Winter may have finally arrived in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean you have to huddle inside for the next few months. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to do just the opposite.
If you’re a nature lover who wants to experience Minnesota’s beauty in a different way, you may want to go waterfalling! Check out some of the spectacular waterfalls while they’re frozen solid. These phenomenal frozen falls are sure to get you outside, exploring this winter.
Minneopa Falls are a favorite of many who live near Mankato. In fact, it’s considered by some to be the most scenic waterfall in southern Minnesota. That rings true even in the winter. The trickles of Minneopa Creek freeze solid on their 40-foot plunge into the pool below, making them quite a sight. Check it out for yourself at Minneopa State Park, Mankato, MN. There are some dodgy, ice and snow-covered stairs that lead hikers down into the river valley.
Though signs alert the dangers of walking to the base of the falls, trekking down is not prohibited. Just be cautious and aware of the ever-changing conditions of the waterfall area. The trail to the base of the falls is a social trail that occasionally meanders onto the frozen creek. Again, use caution if you choose to venture that way. Be aware of melting and thin ice. The base of the falls is amazing and so incredibly beautiful to behold. There are small caves carved out of the rock that capture the imagination much more than the falls themselves.
Minnemishinona Falls Overlook (40923 Judson Bottom Road, Mankato, MN) This little gem of southern Minnesota features a wonderful view of a narrow, 42-foot waterfall. A very nice pedestrian bridge exists over the gorge that was created by the falls. There isn’t much to this short path, but it is fairly well maintained and worth the stop.
The path is paved and the iron, trestle bridge is wood beams. The real features of this area are the views of Minnemishinona Falls and the gorge that winds to the Minnesota River. The ice formations created by the waterfall in winter can often be pretty spectacular. Minnemishinona Falls was acquired in 2005, and was developed and opened to the public for the first time in 2007. Prior to 2005, the falls were privately owned. When the land went up for sale, Nicollet County stepped in to acquire the land and develop it for public use. In winter, the falls create interesting ice formations that are different every year. Minnemishinona Falls is a scenic wayside just off of Judson Bottom Road. At 42 feet, it is one of southern Minnesota’s tallest waterfalls. A red trestle bridge spans the gorge, offering a beautiful view of the falls and the valley, however, the base of the falls cannot be accessed.
Hidden Falls is just south of Northfield in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. A short ½-mile hike from the parking lot will take you to the falls. Be sure to bring some traction for your feet as the trail has a tendency to become pure ice.
This park has a great system of trails that allows you to choose the length of your adventure by adding on sections of trails. You can trek atop the frozen concrete blocks that make a small bridge over the river, up above the falls; and explore the other side of the falls. Summer isn’t the only time Hidden Falls is worth seeing. When it gets cold enough, Prairie Creek freezes. Visit at the right time, and you’ll be treated to the rare sight of a frozen waterfall. The snow and ice seem to silent the noise of the woods, and the bare trees add to the peaceful, calming effect. If you have a chance, definitely visit this waterfall in winter. There are many waterfalls in the country with the Hidden Falls moniker, but the Hidden Falls in Minnesota’s Nerstrand Big Woods State Park are very cool, especially when they’re frozen. Why? Because the falls are simply not as well-known as some on larger rivers; however, stretched solid across Prairie Creek, the frozen Hidden Falls makes for an impressive view.
By Pat Garry