TWO HARBORS, Minn. (WCCO) – Many people will recognize Gooseberry Falls near Two Harbors, but did you know the falls has changed a lot over the years?

“It’s kind of that first big ‘wow’ place that you go to right out of Duluth,” said Kris Asp, from Duluth.

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And Gooseberry Falls is the type of “wow place” you hear before you see.

“The spring, you can hear it very clearly and if you walk toward it it just gets louder and louder,” said Park Ranger Nick Hoffmann.

Up close, it’s impossible to miss the thousands of gallons of water per second cascading from the ice of winter, into the warmth of spring.

“Just to see like the falls breaking from the ice. It’s just kind of like a majestic picture to see it,” said Joe Reiersgord, from Shakopee.

People have been watching this changing of the seasons at Gooseberry for hundreds of years.

“This became an ideal location for setting up a park,” said Hoffmann.

Hoffmann knows the history well. Glaciers helped create this natural beauty. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps helped create the park. The CCC was designed to improve parks and forests across the country, while providing an economic boost during the Great Depression.

“2710 was the troop that came out of Fort Snelling and began construction,” said Hoffmann. “From 1934 to 1942 was when a lot of the stuff here was constructed.”

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That includes a castle wall that took four years to build. It originally had restrooms, concessions and provided easy access to the falls.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re currently averaging around 180,000 people that come visit this location ever year and they come from all parts of the Midwest, the country, and even from other countries,” said Hoffmann.

April is considered “falls season.” It’s when water at the upper, middle and lower parts of Gooseberry can be at its highest. It’s about 90 total feet from top to bottom, and warmer temperatures and melting ice create a rush unlike any other.

The current is so powerful this time of year that it’s constantly churning up sediment, giving the falls the chocolate milk color you see in the springtime. In the summer, it changes into more of a root beer color as plant decay enters the river. Over the years, the course changed too. In fact, a flood 10 years ago literally shifted the dominant channel from the west side to the east side – and carved out an island in the river.

“We love it here., so year-round we come and visit,” said Sarah Reiersgord, from Shakopee.

Kids of all ages have been able to enjoy wading and swimming in the summer, and ice climbing in the winter. A chance for visitors to carve their own path, just like the river did.

“It’s kind of one of the first places I think about when it starts to get nicer out,” said Kassie Wright from Bemidji.

“It’s majestic. You look around and you are like, oh my gosh, this is in our back yard,” said Sarah Reiersgord.

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Hoffmann said the park itself has also doubled in size, from 600 acres in 1934 to 1,700 today. It’s become one of the most popular hiking destinations in Minnesota.

John Lauritsen