Road Trip Part IV: Copper Falls State Park

Welcome to my final post about my July 2017 road trip. Sorting through my photos took a lot of time, but almost a month after my vacation I’m finally done. This is much harder than it sounds; the process requires thinking about which pictures would best sum up each place and sorting through dozens, or even hundreds, at each park. I took more at Copper Falls than any other place I visited on my journey, as it was the only park I spent multiple nights at.

How would I describe Copper Falls to a southern Wisconsinite? I would say it’s the Devil’s Lake of the north. It’s a well-known park, and deserves to be because of the splendid views. While Amnicon Falls has a cozy feel, Copper Falls State Park is a land of deep gorges and lofty views. Like Devil’s Lake, the views attract a lot of visitors. The trails were crowded when I first went during the day, but starting at about 5 in the evening the traffic slowed way down. I ran into very few people at this time and hardly any starting at about 7. Packing a meal I could easily eat on the trail paid off because everyone else was eating back at their campsites.

This gave me a lot of time to enjoy the numerous overlooks without feeling like I’m hogging the view. My favorite views were from the backside of the falls, watching the water cascade down. There was so much energy in the water’s rush toward Lake Superior. The water is colored a warm brown with tannic acid, but that is not how the falls get their name. The name also has nothing to do with the color of the rocks. Instead, it comes from failed attempts at copper mining in the area. That is a fact I learned from the many interpretive signs along my hike. I have to say the colors are interesting though, and I do not blame myself for thinking the falls were named for them before my visit. The color of the water is especially nice; it’s like watching beer tumble into a glass.

Along my hikes, especially the more solitary ones, I was wary of bears and other regional megafauna, but I never saw any. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a black bear (Ursus americanus) from the distance. Instead, a saw a few red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and black squirrels (a color variation of the eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis). On a side trip through Ashland county I didn’t encounter any moose (Alces alces) but I saw several white admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) butterflies along a stretch of gravel road.

White admiral

The falls themselves are part of the Bad River (Copper Falls) and the Tyler Forks (Brownstone Falls). Copper Falls is 29 feet high and Brownstone Falls is 30. In addition to the falls there are also smaller cascades, rapids, and a geological feature known as Devil’s Gate.

Copper Falls
Copper Falls, second view
Brownstone Falls, front view
Looking down from Brownstone Falls
Tyler Forks (foreground) flowing into the Bad River
Fallen logs in the gorge
Devil’s Gate (background) and an island with cairns

Upon leaving Copper Falls State Park I made the long drive back to Madison.

I did not leave the state on my week off as I had originally planned on doing, but I found spectacular landscapes nonetheless. I had wanted to go up north again for a while now, but I hadn’t known it was the right time until it happened.

A popular picture spot at the park

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