Just south of Superior, Wisconsin in Douglas County lies Pattison State Park, a small little Wisconsin state park which has a lot going on in terms of adventure travel activities. The highlight of the park is the gorgeous 165 high Big Manitou Falls, which is the highest waterfall in Wisconsin.
Many who visit this park probably check out this falls and the Little Manitou Falls a little farther south and then check out of the park themselves. This is unfortunate, as there is more than the two falls to bring and keep visitors to this pretty north woods location.
The Black River looks like an intriguing place to canoe as long as paddlers heed the sign to take out before going over Little Manitou Falls. The take out is on one side of the river and on the other side is a remote campground that can only be accessed by hikers and canoeists. For those not as adventurous there is also a small drive in campground at the main entrance off of route 35 with 59 campsites: 18 with electric service.
For such a small park, there is a nice little network of trails. They have over ten miles of trails and thanks to the backcountry tent site and a trail shelter, there are opportunities for overnight backpacking which many parks do not offer.
At the main entrance there is a lake called Interfalls Lake, so swimming is usually available, but currently the lake is closed to swimming. Check with the park to see if this changes if swimming is a priority. There were some people swimming in the river below Big Manitou Falls in the river, but be careful of currents and rapids. Fishing is possible in the park, but the DNR website makes it sound as the fishing is not so great.
Winter activities are also available in the park. They have a 4.5 mile cross-country ski trail, which the park labels as easy to moderate.
Being in the far northern section of and in one of Wisconsin’s most wild counties, great wildlife opportunities exist in the park. 200 species of birds call the park their home as well as 54 species of mammals including moose, bear, and timber wolf.
Getting to the park can be confusing. The best way to get there is to take Route 35 from Superior south. From U.S. 53 there is a sign that states “to Pattison,” but due to construction the passage way does not go through, so it is easy to get lost in the Douglas County back roads. Ask directions at a gas station or a bar if you get lost.
Along Route 35 there are several entrances. There is one for the main entrance on the east side of 35. A few feet south is a parking lot for the Big Manitou Falls on the west side of 35 and then an entrance and parking lot for Little Manitou Falls a couple miles south. The trails near the falls all offer superb vantage points to view the falls.
Pattison State Park is only about twenty miles from another nearby park featuring beautiful waterfalls. Amnicon State Park is located off of U.S. 2 just east of its divergence from 53 south of Superior. Combining these two state parks is a great way to spend a day, weekend, or longer.
The best time of year to come is in spring when the waters are raging and the waterfalls are impressive. The author was fortunate enough to visit this park in late summer; however, a series of recent thunderstorms created spring like conditions and the falls were awesome.
For information on fees for Wisconsin State Parks check out this article.
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