Shale Falls [Failed]

Amongst the many successful journeys I have taken, none come without at least a little work.  This one was different.  My attempt to reach Shale Falls in the Brule River State Forest was a failure, but I still feel successful in that nobody else (to my knowledge) has posted online with even this many details to this point in time.

From the map above and below Shale Falls clearly exists.  It appears the easiest access is to use Loveland Road, park at the gate, then hike along what should be an overgrown footpath through the forest.  In the Google satellite image you can see the parking area on the right (grey dot).

I reached the parking area which is called “Drew’s Landing” (strangely I can’t find this anywhere searching the web, in my paper 2018 road atlas, or anywhere else).  The road is in fact gated off at this point.  The bulletin board has maps & literature on the area and appears to be a popular spot for fishing.  The brush is wildly overgrown with no obvious hiking paths.  It doesn’t seem like any humans have been here in weeks.

I spent some time consulting my maps & GPS.  Finally I decided to take the gravel access road down to the Brule Spillway/Dam and see if I can hike back upstream along the river banks.  The path gets steep quickly near the river – you will get a leg workout here!

I reached the dam/spillway but couldn’t find any paths, the brush is just too thick.  Thunderstorms were still pushing through the area and rain was gently falling.  Did see one lone kayaker dropping into the river downstream of the spillway – maybe there is access from the west?  I decided to turn around and search for alternate paths through the woods.  Rain had started to fall lightly as it had been doing on & off all day.

About 1/4 mile from the dam, I found what seemed to be either an overgrown path or a very wide game trail.  I decided to take a closer look – might as well, I was already here anyways.  I didn’t even make it a tenth of a mile when I found a muddy opening that revealed fresh animal tracks – like made right before I got there fresh.  Small deer track?  OK.  Large wolf track that was bigger than my hand?  Hmm…

Considering I’m a solo hiker in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t have any defensive measures (bear spray, knife, etc), and no cell reception I decided to turn back.  Back on the gravel path and alert that predators are in this area, my eye located 2 scat piles (one very fresh, the other much larger but somewhat old).  Pile #2 was almost human-sized, and that one piece with the pointy tip tells me it’s from a wolf (please correct me if wrong, I’m an amateur at this but tend to research quite diligently!).

Crazy that I can’t find anything online about how to reach these falls considering it’s labeled right on the maps.  I drove around for about an hour on the western access but couldn’t even find a place to park to begin a hike.  My main resource is a booklet sold by the people at WaterfallsWisconsin.com and even they don’t have a published route.  I have emailed the WI DNR team responsible for this area and will update when I hear back.  If anyone knows how to reach these falls please contact me so I can revisit in 2019!

Updated 11/12/18: WI DNR has responded and confirmed there is no easy way to reach the falls:

There really is no easy way to get to Shale Falls on foot.  You can park at the parking lot on Loveland Road and bushwhack to the river – maybe that’s what you already tried.  Or from that parking lot you can walk past the gate and continue on the road to the lamprey barrier, that’s a longer but easy walk.  From the lamprey barrier you’d then have to walk upstream to the falls – there is a path along the river that is pretty good in places, and not so good in others.  Expect the path to be muddy clay.  There are sections of the path that are non-existent as the river bank (where the path was) has sloughed off into the river.  You’ll have to bushwhack through those sections.   Also, just so you aren’t disappointed when you get there, Shale Falls is not a waterfall – it’s smallish rock ledges and Class I rapids.  It is possible that you’ll walk right past it without realizing that you had arrived. The easiest way to see it is to canoe or kayak the river, but be aware that you can only put in/take out at designated canoe landings (put in at Hwy 13 and take out at the mouth of the Brule, about a 4 hour trip).

Hiking Data

Overall the hike along the gravel path is easy until you get close to the dam.  Elevation drops about 100 feet here very quickly and is an excellent and unexpected glute/quad workout.

Lat = 46.6910515 , Long = -91.6001892 -- Show at Google Maps

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