors, where families can get close enough to touch them.

“Oh, they’re amazing,” said Kristi Dickhausen of Hudson, Wisconsin. “We have been here now twice with our kids and I’ve come up here numerous times with my parents. It’s a big attraction. It’s a big, big waterfall.”

The north shore has the largest collection of waterfalls in the state.

Some are just a short walk from a parking lot – like the Cascade River Falls, or the Temperance River, which drops off right under Highway 61.

“And the view down into that gorge is just impressive,” said Schaefer. “The water drops through this very narrow channel and has carved its way down, down, down.”

It takes a longer hike to get to some of the others.

But High Falls, at Tettegouche State Park, are worth the effort. And not far away are Two-Step Falls — part of the Baptism River.

But northeast of Grand Marais, at Judge C.R. Magney State Park are falls that are more than just beautiful. They’ve sparked a mystery that has gone unsolved as long as people have been visiting.

They have a sinister name — the Devil’s Kettle — and a mystifying feature. You see, the Brule River suddenly splits at one point. On one side, the water moves on toward Lake Superior.

But the other half plunges into a deep hole, and no one has been able to figure out where that water ends up.

“There’s still no real confirmation as to where the water goes once it goes in,” said Schaefer. “It just keeps going in and in and in and just disappears.”

Researchers have tried dropping branches, ping pong balls and dyes into that hole, but they have all vanished.

Schaefer mentioned one rumor that isotopes from the Brule River have turned up in the aquifer system all the way down in Arkansas, but he added that it’s unconfirmed.

It has drawn geologists and amateurs alike, all hoping to solve this long-running mystery – just one more reason to visit this scenic northern region.

“It’s just real impressive as to what water has done on the North Shore,” said Schaefer.

Gallery: North Shore Waterfalls

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