Complete Guide to Pattison State Park
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Pattison State Park is home to Wisconsin’s highest waterfall, Big Manitou Falls. Big Manitou Falls is also the fourth-highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. This park’s fourteen hundred acres also include Little Manitou Falls, a lake with a sand beach, trails, and camping sites.
Pattison State Park is in northern Wisconsin, about three hours away from where the Wisconsin and Minnesota state borders meet. Pattison State Park is within a thirty-minute drive of both Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota. It takes roughly six hours to get to Pattison State Park from both Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin.
History of Pattison State Park
Pattison State Park is one of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks. This park was established in 1920 and was named after a businessman who saved Big Manitou Falls. Martin Pattison bought several acres of land along the Black River in 1918. He then donated this land to the state. This prevented the planned power dam from being built since the adjoining land was unable to be purchased. In 1920, Pattison State Park became a cornerstone part of the Wisconsin State Park system.
Later, from the 1930s to WWII, the Civilian Conservation Corps continued to improve the park. They constructed park buildings, landscaped, and built water systems, among other things.
Visitors can thank Martin Pattison’s foresight and investment as well as “Camp Pattison’s” CCC for the park features of Big Manitou Falls, old-growth forest, and the artificial beachfront that we enjoy today.
Pattison State Park Waterfalls
Pattison State Park is notable for its two waterfalls. Visitors can see Wisconsin’s largest waterfall, Big Manitou Falls, as it drops a hundred and sixty-five feet into a rocky gorge. Big Manitou Falls can be seen from several beautiful vantage points and platforms in the park.
The second waterfall in Pattison State Park is Little Manitou Falls. It’s located about a mile and a half from Big Manitou Falls. Visitors can see Little Manitou Falls clearly from several vistas. One neat thing about Little Manitou Falls is how accessible it is. There are many locations for visitors to get up close and personal to view and photograph Little Manitou Falls.
Both the overlooks for Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls are accessible.
Things to do in Pattison State Park
Pattison State Park offers several activities. The top-rated activity here is to view Big Manitou Falls, but there are also fun opportunities to explore Little Manitou Falls.
Visitors can see the interpretive displays in the park’s Nature Center and borrow some activities for the kids to use to help them enjoy their time at the park.
In addition to relaxing and swimming at the beach, visitors can paddle on Interfalls Lake. Visitors enjoy grilling their lunchtime meals while the kids play at the playground at the main picnic area. In the beautiful natural setting of Pattison State Park, you can go fishing, hunting, camping, and cross-country skiing. There are also wonderful possibilities to view some of the park’s wildlife. This park is home to about fifty mammal species and two hundred bird species.
We put together a Wisconsin State Parks Bucket List Free Printable for you – to keep track of all the state parks and nature areas you visit.
Camping at Pattison State Park
Pattison State Park has a family campground and a backpacking campground area. The family campground sites are situated in an inner and outer loop. Both loops have sites separated by trees and brush.
The family campground has fifty-nine sites available. There are sites available for tents, trailers, and RVs over 50 feet. Eighteen of the sites have electrical hookups. During the warm weather, there are showers, flush toilets, drinking stations, and a dump station available.
In the off-season, visitors can still get water from the contact station during its open hours. The pit toilets are also open all year round. You need to note that all the campsites are pull-through sites and a bit unlevel. There are no sewer or water hookups.
The family campground has accessible campsites. The picnic area, water fountain, toilets, and showers are also accessible.
The backpacking campground is about a mile and a half hike from the parking lot. The backpack campground area has three camping sites. These sites are primitive and only have vault toilets, tables, and fire rings.
Pattison State Park Water Sports
Paddle boating is a popular activity on the twenty-three-acre Interfalls Lake. Visitors need to bring their own boats as there are no rentals at Pattison State Park. Interfalls lake has a boat landing, but any kind of motorboat or powerboat is prohibited.
Pattison State Park Fishing
Fishing is allowed at Pattison State Park in both Interfalls Lake and the Black River. Anglers are allowed to fish from the boat landing, the beach, and below Big Manitou Falls. The lake and river aren’t popular fishing spots because few fish have been caught here recently.
The DNR once stocked the park with four kinds of sport fish, but no longer does. Since the DNR stopped stocking the fish, there aren’t many fish to catch.
Pattison State Park Swimming
Pattison State Park offers a luxurious three-hundred-foot sand beach area as part of its state park attractions. The beach area is right next to the large grassy picnic area. There is also a nice bathhouse that is in the same area as the beach and picnic tables.
Because Interfalls Lake gets its water from the Black River, the lake’s depth changes after it rains. This twenty-seven-acre lake has a maximum depth of thirteen feet, and the average depth is about half that.
Swimming outside the marked lifeline area in the lake is not allowed. There is also no swimming allowed in the river or waterfalls. Swimming anywhere other than the permitted areas of Interfalls Lake is extremely dangerous.
Hiking at Pattison State Park
Pattison State Park’s seven miles of trails include three main trails and three minor trails. The main trails are a little over a mile to two miles long. The minor, shorter trails are under a mile long. All the trails are well-maintained and have clear signage.
