Caribou River & Falls

Caribou Falls c. 1930. (Image: Zenith City Press)

You won’t find caribou anywhere near the Caribou River—they’ve been gone for more than one hundred years, ever since hunting, logging, and warmer temperatures destroyed both the animals and their habitat. You will, however, find one of the best waterfalls along the North Shore, especially during the spring thaw when the swollen river practically leaps off the cliffs.

The river and its falls are part of Caribou Falls State Park, which is little more than a parking lot, some outdoor toilets, and a hiking trail that leads to the falls and, eventually, to the Manitou River and Crosby-Manitou State Park, about six miles away.

According to legend, Edward Silver claimed 160 acres along the river—which was as yet unnamed—and his brother Henry made a similar claim on an adjacent piece of land. The Silvers chose the name “Caribou” for the river after Swamper Caribou, an Ojibwe trapper who worked the area each fall and winter and kept a home on its banks. The area developed into the township of Cramer, named for store owner Joseph Cramer.

Like many North Shore rivers, the land surrounding the Caribou was logged by the Alger-Smith Company, who created a nine-mile ice road along its banks. The year they cleared the Caribou River valley, it snowed so much that after one storm alone it took eighteen teams of horses to plow the road.