Fonferek's Glen, located near Ledgeview in Brown County, is stunning all year long, although the waterfall here is at its best during late winter and early spring. Here, an arch in the limestone walls of the steep gorge rises above the rocky streambed. / Rob Zimmer/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
The thunder of the falls could be heard from the top of the gorge a quarter-mile from the tumbling walls of water. Swollen by days of refreshing fall rains, the falls were running strongly.
At Lower Cato Falls County Park, near Valders, the Manitowoc River tumbles through a breathtaking limestone gorge formed by the ancient conflict between water and rock.
Along each edge of the towering rock walls, hemlock, white-cedar and red cedar dominate the steep forest bluffs. Ferns decorate the lowlands and cling to the rocky ledges. Clearwater springs bleed from the hillsides, trickling into the waters below.
The water dances through the small valley here to a differing beat, depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall and snowmelt.
Like most of the waterfalls found in our immediate area, the falls here along the Manitowoc River are at their peak during the spring snowmelt season.
In addition to the falls themselves, the beautiful rock formation and the steep bluffs along the river, rise from the water forming unusual caves and caverns along the banks. During summer, swallows and other birds nest among these rocky hollows.
Beautiful in all seasons, even in winter, the river races through the gorge, sections often frozen in stunning formations of ice.
Here at the bottom of the gorge, a miniature micro-climate has been formed, with unusual evergreen ferns and tree species found only an isolated pockets throughout our area.
Wequiock cascades toward Green Bay
One of the most beautiful waterfalls found in our area is Wequiock Falls, located north of Green Bay along State 57 in Brown County.
The falls offer spectacular scenic beauty during winter, spring and early summer. After that, the waterfall tends to dry out with the heat and drought of summertime, as Wequiock Creek is reduced to a trickle.
Cascading 25 feet over the edge of the Niagara escarpment, the falls form an impressive gorge in the limestone, fed by natural springs through most of the year.
Heavy rains during summer or fall can bring the falls to new life, even if only temporarily.
View the falls from above and below from multiple vantage points around the deep limestone gorge. A viewing platform, located just downstream from the falls, offers a wonderful view of the stream and falls as they cascade through the valley.
The power of the falls is especially impressive after a heavy or extended period of rain, and you will enjoy exploring the inside of the large gorge to view the effects of the relentless flow on the limestone walls. Layers of rock peel away from the cliff edges, with the wash from the falls slowly dissolving the limestone to create the beautiful, bowl-shaped depression.
During spring and fall migration, the deep hollow at Wequiock is a great place to view songbirds on their long journey north and south. Colorful warblers, making their way along the Door peninsula north and south with the seasons pause here to feed and drink, funneling into the gorge in impressive numbers on peak migration days. It is possible to view up to 75 species of birds or more on a single visit during peak spring migration.
Fonferek's Glen a hidden gem
Also located in Brown County, Fonferek’s Glen County Park features another spectacular waterfall that tumbles into an even more impressive limestone gorge.
Hidden among the otherwise unassuming, rolling farm country, Fonferek’s Glen is a gem of a place. The beautiful scenic views, both from above and below, make this a great place to visit all year long for its ever-changing array of colorful foliage, wildflowers and wildlife.
A looping trail leads all around the steep limestone gorge, signs located all around the perimeter warn visitors away from the edge, which is constantly crumbling into the valley below. Be aware that many areas of the bluff are marked as extremely dangerous and caution should be taken when attempting to view from these areas. Children should be watched carefully and not allowed past the limestone barriers surrounding the most dangerous spots.
Several of the vantage points offer beautiful views of the steep valley walls and step-like ridges formed in the limestone creek bed by flowing waters.
During most of the year, the falls are actually dry, but visit during late winter and early spring and the face of the glen changes dramatically, with a roaring waterfall dropping 20 feet into the wide gorge below. Where it races toward the edge, the creek travels over scores of natural “steps” in the layered limestone, creating a wonderful series of rapids as it reaches the crest.
At the southern end of the gorge a spectacular natural bridge formed in the limestone creates a wonderful scenic landmark. From both above and below, this beautiful stone arch is a majestic and beautiful sight.
There aren’t many places to access the bottom of the gorge, and extreme care should be taken when attempting to do so. From below, however, the vertical valley walls and towering trees provide amazing scenic beauty.
— Rob Zimmer: 920-993-1000, ext. 7154, firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @YardMD