The trails are easy to walk in terms of skill level. Pattison State Park has interesting geology because of the forces that occurred here over a billion years ago. Visitors can learn about the park’s geology as they walk the trails by looking at the map
Pattison State Park Trails
Big Manitou Falls Overlooks – Length: 0.5 miles
0.5 miles long with a great view of the falls – from a few different angles. A self-guiding booklet: Big Manitou Geology Walk [PDF]
Big Manitou Falls River Trail – Length: 0.75 miles
A little more challenging, and it has a view of the Douglas Fault.
Beaver Trail – Length: 2.0 miles
It circles Interfalls Lake.
Little Manitou Falls Trail
This trail continues from Beaver Trail south along the Black River.
Pattison State Park Picnicking
Pattison State Park has three picnic areas. There is a picnic area by each of the falls, and the largest picnic area is by the beach. The picnic area by the beach is right next to the parking lot. This picnic area is a developed, grassy space with many picnic tables and grills. The picnic area also includes water, restrooms, a playground, a volleyball court, and a pet area. The shelter building in the main picnic area is available to rent.
Hunting in Pattison State Park
Hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park during Wisconsin State Park’s hunting and trapping time frame. Hunting is limited around paved areas as described on the park’s hunting map.
Trapping is not permitted in closed areas, within 100 yards of any designated use area, and in areas noted on the Pattison State Park hunting map. Certain trap types are restricted on state park properties. Make sure to check the map for the rules and regulations for hunting and trapping at Pattison State Park.
Pattison State Park in Winter
Visitors enjoy the breathtaking views while skiing along one of Pattison State Park’s three cross-country skiing trails. Pattison State Park has five and a half miles of cross-country loop trails that range from beginner to moderate skill levels. There are also informal trails that visitors can snowshoe in winter.
Pattison State Park and Dogs
Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles.
Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds, trails, roads, and outlying areas of the parks. They must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times, if they are not under control at all times, they can be seized and subject to local laws pertaining to stray animals.
ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t micro-chipped. If you do lose your dog, you can contact the Douglas County Humane Society at (715) 398-6784.
Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations. Bears have been spotted at Pattison State Park. It’s best to make sure your pooch has his vaccinations up to date.
Dogs are not allowed in the main picnic area or the beach area at Pattison State Park. There is a designated pet area next to the main picnic area and beach. There are also small pet picnic areas at both the falls. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trails and campgrounds at Pattison State Park.
You will need a Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker to get into Pattison State Park. This permit also allows you to get into all the state parks, forests, and recreation parks in the State.
Hotels Near Pattison State Park
There are several great places to stay in the region around Pattison State Park. We’re sharing our top three favorite places to stay that are within a half-hour’s drive of Pattison State Park.
Mont du Lac Resort
More Information: https://mdlresort.com/
Location: 3125 S. Mont du Lac Rd, Superior, WI, 54880
If you want to multiply your outdoor adventures, then Mont du Lac Resort is the place for you. This resort has multiple options for lodging. Groups can rent the house lodge or the river lodge. There are also luxurious cabins and lodge suites available to stay at. For those who prefer to bring their RV or tent, there are sites here as well.
This resort offers outdoor recreation opportunities year-round. There is a playground, a waterpark and beach area, a 3D archery range, and an all-season tubing park here. Visitors can enjoy the resort’s rolling countryside by cycling on mountain bike trails, renting boats for river recreation, or skiing on one of the resort’s ski runs.
With two lodges, a restaurant, and a café, Mont du Lac Resort offers a no-fuss, quality outdoor experience.
Cobblestone Hotel and Suites-Superior/Duluth
More Information: https://www.staycobblestone.com/wi/superior-cobblestone/
Location: 1102 Tower Avenue Superior, WI 54880
This is one of the newer hotels, and it’s located right in downtown Superior. This hotel has single king rooms, double queen rooms, as well as suites. These all have modern amenities. The Cobblestone hotel has a lounge, a business center, and a convenience store on site.
We love that the Cobblestone hotel offers inclusive services like braille signage, a hearing impaired guestroom and that everything in the hotel is accessible. This hotel also has a gym, an indoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and is pet-friendly.
St. Croix Inn
More Information: https://stcroixinnhotel.com/
Location: 11390 South 5th Street East, Solon Springs, WI 54873
St. Croix Inn is the furthest away of our three hotel recommendations, but it’s well worth the thirty-two-minute drive. This lakeside hotel is situated on the shores of Upper Saint Croix Lake. We recommend booking one of the cabins or rustic rooms with lakeside views from the balcony.
There are thirty-two rooms that have beds ranging from double to king size, with modern amenities. The St. Croix Inn also offers resort-style amenities on its site. Guests can enjoy the lakeside lounge bar and restaurant, an indoor pool, hot tub, and spa. Despite the rustic setting, guests here enjoy hi-speed Wi-Fi, cable TV, and continental breakfasts.
If you enjoy water sports, you may borrow one of the hotel’s paddle boards, boats, canoes, or kayaks. Guests may also rent a pontoon boat from the hotel to explore the lake for a day.