The Black River Scenic Byway is a 14 mile stretch of road that follows the Black River and allows “road access” to five major waterfalls. There is parking available at each waterfall but you have to hike into the forest to reach the river. The other option is to park at one trailhead and follow six miles of the North Country trail that connects all five falls. We choice to drive to each falls individually due to the high 100 degree temperatures. The drive is very pretty and I imagine is one of the more scenic roads in the fall.
To get to the byway from Highway U.S 2 in Bessemer, take Powderhorn Road north. When you come to the T in the road at the stop sign, turn left on Black River Road. Just keep driving until you see the signs for each waterfall. There are designating parking areas and the waterfalls are pretty clearly marked.
Great Conglomerate Falls
Great Conglomerate Falls on Google Maps
The first waterfall on the Black River Scenic Byway is the Great Conglomerate Falls. Thirty feet in height, it surges over a wide conglomerate rock formation. From the parking area by the road, it’s about a 3/4 of a mile hike down a very steep hill.
Potawatomi Falls on Google Maps
Potawatomi Falls was one of my favourite waterfalls along the Byway. It was easily accessed and you can get a great view of it from the overlook. It is approximately 130 feet in width, spanning the entire Black River and 30 feet in height. It’s pretty impressive.
As I mentioned, it’s easily accessed. There is a scenic site available for parking for both Potawatomi and Gorge Falls. There is a picnic area and vault toilets. The area is very developed and I suspect that these are the two most visited falls.
Gorge Falls on Google Maps
Gorge Falls is a twenty foot tall, seven feet wide waterfall that squeezes through a small opening in a gorge, hence the name. Because of how the water descends, a lot of foam is produced at it’s base. I’m not entirely certain what the cause of this is but it’s pretty neat and adds to the uniqueness of Gorge Falls.
Access to Gorge Falls can be reached from the same parking lot as Potawatomi Falls. It’s very developed, an asphalt trail leading to the view platform, just like Potawatomi. They are about 1/8 of a mile apart.
Sandstone Falls on Google Maps
Sandstone Falls is a multiple drop fall with a total height of about 25 feet. It flows over sandstone rock, which is pretty neat to explore but very slippery. The hike to the waterfall from the Byway is a short quarter of a mile but is very steep. There are posted signs that say “Pace Yourself. Avoid over Exertion” throughout the trail. The worse places have worn stairs to help assist in the climb.
Rainbow Falls on Google Maps
Rainbow Falls is the last waterfall (and tallest) on the Black River Scenic Byway before Lake Superior. It is a 45 foot tall waterfall and falls down into a rocky gorge. On sunny days, the mist from the waterfall creates a constant rainbow. It was very hard to see the full view of the waterfall from the overlook. A side angle view is best or climbing down to the base. In September this is a good place to watch as cinook and coho salmon make their upstream runs.
The hike to the falls is a half mile and it is another very difficult and steep descent. There are about 200 stairs leading you down to the waterfall. Again, be careful to not over exert yourself!