Sometimes it is the season that defines a place. While Kasson Falls is surely beautiful anytime of the year, it is in winter that its splendor is truly revealed.
Hidden deep in a gorge, surrounded by mountains, Kasson Falls is a hidden wonderland. But it is not unknown, for even its isolation cannot keep its beauty a secret. The falls are located on private property near State Game Lands 57, however, the falls and its gorge are regularly visited.
On a cold, overcast winter day as light flurries drifted in the fleeting sunshine, under patches of disappearing blue skies, we made our trek up Kasson Brook. The floods of two years ago still left their mark with massive trees embedded in the stream bed, and piles of cobbles pushed deep into the forest. It is hard to imagine a stream of this size could cause such damage. We hiked out of the valley and into the gorge, passing the collapsed remains of a schoolhouse and a small cemetery hidden in a grove of white pine trees. We left the old logging road and traversed off trail through the forest before descending back to the creek. There was once a dirt road along the creek that went to a cabin; it was obliterated.
The beauty of Kasson Brook soon became apparent. The towering plateaus squeezed the gorge with ledges and talus. The creek was filled with boulders and cascades. The creek swept over smooth, sculpted bedrock into deep pools. A side stream cascaded from the side, next to a boulder sitting improbably upright on its end. My nephew Christian climbed the boulders and poked at the ice with sticks. Small waterfalls, waterslides, and boulders continued upstream. We had to cross the creek, tip-toeing on ice-covered rocks. The creek flowed over blood-red bedrock as snow dusted the bare forest floor.
The terrain surrounding the creek forced us to cross again as cliffs blocked our way. One by one we crossed the surging creek, balancing on angled rocks. To the right was a deep side-gorge, carved by a tributary with non-stop waterfalls, dressed with gowns of ice. It begged to be explored.
The creek continued to roar over rapids and ledges, constrained by grottos of bedrock. We had to take an old logging skid trail concealed by hemlocks on the south side of the gorge. We climbed higher and higher up the gorge. The incredibly steep terrain was impressive. Kasson Brook’s current filled the gorge with the sound of its rapids and falls. Forests of pine and hemlock covered the rim of the gorge. I looked across this chasm to the other side, to see another steep tributary plummeting down a ravine for hundreds of feet, completely covered in ice. Kasson Brook was barely visible through the trees; I could see the occasional boulder, pool, or cascade.
Windmills were recently constructed on the tops of these mountains and several were visible from the trail, towering into the sky, standing silently. We could only imagine what the effect of the run-off and loss of hundreds of acres of forests in a place that was once vast and pristine would have on the streams like Kasson Brook. Even green energy comes at an environmental cost. In the end, the best solution is to use less.
We turned off the skid trail and made our way back down to the creek. We picked our way down the gorge. And soon it came into view- the incredible grotto of Kasson Falls.
Glacial blue ice flows covered the one side of the grotto. We were surprised to see several ice climbers there, setting ropes and practicing their craft in a stunning setting. A friendly dog greeted us as she tried to walk on the ice. The falls were completely frozen over; they are about 50 feet high and are a steep, curving cascade that drops into a pool. The ice formations at the bottom of the falls were impressive, with tubs of ice, filled with water. To the right of the falls were more ice flows that partially concealed a cave, a deep overhang, that was encased in ice. An amazing place.
We stood there, taking it all in. Christian had grown a little frustrated from the long climb, but quickly decided to love the hike again as he explored the ice cave and marveled at the ice formations and falls. No video game could compete with Kasson Falls.
Our time at this winter paradise had to come to an end and we began the much easier hike down the gorge, back to the cars, our lives enriched by what we had experienced. Whether privately or publicly owned, I hope places like Kasson Falls and Gorge will remain as they are for generations to come so that Christian will be able to share them with his children or grandchildren.