Transformed by snowmelt and showers, last summer's small sprays erupt into thundering waterfalls come spring. Here's where to see them on a scenic drive, a long hike or a city stroll.

By Amanda Glazebrook
February 22, 2016

Road trip

Spearfish Canyon, Spearfish, South Dakota

If spring ignites your wanderlust, point your car toward South Dakota's Black Hills. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, a 20-mile jaunt tracing the edge of the 1,000-foot-deep limestone canyon, connects three gorgeous falls. Take in views of the gentle, rock-clinging 80-foot-tall Bridal Veil Falls from a roadside stop-no hike necessary. Seven miles south, spy Roughlock Falls from an overlook, then walk the easy mile-long Roughlock Falls Trail to the base of this 50-foot raging falls. And 1 mile south, park at The Latchstring Inn restaurant and look behind the building for a trailhead. It kicks off a quarter-mile walk to the mist-shrouded base of 50-foot Spearfish Falls.


Spearfish Canyon


Spearfish Canyon

Meanwhile, in Sioux Falls … If ever there was a city proud of its waterfalls, the not-so-subtly-named Sioux Falls, South Dakota, would be it. Make your way to Falls Park and grab a table at the Falls Overlook Cafe (in a century-old brick pump house) for sweet potatoes stuffed with brisket and a glimpse of the series of cascades on the Big Sioux River.

Urban legends

Minnehaha Regional Park and St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis

The cascade in urban Minnehaha Regional Park gained fame in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1855 poem "The Song of Hiawatha." Today, the dramatic 53-foot Minnehaha Falls stars in many a wedding photo, and paved paths lead visitors over the crest and to the foot of the falls. A few miles away, in downtown Minneapolis, the 200-foot-long Stone Arch Bridge gives top-down views of St. Anthony Falls, the only falls on the Mississippi River and the sole power source for the mills that flourished here in the 19th century. When the limestone bed eroded in the 1870s, the falls collapsed and had to be rebuilt with concrete.


Minnehaha Falls

Mystery of the kettle Devil's Kettle Falls in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, 14 miles outside Grand Marais, Minnesota (25 miles south of the Canadian border), presents an enigma: No one knows where it goes. The Brule River splits around a rock formation; half of the water takes a 50-foot spill and continues flowing toward Lake Superior. But the other half disappears into a pothole (or kettle). Scientists have dyed the water and thrown tracking devices into the kettle, but the falls' course remains a mystery.

Hike, hike

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise, Michigan

At the Upper Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, some 50,000 gallons of water rush over the wide stone ledge every second in peak season, making it one of the largest falls east of the Mississippi River. And the viewing experience? Let's call it thunderous. From this waterfall, a 4-mile trail through old-growth forest along the Tahquamenon River leads to the Lower Tahquamenon Falls, where the water pours gently over five short drops for much tamer falls.


Upper Tahquamenon Falls

The Tahquamenon FAQ First-time visitors to either of the Tahquamenon falls all tend to ask the same question: "Why does it look like root beer?" The Tahquamenon River's headwaters flow through a bog of cedars and hemlocks, infusing the water with tannins (the same substance that gives dry red wine a pleasing bite) and giving it that rich brown shade.