10 Beautiful Waterfalls in Southern Wisconsin (2024)

Wisconsin, often celebrated for its lush landscapes and natural beauty, is also home to some enchanting waterfalls.

From the serene Pewit’s Nest near Baraboo to the charming Stephens Falls in Governor Dodge State Park, these cascades offer a refreshing escape into nature.

In this guide, we explore not just the popular spots but also some lesser-known gems like Skillet Creek Falls and the tranquil settings of local parks like Wehr Nature Center and Kletzsch Park Dam.

Whether you’re planning a weekend road trip or a short hike, Southern Wisconsin’s waterfalls promise spectacular views and a great time.

Here’s a brief overview of the waterfalls in this blog post:

  • Pewit’s Nest: Located near Baraboo, Pewit’s Nest is a picturesque gorge featuring a small but beautiful waterfall. This spot is renowned for its scenic beauty and is a great place for a short hike. The surrounding deep gorges carved by Skillet Creek add to its mystical charm.
  • Stephens Falls: Nestled within Governor Dodge State Park, Stephens Falls is accessible via an easy hike. This hidden gem offers a serene spot to enjoy nature’s splendor. The observation deck provides a perfect vantage point to appreciate this impressive waterfall.
  • Parfrey’s Glen: As Wisconsin’s first State Natural Area, Parfrey’s Glen, near Devil’s Lake State Park, boasts a small yet captivating waterfall. The glen, with its unique geological formations and rich history, is a testament to the state’s natural beauty.
  • Wehr Nature Center: A peaceful retreat within Milwaukee county, featuring gentle water flows and walking trails.
  • Lake Park Waterfall: A picturesque spot in Milwaukee, perfect for a family picnic or a leisurely stroll.
  • Kletzsch Park Dam: Located in Glendale, this site offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban charm.
  • Boerner Botanical Garden: Home to a man-made waterfall, this garden in Hales Corners is a delightful spot for plant enthusiasts.
  • Grant Park, Mill Pond Dam: Situated in South Milwaukee, this park presents a scenic waterfall along with recreational facilities.

Now, let’s dive deeper into each one!

Pewit’s Nest: A Hidden Natural Sanctuary

Pewit’s Nest, located near Baraboo, is a beautiful natural gorge featuring a small waterfall, known for its scenic beauty and the deep gorges carved by Skillet Creek.

A small parking area is available near the entrance. The site features a short trail that leads to the waterfall, offering an easy hike suitable for most visitors.

While it remains a popular spot for its picturesque views and short hikes, visitor experiences have varied.

Photo: devilslakewiscornsin.com.

Visitor Insights

  • Spring Walk: As noted in an April 2023 Trip Advisor review, the area is easily accessible, with some parts of the trail closed.
  • Family-Friendly: A July 2022 review mentions it being great for young families, with clear, cold water that’s not too deep, making it ideal for wading and exploring.
  • Crowding Issues: Some visitors have expressed concerns about over-crowding and environmental impact, leading to restricted areas to recover from human damage and vandalism.
  • Bring Bug Spray: Reviews from different seasons highlight the site’s year-round appeal, though some recommend bringing bug spray and checking for ticks as precautionary measures.
  • Access Limitations: Recent reviews indicate that areas have been fenced off for environmental protection, which has affected the accessibility and experience of the site.

As with any natural area, conditions can change, and it’s always best to check for the latest information and heed local regulations to protect the environment and ensure a safe visit for everyone.

Visitor Tips

Best Time to Visit: The waterfall is most scenic when the snow melts in early spring or after a rainstorm, as the water levels rise, creating a more dramatic cascade.

Picnic and Photography: While there’s no designated picnic area, visitors often find spots around the gorge for a quick snack. The site is also a favorite among photographers, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.

Stephens Falls: A Tranquil Escape

Photo from Travel Wisconsin


Nestled in the heart of Governor Dodge State Park, Stephens Falls is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

The waterfall is relatively small but makes up for its size with its serene setting and the soothing sounds of water cascading over rocks.

A well-maintained hiking trail leads visitors through a lush green landscape to the falls, making it a perfect destination for families and nature enthusiasts.

Visitor Tips

Go early: To avoid the crowds, head out on the trail in the early morning.

Parking and Accessibility: The park features a large parking lot, ensuring ample space for visitors. From the parking area, a short and scenic hiking trail leads directly to the falls.

Observation Deck: Near the falls, there’s an observation deck that offers a panoramic view of the waterfall and the surrounding deep gorges, making it a great spot for contemplation or simply enjoying nature’s music.

