After having little to no plan for the day, I found the winds of adventure carried me back to Osceola, Wisconsin with a chance to find a falls I missed in the past. That begins at the Standing Cedars Buffalo Skull Tract, part of the Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy. Last visit I was concerned about my smaller vehicle making it down the potholed and flooded dirt road but that wasn’t a problem today and the road is much more passable than I found before. There’s a good sized parking lot and a signboard with property information.
Of greatest interest is the property map. In the past I was confused about what was private and what was public. The falls themselves are not on the conservancy land but instead on a section that plat maps show is owned by “USA” and nothing more. After doing some research, I found the answer plain as day on the Standing Cedars website and confirmed it is indeed public land:
One of the unique features of this site is a naturally occurring spring (Buttermilk creek) which emanates from rock outcroppings in a ravine and forms a .6 mile stream joined by water from other small streams before flowing over a 40 foot fall and eventually entering the St. Croix river. This stream cuts through the NE corner of the property and continues through a 20-acre parcel owned by the NPS [National Park Service].
The hike starts as more of a walk through open grasslands lined by forest. This site used to be farmland but you wouldn’t know looking at it today other than the flat terrain.
Another look across the open meadows. I’m not sure I could have picked a better day weather-wise.
I briefly poked my head in the woods at the far southwest corner of that NPS land to see if I could find any trails to walk down the stream. I did find some small game trails but it was pretty overgrown and looked like a great way to get covered in ticks. I passed on it today but will likely try it again in the future.
Instead I followed the more well-defined trails that lead north up & around that parcel. As it goes along, the woods thicken up quickly.
Ultimately I found the area surrounding the falls. There is a small land bridge that heads out towards the edge of the drop but it is super dangerous. Online images show other people have climbed up there before, but I found one section that washed out around a tree root that looked like a great way to fall down 40 feet and I deferred this time.
Views looking upstream on Buttermilk Creek are quite nice though. I’ve seen a few photos online showing some small 1-2 foot drops up there. Seems like a good spot to explore in more depth.
I couldn’t find a good way down to the bottom of the falls, and I didn’t have a rope with me today. Instead, I circled around and found railroad tracks leading in that direction. There is a sign that reads “BUTTERMILK FALLS>” clear as day which is odd considering walking the tracks isn’t quite legal; guessing they know it’s a popular destination but I skirted along the grass best I could to be safe.
Even after going all the way around I couldn’t find a good way down to the bottom. Part of the area downstream looked a bit swampy/muddy, and the other side is extremely steep. Really wish I had a climbing rope today of all days. Live and learn I guess.
Here’s the best spot I could find to view it from a distance. Still photos really don’t do it justice. It’s a cascade-style falls that widens from 4-5 feet at the top to like 20 feet at the bottom. Leaves are turning & falling but trees are still full enough to mostly obscure direct sight lines. The video below shows it a touch better but I’d still like to get down at ground level and try this again. Next time!
Here’s a short video of my visit today and the falls in action through the trees.
Here’s the route I took. Notice the part where I tried to enter the NPS land on the SW corner but quickly turned back due to thick brush. Also note where I almost reached the top of the falls on that dangerous land bridge but wisely turned back before I became a live action Humpty Dumpty. Word to the wise: BRING A ROPE.
Total distance is only 1.3 miles round trip and elevation change isn’t much. This isn’t super difficult but it’s also not the easiest place to reach so be sure you are fit enough to put in a good hike if you want to get to the end.Lat = 45.2947617 , Long = -92.7426071 -- Show at Google Maps