Superior Falls in Iron County. (Photo via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)
Superior Falls in Iron County. (Photo via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Wisconsin has no shortage of waterfalls for your sightseeing and swimming pleasure!

You need only look at a roadmap of the state to see how water helped found our cities and towns. From River Falls and St. Croix Falls on the western border, through Black River Falls and Wisconsin Rapids in the center of the state, and on to Oconto Falls in the east, we have waterfalls and former waterfalls galore.

Here’s a guide to finding some end of summer water fun:

The Big Three Waterfall State Parks

The state’s biggest waterfalls are located where rivers plunge north off the hard rock of the northern highland toward Lake Superior. The biggest is Big Manitou Falls located in Pattison State Park just south of Superior. It plunges 165 feet, making it the fourth-longest falls east of the Rockies. Don’t miss Little Manitou Falls, also located in the park, and Interfalls Lake, between the other two falls. The park is named for Martin Pattison, who bought the land to save the falls from becoming a power dam.

Amnicon Falls State Park is only about 10 miles away, and receives many fewer visitors. Within the park, the Amnicon River drops 180 feet, creating Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and Snake Pit Falls. In a rainy year, the river fills a third channel and “Now and Then Falls” is created.

About an hour east is Copper Falls State Park, where the Bad River and its tributary Tyler’s Fork create three beautiful falls: Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls, and Red Granite Falls. French voyageurs named the river because of how difficult it was to traverse, but bad canoeing makes for beautiful scenery.

Big Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park. (Photo via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Iron County: Waterfall Central

Iron County boasts five of Wisconsin’s 10 biggest waterfalls. The tallest is Superior Falls, located along Highway 122 near Saxton, where the Montreal River plunges 90 feet to Lake Superior. Nearby, the Upper and Lower Potato River Falls also drop about 90 feet.

Marinette County: Wisconsin’s Waterfall Capital

Marinette County in northeastern Wisconsin boasts of being Wisconsin’s waterfall capital, and is home to no fewer than 14 waterfalls, from Long Slide Falls in the north near Pembine to a cluster of five waterfalls near Dunbar. The Marinette County Parks Department has a free waterfall map and a $5 day pass (per carload) to see as many of them as you can.

Waterfalls for Play

If you’re in the Lake Superior town of Cornucopia, you may see kids toting inner tubes up Highway C south of town. They’re headed to Siskiwit Falls, a recently acquired Bayfield County property on Siskiwit Falls Road. The river makes a series of slides perfect for tubing; it’s also a  popular area just for wading on a warm day. About 2 miles south on County C, you’ll see Trail Drive, which leads to the hiking trail for Lost Creek Falls. A 3-mile round trip hike takes you to the falls, where you can play in the plunge pool and walk behind the curtain of water.

Siskiwit Falls, Bayfield County. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Wisconsin’s Own “Niagara Falls”

A nice stop on the way to Door County is to pull off at Wequiock Falls Park on Bay Settlement Road in Brown County, just outside Green Bay. The water of Wequiock Creek plunges over the Niagara Escarpment and into Green Bay. This limestone escarpment makes up the spine of Door County, then plunges under the surface, rising to the east on the border between Ontario and New York, where it forms the base for the more famous Niagara Falls.

Lost and Reborn Waterfall

Wausau was originally founded on Big Bull Falls along the Wisconsin River. While the falls were tamed in the 19th century by sawmills and paper mills, the city has recreated the excitement with its downtown Whitewater Park, a plunging kayak course that hosts major competitions as well as classes and the annual Hooligan Race.

Southern Waterfalls: Small but Beautiful

Southern Wisconsin generally lacks the hard rock and elevation drops that make for big waterfalls, but hikers in the Baraboo Hills will enjoy the plunging waters at Pewitt’s Nest, Parfrey’s Glen, and Baxter’s Hollow, all state natural areas in the Baraboo Hills region. Nearby, Stephen’s Falls in Gov. Dodge State Park creates a pleasantly cool microclimate on hot days.

Stephen’s Falls in Gov. Dodge State Park. (Photo via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)