August 4, 2007
Some friends told us to search out Big Falls County Park in Price County. Fortunately, they gave us some directions. We have a pretty darn good map of the state but it took us a long time to find it on the map, even with their directions. We're glad we hunted the place down, because it was an absolute delight. When you've had it with the world, ya gotta go here!
As always, let's get our bearings. Price County is in northcentral Wisconsin, just below Ashland and Iron Counties, both of which border on Lake Superior. You are looking at a portion of a map for canoeing enthusiasts of the area they call "Jump River 1." The hash marks you see at Little Falls and Big Falls denote rapids, Class II or higher.
The class designator is used to describe what to expect after you enter the water, let's say over at Yellow Banks to the east. Class A is a lake with little to no water movement; Class VI is extraordinarily difficult where a paddler must contend with the possibility of dying because of the danger. Class II is moderate, medium quick water with regular waves, with rocks demanding maneuver, best handled by intermediate paddlers. Expert canoeists will tell you that a stream can change from Class II to Class IV, difficult, quickly, especially after a storm. We'll show a bunch of photos soon.
If you take US 8, which runs east-west north of Big Falls, you'd come to County N in the town of Kennan. Take County N south about 10 miles to Big Falls Road and hang a right. Take this road until it ends, at the park.
Big Falls is actually on the South Fork Jump River. Shortly downstream the falls, the South Fork joins the North Fork to form the Jump River which makes its way through several counties to Holcombe Flowage in Chippewa County. We have a short presentation of the flowage in our Chippewa County section of the Northern Highland Geographic Province.
Interestingly, the rivers shown here to the town of Jump River about 5-10 miles to the southwest have been designated as "Exceptional Resource Waters." After walking along the shore of the South Fork, we'll have to agree with that.
We'd like you to focus on the Big Falls area between the two yellow arrows on the lower right quadrant of the photo. We'll give you a zoom Mapquest aerial photo of this area, and then show you a series of photos that will walk you from the bottom (south) to the northwest up to the point of the upper second arrow of the two.
This is a blowup of the area we showed you on the first aerial shot. The yellow arrow at the bottom points to the beginning of the falls-rapids area, while the top area points to where the water starts to smooth out. Remember the island shown at the top. We'll show you what heaven might be like in our close-ups of that spot later.
Okay, here's where the action starts. First one more aerial zoomer, then our photos from ground level.
Remember, the water is flowing on this, the South Fork of the Jump River, from lower right to upper left, from the southeast at this point to the northwest. This is the direction we'll walk, starting where the falls begin.
Okay, now we round a small curve and look downstream.
Now we'll keep walking along the trail, which was to the right, and peak in at the river in a few spots as we walk toward that island we mentioned.
This is a glimpse of the trail. It is very well marked, a nice, easy walk, though you do have to watch your step as the land is filled with rock.
This shot gives you a sense for the rock underlying the land. Over these many years, the river has cut into these and they've broken off, falling into the water, getting moved about very slowly by the water over long periods of time.
The trail just gets more and more beautiful as you get in deeper. As you can see, still well marked, easy to follow. In this location, you get a better look at the rocks you have to avoid tripping over.
Believe it or not, the rocks in the river are starting to thin out!
Though if you were in a canoe, or kayak, you've still got to pay attention to be sure you're ready to navigate through these narrows.
Much to our surprise, as we approached that island we showed you earlier on the aerial overview, we came across three guys, dad and two sons, fishin'. The island we mentioned earlier starts directly behind dad and his one son, and extends to the right on the photo. Dad said he brings his boys here every year. He relaxes, while the boys fish. These two kids are going to have great memories of this when they grow older.
You can see the one lad fishing with a small strainer. He was looking for crawfish. They had a tin can filled with their catches when we got there.
This is a look downstream beyond the island. Soon hereafter, there will be very few rocks in the water, as you can see in this closing aerial shot of the island area.