Wisconsin Waterfalls: Willow River Falls
May 27, 2014 07:27PM
By Julie Henning
At nearly 3,000 acres, Willow River State Park offers year-round activities including hiking, fishing, camping, snowshoeing, and swimming. The purpose of our visit was a day hike down to the Willow River and the falls. Opting to take the snowshoe trail down to the river, we enjoyed the sights and smells of spring without the inevitable bugs of summer months.
While the decent down to the river is not that long, the terrain of the snowshoe trail is quite steep at times. We loved the serenity of this path, but families with younger and older members may opt for the more direct (paved) trails down to the falls. Either route you take, prepare for a bun-burning, heart-pounding climb back to your car.
At the falls, the kids enjoyed taking off their shoes and wading in the calmer part of the river. Slightly warmer upstream from the cold springs feeding into the river, the White River Falls is a popular choice for families and dogs. We spotted an influx of Minnesota license plates in the parking lot, and guessed many people drove over from the nearby Twin Cities for a Memorial Day Weekend outing.
Roaring as a result of heavy springtime rains, I was a bit nervous to let my kids stray too far out into the current. Maybe this is a sign of old age, but diving into this pool of swirling rapids seems a bit reckless (insert flashback of all the things I did to give my parents gray hair twenty years ago).
While we spotted some people climbing out from behind the largest sheet of water, the most adventurous our group got was a climb up to the upper portion of the falls (if you do this, you will want to wear shoes with good traction as the rocks are slippery and the path narrows rapidly once you are at the top).
We let the kids climb out to sit on a boulder. While the older two of my kids thought this was "pretty cool," my youngest son used all his bravery trying to keep up with his siblings (note: this photo was taken shortly before the child on the far left extracted a leech from his ankle).
Closed for repair is a staircase leading up to a platform overlooking the river and series of falls comprising Willow River Falls. We also spotted hooks and anchors in the sides of the 200 foot gorge, but did not see any rock climbers hanging off the cliffs on this visit to the park.