Parfrey’s Glen: Wisconsin’s Natural Heritage

Photo: devilslakewisconsin.com

A Journey Through Time

Parfrey’s Glen, located near Devil’s Lake State Park, holds the honor of being Wisconsin’s first State Natural Area.

This enchanting glen features a small but captivating waterfall nestled within an ancient gorge.

As you walk along the short trail, you’re essentially traveling through time, with the gorge walls revealing layers of history dating back to the Cambrian Period.

It’s celebrated for its stunning and somewhat challenging hikes through a beautiful gorge. The hike offers varying experiences as you move along the trail, leading to a picturesque waterfall.

The initial easy trail becomes challenging, requiring navigation over rocks and logs. Be prepared for a bit of scrambling over rocks. The climb, while demanding, rewards hikers with breathtaking views and a serene pool at the waterfall’s base.

Visitor Tips

  • Wear waterproof shoes: Be prepared for a muddy hike!
  • Leave Fido at home: The trail is not particularly dog-friendly.
  • Parking and Trail: Visitors will find a designated parking area at the entrance.

Wehr Nature Center / Whitnall Park

A Family-Friendly Nature Escape in Whitnall Park

Wehr Nature Center, nestled in the picturesque Whitnall Park in Milwaukee County, is an ideal destination for families with young kids. It offers easy hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife watching, making it a perfect spot for an educational and enjoyable day out.

Photo submitted by Rosie Carlson

Visitor Experience: Starting at the Visitor Center, contribute a donation near the parking lot and embark on your adventure.

Nature Play Space: Overlooking Mallard Lake, the Nature Play Space and Nature Center offer engaging activities for children.

Lake Loop / Waterfall Trail: For a family-friendly hike, the Lake Loop/Waterfall trail is a must-try. It’s less than half a mile to the waterfall, where you can enjoy a snack while watching the water cascade into the Root River. The entire loop around the lake is 1.5 miles and offers sights of frogs and turtles, especially during their mating season.

Family-Friendly Trail: This stroller-friendly boardwalk is a 0.5-mile trail showcasing Wehr’s diverse natural communities. It’s an easy walk with frequent benches and photo opportunities, passing by Mallard Lake, wetlands, and woodlands.

Lake Park Waterfall

A Historical Waterfall in Milwaukee’s Lake Park

Lake Park Waterfall, restored in 2010, boasts a vertical fall of more than 30 feet, making it the highest in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same landscape architect behind Central Park in New York City, this park is home to plenty of natural beauty and historical significance.

Photo from milwaukeeparks.blogspot.com.

Accessing the Waterfall: Begin your journey at the overlook south of the Lake Park Pavilion parking lot. A wooded path leads down to Lincoln Memorial Drive, unveiling the lannon stone waterfall in all its glory.

Architectural Marvel: The park’s design reflects Olmsted’s vision, harmoniously blending the waterfall into the surrounding landscape. It’s a great spot to appreciate both nature and historical architecture.

Kletzsch Park Dam

A Scenic Dam Along the Milwaukee River Parkway

Located in Glendale, Kletzsch Park is home to a picturesque dam on the Milwaukee River Parkway, part of the Oak Leaf Trail. Officially a dam, this site offers more than just a view of cascading waters.

Photo from mkecountypark.org

Nearby Amenities: Kletzsch Park, just north of the waterfall, and Parkway Elementary School, south of the waterfall, offer playgrounds for children. Maslowski Park, a short drive away, is another great spot for a family outing.

Trail and River Views: The park’s location along the Oak Leaf Trail makes it an ideal stop for hikers and bikers. The waterfall itself is a tranquil spot for a rest or a snack, with the Milwaukee River providing a serene backdrop.

Boerner Botanical Garden

Tranquil Waterfalls in a Lush Garden Setting

Boerner Botanical Gardens, situated in Whitnall Park in the village of Hales Corners, is about 15 minutes from Milwaukee. This site is home to formal gardens, a variety of floral displays, and serene rock gardens with trickling waterfalls.

Garden Exploration: Visitors can wander through the rose, peony, annuals, and perennials gardens. The fragrant herb garden, daylily path, and the serene rock garden with its streams and waterfalls offer a peaceful retreat.

Children’s Garden: The newly added Margie’s Garden is a delightful attraction for young visitors, included with the admission, providing an interactive and educational experience amidst nature.

Grant Park, Mill Pond Dam

A Historic Dam in South Milwaukee’s Grant Park

The Mill Pond Spillway, part of Grant Park in South Milwaukee, is located along the Oak Creek Parkway. This historic site, dating back to the early 1840s, offers a glimpse into the area’s past while providing a picturesque natural setting.

