19. Pattison State Park

19. Pattison State Park

The Park System brochure calls Pattison State Park “one of Wisconsin’s cornerstone parks.” It’s certainly impressive. And, located just 15 miles south of Superior, it’s at the northwest corner of the state. It’s a half hour drive from Amnicon Falls State Park to Pattison State Park, so was easy to take in both parks on July 18 without hurrying. And, I camped at Pattison, so I also got to experience the campground. Very nice. Big sites, with lots of trees and plenty of privacy.

There are two waterfalls at Pattison. Little Manitou Falls, pictured at the top of the post, is about 31 feet. If it were the only waterfall at the park, I’d say it was definitely worth the visit. Little Manitou Falls seems to be a bit overshadowed by Big Manitou Falls. At 165 feet, Big Manitou is the highest waterfall in the state. It’s also the fourth highest east of the Rocky Mountains.

Big Manitou Falls
At 165 feet, Big Manitou Falls is the highest waterfall in the state.

The falls are on Black River. Little Manitou is the southern falls, just before the water enters Interfalls Lake. The park includes a nice beach and picnic area along the lake. Big Manitou is on the northern side of the lake, where the river re-emerges from the lake.

The trail system at the park provides many good views of both waterfalls. The 1,476 acre park has seven miles of trails, but about 2.5 miles of the trail system were closed due to storm damage last year. Fortunately, the trail closures did not impact access to the waterfalls.

Another feature of the park that is pretty remarkable is the work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. According to the park newspaper, the CCC crews built the shelter building, bathhouse and former office building. They also built trails and bridges and put in water and sewer. The newspaper states, “One of the most ambitious projects was draining Interfalls Lake, re-routing the river channel and hauling sand from Lake Superior’s shore to make the beach.” The CCC definitely had a major impact on Pattison Park.

(Another park with some beautiful work by CCC crews is Copper Falls near Mellen.)

The geology of Pattison Park is also impressive. The park has a brochure for the Big Manitou Geology walk — got to love a park that loves its rocks!

The pamphlet for the geology walk talks about the rock that the falls plunge over — basalt. The brochure says it’s “an igneous rock and represents solidified remnants of ancient lava flows which extended across the entire region about a billion years ago.” Cool! And there’s information on the Douglas Fault, a huge crack in the basalt bedrock that extends from an area east of Ashland to near the Twin Cities. At Pattison, the fault is covered with vegetation and debris. But, at Amnicon Falls State Park, the fault is more visible.

The glaciers also had an impact on the geology of Pattison Park. The park brochure says “glaciation is a relatively recent event — taking place during the last two million years.” Recent, in geologic terms. Glacial ice was present in the park area “just 10,000 years ago,” according to the brochure.

Overall, Pattison is a beautiful park, with spectacular waterfalls, beautiful trails, a nice campground — and real interesting rocks. It’s certainly worthy of being called a cornerstone park.