It’s not every day that you discover a waterfall, let alone one that drops 50-60 feet and is located right here in Devil’s Lake State Park. Well, that’s what we did yesterday and here’s why we named it “Black Bear Falls”.
If you’ve followed along on with our blog, you’ll remember that a few days ago I posted an article talking about black bears in the park and telling you that bear scat (poop) had been reported on Burma Road which is on the south-west corner of the park. Yesterday we decided to head over into that area and do a bit of investigation. Well, it wasn’t long before we came across bear scat. A LOT of bear scat! It’s hard to image just one bear leaving so much, well, “leavings” in the smallish area we had searched. We wondered if this may have been a mother and her cubs? Maybe just one bear returning regularly and always going in the same general area. Hard to tell, but one thing is sure.. there is certainly no doubt we have bear in the park!
Now, if you’re interested in IDing bear poop just click on the thumbnail to the left. I had to get my foot close in order to give you some size comparison. (Ewww!) You’ll also notice another critter felt it was important to contribute to the pile!
Let’s leave the scat behind and get back to the falls. With a bit of time left before dark, we decided to work our way down into one of the park’s deep gorges which was not too far from our location. The gorge is in fact, a perfect black bear habitat, something you can’t help thinking about… but the roaring of the water in the distance was calling to us!
As we worked our way down through the notches in the rocky cliffs, our ears filled with the din of rushing water from the torrent below. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and scan the valley floor through the thick trees. At one point, I saw a white flash out of the corner of my eye. I turned to get a better look, and through forest I realized I was looking at a waterfall on the opposite side of the valley! Not a small one either! Amazing!! Well, we had to find a way to get down to the bottom, cross the rushing stream, and work our way up the other side to the falls.
It was a slippery, slightly dangerous endeavor, working our way down the wet, embankments. We weaved our way around high rock walls, down wet slides covered in pine needles and along a deep overhang that looked to me like a perfect home for a mother bear and her cubs… At the bottom we scouted the stream and found spot where we could jump rock to rock and cross. From there it was a treacherous climb up a wet & brush filled talus field to the rock face on the other side. From there we worked our way around more rocks and larger boulders until we were finally at the foot of the falls. Yeah, it was worth it!
The ephemeral waterfall which we have christened, “Black Bear Falls” (Only seemed appropriate!!), drops around 50-60 feet in two distinct sections. At the top there are are a series of shelves where the water jumps from one to the next, working its way down a variety of paths. At the midway point there is a 20 foot drop down the rock face into a small pool below. From the pool the water makes a few smaller drops before disappearing into the talus field. We didn’t see any obvious spot where that water flows into the stream below as it is hidden somewhere underground.
For most folks, it’s probably not a great plan to go looking for Black Bear Falls. The seasonal falls will only be flowing during spring thaws and heavy rains. Chances are if you did get out there during the summer, they wouldn’t be running anyway. The falls are located far from the nearest road and there is no trail. It’s a risky hike around cliffs and through scree fields on a good day. If something did happen out there, cell phones won’t work. Oh, and did I mention that there seems to be a lot of bear activity? (My price of admission to the falls was my first deer tick bite for the year!!) So with that said we don’t encourage anyone to head out looking for the falls themselves.. unless, well, you know if you can/should, etc.. For everyone else, here’s a video clip!!
**The video only shows the lower half of the falls as there was no good angle to show the top half which is recessed more into the cliff.