Wild Rivers & Waterfalls: Experience Florence County’s Stunning Outdoors
Florence County in Northern Wisconsin is home to a gorgeous frontier of outdoor adventure. And some of the state’s best kept natural secrets.
From waterfalls including Wisconsin’s 6th largest, some of the oldest rocks in North America (we’re talking 2 billion years old!), and Wild Rivers that flow in their natural, untouched state — a trip to Florence County will have you and your crew in awe of natural wonder.
Let’s dig into some of Florence County’s greatest natural gems and experiences, plus tips on enjoying them to the fullest.
Breakwater Falls, A Hidden National Treasure
There aren’t many stunning natural wonders that remain hidden today, but the Pine River’s Breakwater Falls — one of Wisconsin’s largest waterfalls — is one of them.
The waterfall was so hidden that its name was lost for decades. It wasn’t until local expert and river explorer John Roberts (pictured paddling below) discovered the falls himself a few years ago, then uncovered the word “Breakwater” on a 1906 survey map, that the national treasure had a name once again.
What makes Breakwater Falls a national treasure? We asked Roberts about the waterfall’s most amazing features:
- The size. It’s the 6th largest waterfall in Wisconsin, and it’s part of the steepest gradient of any river in the Midwest.
- The age. The exposed rock along the falls is over 2 billion years old. That’s some of oldest rock in North America, even older than the rock at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
- The location. The Pine River is 1 of 5 designated Wild Rivers in Wisconsin. The special designation means the river remains in its natural, wild state. There aren’t many places left in the country where we can truly experience wilderness, and this is one of them.
As you explore, remember the Pine River truly is a Wild River — the trail is undeveloped and challenging. While completely worth the trek, the trail is not for everyone. For those up for the challenge, you and your hiking buddies will enjoy every moment of it!
More Stop-Worthy Waterfalls in Florence County
There are more breathtaking waterfalls to chase in Florence County. Lace up your boots, pack your favorite trail mix, and set off to explore these with your favorite waterfall lovers.
Not far from Breakwater Falls is the impressive 22-foot drop of LaSalle Falls. A mile hike from the trailhead brings you through serene forest to the picture-worthy lookout on the cliff above the falls. Continue down the trail to falls’ base for another awe-inspiring view.
The Popple River, another of Wisconsin’s designated Wild Rivers, has gorgeous waterfalls of its own. The biggest of them, Big Bull Falls, has trails that lead to the top, middle and bottom of the falls, so you can experience it from every angle.
Paddling and Tubing the Oxbow Run
To fully experience Florence County’s Wild Rivers, you’ve got to get out on the water. There are plenty of spots to kayak or canoe along the Pine and Popple Rivers, and the Oxbow Run segment of the Pine River stands out as a top spot.
A horseshoe-shaped, curve along 3.5 miles of the Pine River just off County Road N makes up the Oxbow Run, and the curve places the put-in and take-out access points close by. The leisurely flow of the river here is perfect for a relaxing adventure immersed in nature.
Rent kayaks, canoes or paddle boards for the Oxbow Run from Nature’s Water Park. For your whole family or your group of friends, renting tubes is the best way to go — link together, bring a cooler full of refreshments, and enjoy a couple hours on the Wild River.
Where to Stay and Eat in Florence
All that outdoor adventuring will leave you and your fellow explorers hungry and ready for some well-deserved rest.
Visit the Tavern on Central for a hearty meal, and if you're up for it, order one of their famous Bloody Marys. Have the classic Tavern Bloody, or go all out with the T.O.C. (Totally Out of Control) topped with an entire cheeseburger, fried cheese curds, bacon, pickled egg and more. For a more upscale-but-still-casual dining experience, try Ash’s Restaurant and their impeccably presented, delicious dishes.
The natural beauty of Florence County may have you booking a campsite to maximize your time outdoors — there are 9 public and 2 private campgrounds to choose from, and each create campfire memories with the people you love.
If you’re looking for a comfortable stay with breakfast included, book a room at Lakeside Bed & Breakfast. Most rooms at Lakeside have a fireplace, and owners Stacey and Bill provide a home-away-from-home atmosphere with a tasty breakfast served each morning. Located right on the shore on Fisher Lake, you’ll have access to the B&B’s kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. You’ll be walking distance from downtown Florence, too!
Your outdoor adventures in Florence County are sure to be unforgettable. And for more travel inspiration while you’re there, explore ExploreFlorenceCounty.com.