Cascade Falls and Root Beer Water

Root Beer Water/Cascade River State Park The beautiful stair-step waterfalls that cascade down the river are what give this park its name. With a nice waterfall near the footbridge on Highway 61 and additional waterfalls two miles inland, the views make the hike very worthwhile.

If you have explored rivers and lakes along the North Shore you’ve probably noticed that the water is the color of root beer. Why? Well, most people think it’s caused by water containing large amounts of silt. However, the actual reason is that North Shore rivers, especially when the water is low, carry tannins from swamps and decaying vegetation that keeps its color an amber-brown.

One example of this weird phenomenon can be seen in Cascade River State Park. Many spectators have grown to believe the brown water is a result of how fast the water rushes, bringing mud from the bottom of the river with it. With how fast the water rushes down the Cascades, it’s hard to believe that it’s really just sediment being carried along!

Many other bodies of water around the world are also root beer colored. For example, our very own Lake Superior sometimes seems reddish-brown. This happens when strong winds or rains launch red clay particles and other sediments into the water. The sediments don’t cause any harm, although we imagine it does give spectators an uneasy feeling as they’re used to that cool-blue water that the lake is known for.

How to get there
Cascade River State Park Highway 61 between Lutsen and Grand Marais
Park in the lot next to Highway 61 for a short, easy hike to the Cascade Falls.