High Falls of the Pigeon River sits on the border of Minnesota and Ontario, Canada, and is the tallest waterfall in Minnesota at 120 feet. The waterfall can be reached by hiking an easy 1-mile trail from the visitor center at Grand Portage State Park. The park is day-use only, but several other state parks along Lake Superior offer camping year-round. With numerous hiking trails, lakes, rivers, beaches and forests spanning the 150-mile shoreline, the North Shore of Lake Superior provides endless photographic opportunities.
Weather At Grand Portage State Park
Northern Minnesota experiences significant weather changes each season. In winter, it’s not unusual to experience several days of temperatures below zero, along with snowstorms and windy conditions in the area surrounding High Falls. Spring is relatively mild with temperatures in the 30s to 50s. Summer heat is tempered by the proximity to Lake Superior, which can keep temperatures 5 to 10 degrees cooler than farther inland. Autumn has the highest average precipitation levels but also brings a decrease in mosquitoes due to the first freezes of the year.
High Falls is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Minnesota. The North Shore area of Lake Superior is known for its rocky and rugged terrain, and High Falls is no exception. At the end of the boardwalk trail, there’s a platform that offers unobstructed views of the falls. The foreground foliage nicely frames the falls while the mixed forest of evergreen and broadleaf trees rises above the falls on both sides of the river.
Overcast days offer the best chance at photographing the falls without harsh contrast, but since the waterfall faces east, sunset is also a great time to shoot. In the early morning, spray from the falls can create rainbows, which are a nice complement to the scene. I recommend using a wide angle to capture the falls and surrounding forest, but telephoto lenses can also be used to capture the intimate details of the water cascading down the rock ledges. With abundant foliage and water, a polarizer filter is a must.
Best Times to Visit High Falls
Each season offers quite different conditions at High Falls. The first snow of winter is an amazing time to visit, with a blanket of white on the trees surrounding the unfrozen falls. Later in winter, the entire falls freezes, which makes it look like a gigantic ice sculpture. Perhaps the most photogenic time of year is autumn, when the surrounding foliage bursts with color, and the water flow is detailed and nuanced. Autumn is the busiest season on Minnesota’s North Shore, so it’s best to arrive early in the morning or near sunset to avoid the crowds at this time of year.
Contact: Explore Minnesota, exploreminnesota.com/profile/grand-portage-state-park/1909
See more of Max Foster’s work at maxfosterphotography.com.