South Branch Pike River Lower Falls

One great thing about Marinette County is there are no shortages of outdoors adventures you can have, and it seems like there are more rivers winding through the forests than you could explore in a lifetime. Case in point: I’m jumping away from the Peshtigo River and driving up the road a ways to the South Branch Pike River to check out another falls/rapids. This one is a bit interesting and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Only one way to find out: boots on the ground. The trail starts at a small parking area off Dow Dam Road that can only fit a couple cars and is easy to miss while driving by.

The trails are not much more than game trails and are overgrown, however this is for good reason. The land is public and owned by the Wisconsin DNR throug hteh Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. The land surrounding the Pike River is designated as the Pike Wild River under the 1965 Wild Rivers Act, the first program of it’s kind in the nation. The rules of such conservation programs helps keep these areas wild and unmaintaned to preserve natural beauty.

Overall this isn’t a long hike, and if you follow the river listening for moving water you will find South Branch Pike River Lower Falls. Here’s a very distant view to help capture the foliage which is really starting to pop with color. I think I finally timed my trip correctly this year!

Using a bit more zoom on the camera lens, here is a closer view of the river. It becomes quite difficult to show this on a still photograph from ground level as there is no place good to stand that gives enough elevation. You’d have to be on a ladder in the middle of the river to see better and that just isn’t possible. Because this is a state natural area / wild river area I can’t use the drone either so this will have to do.

Here’s another view while standing directly next to the falls. This is another case of falls vs. rapids – what do you think? For me personally I will call these a falls because I can’t discern between the boulders coming out of the water and the shelves/ledges under the water. It’s a bit of both, and like in baseball the tie goes to the runner…err, I mean the falls.

Upstream of the falls you can see the large boulder gardens continue with small class I rapids. This isn’t a particularly good photo but I wanted to include it as evidence of river levels. See the rocks across on the opposite bank? I’d say it’s 1-2 feet low based on the markings. At higher flows I’m positive this would look drastically different.

A brief commentary on the naming: I’m going to refer to this as South Branch Pike River Lower Falls. Bob at has labeled them Pike River South Branch Lower Falls which is basically the same. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. I’m just putting “South Branch” in the front because that is how the maps label it. This may change in the future as there are other features upstream that we haven’t officially confirmed yet.


Here’s a short video of the hike to the falls/rapids.

Hiking Data

This isn’t a long or overly strenuous hike, but you should be aware the trail is very narrow & overgrown and can be muddy in spots. I would definitely suggest proper boots and long pants/sleeves.

GaiaGPS’ website was getting wonky on me and wouldn’t show the elevation graph so this is the best alternative. Distance is about 0.4 miles, elevation change is a bit over 100 feet but most of that is the initial descent/ascent on the hill nearest the parking area and not as difficult as it seems.

Lat = 45.5018387 , Long = -88.0225983 -- Show at Google Maps

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