Photo from adammartin.space

Historical Significance: Built by John Fowle, the dam originally powered a gristmill and sawmill. The millstones, some of the oldest man-made items in South Milwaukee, are still visible on the site.

Park Features: Now part of the Milwaukee County Park System, the spillway and surrounding park offer a blend of historical intrigue and natural beauty, perfect for a leisurely visit or a picnic.

Mill Pond Park & Plaza

Mill Pond Park & Plaza is a charming 2.5-acre downtown park nestled in Menomonee Falls. Known for the Lepper Dam spillway and its picturesque gazebo, this park offers a blend of brick plaza and lush green space, making it a popular spot for photography.

Visitors can enjoy the park’s various amenities, including a shelter with restrooms, benches, drinking fountains, and a small amphitheater. The park also features an asphalt trail and ample parking.

A beautiful playground at Village Park is located nearby!

More Wisconsin Waterfalls

North Country Trail

Up for a road trip? The North Country National Scenic Trail delivers some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the United States. It runs through 8 states from Vermont to North Dakota, including northern Wisconsin.

The Western Wisconsin segment runs from the Minnesota/Wisconsin State Line to Bayfield County A. This segment offers mostly flat trails and gentle slopes with some expansive vistas. You’ll see old growth groves of red and white pine trees and in the late summer the prairies are abundant with flowers. There are many streams along this segment and the eastern part of this segment runs along small, pristine lakes.

Along this segment you’ll find Pattison State Park, near Lake Superior, which features the tallest waterfalls in Wisconsin and fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.

Big Manitou Falls is 165 feet high (It’s Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall) and the smaller lower falls called Twin Little Manitou Falls, is 31 feet high.

The oldest section of the Trail in Wisconsin is the Chequamegon National Forest, running from Bayfield County A to the Sandstone Ledges Spur Trail in Copper Falls State Park.

The trails pass through gentle terrain and two federally designated Wilderness Areas: Porcupine Lake Wilderness and Rainbow Lake Wilderness, both popular with visitors.

The Juniper Rock Overlook offers a showstopping view in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, located along the North Country Scenic Trail. It’s rated as moderate to difficult because it is rocky and steep at times. However the hike is only a half a mile, which means it will only take you about 20 minutes to complete.

At the end of the hike, you’ll be rewarded panoramic vistas of the Marengo River Valley. If you continue on, you can hike over a bridge over the Marengo River Valley.

The Juniper Rock Overlook in the Chequamegon National Forest

In the Eastern part of the state, the Trail continues through the “land of waterfalls” and rocky outcrops of the ancient, worn down Penokee Mountain Range. This segment of the Trail is more wild and arguably more breathtaking, with expansive vistas. 

In this segment, the North Country Trail runs through Copper Falls State Park, a waterfall heaven. The doughboys Nature Trail is a 1.7-mile trail that that offers spectacular views of Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls and the Tyler Forks cascades. 

No fees are charged for hiking on the trail but fees may be required for parking, camping, or entrance at various sections along the trail.

You’ll find historic sites along the way with information about the landscape, Native Americans, national historic landmarks and important people. Visit the National Park Service website or the North Country Trail Association to plan your trip.

Marinette County, the “Waterfall Capital of Wisconsin”

Marinette County is the self-proclaimed Waterfall Capital of Wisconsin, for good reason. Their Waterfall Brochure and Self-Guided Waterfall Hikes will guide you through impressive waterfalls like Dave’s Falls, Veteran’s Falls, and more.

Lost Creek Falls (Cornucopia, WI):

  • A picturesque 8-foot waterfall with cascades above and below the main plunge.
  • Unique feature: You can walk behind the falls, a rarity in the Lake Superior area.
  • Nearby is a small 3-foot cascade, adding to the scenic beauty of the location.

Downtown Osceola Waterfall (Osceola, WI):

  • A scenic urban waterfall located off Cascade Street near the millpond and Chief Osceola statue.
  • At night, the falls are illuminated with LED lights, creating a moonlit or seasonally themed ambiance.

Willow Falls at Willow River State Park (Hudson, WI):

  • Situated 5 miles northeast of Hudson, inside Willow River State Park (entrance fee required).
  • The most popular hiking destination in the park, offering stunning views.
  • The falls and river are particularly spectacular in winter, with ice and snow drifts creating a magical landscape.

Our journey through some of Southern Wisconsin’s most captivating waterfalls doesn’t have to end here.

If you’re intrigued by the allure of waterfalls and want to expand your explorations, be sure to check out our other posts:

So, whether you’re planning your next family outing, a solo adventure, or a romantic nature walk, our blog has got you covered with all the information you need to discover these natural wonders. Happy exploring!

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