BRWA members and friends went in search of some of the lesser known and harder-to-find waterfalls in the Iron County side of the watershed on Sunday, May 17th. Twenty-five adventurous souls split into groups of 4 to 6 and trekked through sometimes rugged, periodically muddy, but spectacularly lovely terrain.
Rain pounded down as we drove to our varied starting points but backed down to a light mist as we arrived. Blue bead lilies, trout lilies, trillium and wild leeks carpet the forest floors. We had to step on a few as we wound into the woods to avoid deep puddles on some trails.
Foster Falls on the Potato River blasted over the rock face, and we pretended the mist in the air was spray from the waterfall. There is no such thing as bad weather – only bad gear. All came prepared wearing rain jackets and DEET.
The drive up the hill to Ren Falls on the Tyler Forks River has improved greatly in past years. Unfortunately, upgrades allow easier access for logging equipment, and the loggers moved in last week to cut a large swath of the forest along the trail. Muddy rivulets ran into brown ponds on the downhill side of the road. But the road held and took us safely to the trailhead.
At the top of the trail, we found Ren Falls gushing. Lest you think the ‘W’ was left off in error, here is the story of ‘Ren Vought.’ According to his grandson, ‘Ren Vought came to northern Wisconsin in the 1800's. Worked as a Timber Cruiser and various other jobs in the lumber camps. Later on in life he became a camp cook and perhaps experimented with moonshine a little bit....as I was told...His son Clarence worked in the woods...as a youngster I can remember him working with horses in the woods...later on Clarence worked on the ore boats. Ren Vought Falls and Vought Road...(the name has been spelled wrong on the sign as Vogues) were named after Ren as was Ren Vought's bluff on (County Road) GG.....Ren's real name was Lorenzo...but shortened by all who knew him to Ren... ‘
While the landscape is not pretty following a cutover, Iron County’s forested land is what provides free access to these falls for all. The sustainable harvest of timber is also the largest revenue source in Iron County, adding $1.5 million to the general fund each year and tens of l thousands in payments to each of the affected towns. The waterfalls we visited are almost all in the Town of Anderson where the majority of the land is county forest.
At the end of the logging road is beautiful Rouse Falls on Rouse Creek which flows to Erickson Creek before feeding the Tyler Forks River on its journey to Copper Falls State Park in Mellen where it joins the Bad River in flowing to Lake Superior.
We moved on to Rouse Falls and a slightly (?) muddy walk on another well-used logging road.
The muddy, buggy walk was well worth it to see this amazing waterfall. Thanks Mike Mertes for this photo of Rouse Falls.
Rouse Falls provided a great opportunity to practice ‘the black fly wave.’ Thanks Sarah Boles!
At the end of Moore Park Road, a trail leads upstream to the cascading waters flowing through the Tyler Forks gorge.
The sun peeked out just long enough to highlight the water and elicit big smiles from these hikers.
Back at our meeting place in the Upson Town Park and Upson Falls, rain began again in earnest as we brushed off the mud, waved away the bugs and headed for home. If looking the right direction, you would have seen the rainbow.
Some comments from those who attended:
Thanks for a great day. ~Jean
We loved the wonderful adventure you took us on. Thank you --Vivianne and Larry
Yes indeed! A fine day on the planet. Thank one and all who dreamed, planned, tramped, mapped, made signs, banged them in and then invited our fine community along for the fun! --Andy
Beautiful day, wonderful company and great scenery. Even getting stuck wasn't unpleasant. – Mike
Ditto on all the remarks. Next time an earlier hike with a pot luck would be fun to be able to visit with everyone. Cheers --Sarah & Adrian