11. Copper Falls State Park

I was at Copper Falls State Park, near Mellen in northwest Wisconsin, on May 10. Two days earlier, there had been a six-inch snowfall in the area. But, by the time I was there, the new snow had melted and the Bad River water level was high. The river runs through the park, and the waterfalls give the park its name. The “copper” in the park name refers to the color of the water (due to minerals) and not the name of the river. The high water level made the falls very dramatic. I could feel the thundering water as I hiked along the river.

Rushing water at the falls

This is a park I visit a few times every year. It’s on my way Up North to visit family. It’s a fairly big state park, 3,496, acres, with 17 miles of trail. On this visit, I just hiked the “Doughboy Trail,” named for World War I soldiers. The trail follows along one side of the river, with nice views of the waterfalls. It crosses the river on a bridge and follows the river back to the concession building.

Right after the bridge, there’s a great stairway, made of local slate. I believe it was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers after the Great Depression. I think the concession building was also made by the CCC crews.

There’s also a trail to an observation tower, which provides some nice view of fall colors. And, the North Country National Scenic Trail runs through Copper Falls State Park. Overall, it’s quite an impressive park.

The geology is pretty impressive, too. According to a sign at the park, it’s located on the largest rift in North America. Lava welled up along the rift, and as it cooled, it formed the basalt, which is exposed along the river.

From the bridge across the river on the Doughboy Trail, there’s a sign describing the view of Devil’s Gate from the bridge. From the bridge, you can see bands of shale and sandstone, where the river erosion formed a “gate.” According to the sign at Devil’s Gate, the “sedimentary rock tells us that after the lava flow ceased, streams flowed over the lava beds to form inland seas.”

I admit that I am not at all objective when it comes to northern Wisconsin. The entire area is absolutely gorgeous! And, Copper Falls State Park is one of those special north woods places. Even if you just walk from the parking lot to the falls, it’s a great place to visit.

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