Pattison State Park – Little Manitou Falls (2021)

The first time I visited Pattison State Park in 2018, it was immediately following some huge thunderstorms that destroyed many roads and trails, including the area downstream of Little Manitou Falls. Several years later, the trails are open again and I can now hike to see more of the park. Leaf colors are reaching peak and weather is perfect: 70°F, mostly cloudy, gentle breeze…couldn’t be much better. I started by hiking to the spot above Little Manitou where there is a distinct 3 foot fall with a great backdrop.

From here it’s all downstream along the Black River. I crept carefully along the rocks to the edge of Little Manitou because why not? Water levels are much lower than 2018 but that’s to be expected; this time, levels are in line with seasonal changes and down maybe a foot from normal.

Moving downstream on the trail there are some great openings in the trees for a direct view of Little Manitou Falls. Unfortunately the sun was coming out from the clouds just as I reached this point and made the task more difficult than usual, but it’s almost impossible to get a bad view of this falls.

Another look from just a few yards down the trail. I played with the camera for a long time here but ultimately gave up because my feet said KEEP GOING! This is as far as I reached last trip but now the entire Little Manitou Falls Trail is opened again and I can’t wait to see what I missed before.

As you move downstream the trail parallels the river, sometimes closely and sometimes requiring a little bit of creative scrambling across rocks and fallen logs. Immediately downstream of Little Manitou Falls it turns into a rocky rapids and runs several hundred yards.

Another angle from directly besides the rocks. There are small drops of 1-2 feet interspersed along the route but nothing major to note. The morning haze was starting to lift and the sun was getting brighter every minute.

One of the larger drops is partially obscured by larger rocks on the edges, and by the fact there is nowhere to stand for a clear view. This one falls in two tiers and has about 6 feet of total drop. The river narrows quickly and widens back to normal almost just as fast.

Here’s another one of the larger formations you can find along the trail. This one is more notable for the large exposed rock surfaces versus being a large drop or falls.

Views looking back upstream at the various rocks, rapids, and tiny drops that make up this entire sectin of river. The chaotic mix of sun and shade really made photography hard today but I didn’t even mind.

At a point about halfway down this trail section, the terrain changes from a natural/foot trail type surface into a brand new crushed gravel footing that is very level and smooth. I’m assuming this is where much of the washout from past storms occurred. There were also two different levels of trail here and I think they may have intentions of making it more accessible which is a great improvement.

At the north terminus of the Little Manitou Falls Trail section, you’ll find a CCC-constructed bridge. From here on both sides, the trail continues on as the Beaver Trail. Notice how half of the bridge looks brand new – I’m assuming this was also damaged in the storms but it looks as good or better new and perfectly matches the old construction. Example of some great work done by the DNR.

I continued only briefly downstream on the west side of the river as there were some very distinct ledge-type drops just below the bridge. Beyond this location, rapids continue but to my eye seemed to wind down a bit. I really wanted to stay and hike all day (and maybe I should have), but other things on my agenda told me it was time to return to the truck and move to the next spot. I will definitely spend more time hiking the trails I’ve missed on future trips.

Long Exposure

It was a rough day for long exposures due to the sun popping out from the clouds and getting very bright. I should have snapped these early in the hike when cloud cover was still high. Oh well, still something fun to play around with.


Here’s a short video of the falls and rapids along this section of the trail. I forgot to record my hiking path so this will have to suffice. Regardless of the season or weather, I highly recommend stopping here for however long you can.

Author’s Note: Due to many reasons – none of them very good – I’m posting this from the future in November 2023. Actual visit date/time October 4, 2021 2:08pm. I’ll backdate it later so as to maintain chronological order. I’ve got an overwhelming backlog of photos to process which is probably why I procrastinate. Hope you enjoy them all the same.

Lat = 46.5221786 , Long = -92.1267319 -- Show at Google Maps

2 thoughts on “Pattison State Park – Little Manitou Falls (2021)”

  1. Nice Adam… glad to see you are still posting… I am buried in book complication… if you ever go back to Manitou, don’t bother going downriver below Big manitou… wasted trip and there is only a rapids (and a very exhausting trip back up the hill).

    • Good to know about the river-level rapids at Big Manitou, thanks for the heads up. Look forward to the future book, keep at it!


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