Palisade Head

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Coordinates: 47°19′11″N 91°12′59″W / 47.31972°N 91.21639°W / 47.31972; -91.21639

Palisade Head cliffs on Lake Superior, view northeast toward Shovel Point

Palisade Head is a large rock formation on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is within Tettegouche State Park but not contiguous with the rest of that park.[1] Palisade Head is located at milepost 57 on scenic Minnesota State Highway 61 in Lake County, approximately 54 miles (86 km) northeast of Duluth and 3 miles (5 km) northeast of Silver Bay.


Palisade Head rising above an intermediate point, viewed from the west near Silver Bay, Minnesota

Palisade Head is formed from a rhyolitic lava flow which was extruded some 1.1 billion years ago. During the Mesoproterozoic era of the Precambrian eon, the continent spread apart on the Midcontinent Rift System extending from what is now eastern Lake Superior through Duluth to Kansas; this rifting process stopped before an ocean developed. A flow some 200 feet (60 meters) thick formed extremely hard volcanic rock which resisted a billion years of erosion which cut down surrounding formations.[2][3] This formed both Palisade Head and Shovel Point, which is within the main part of Tettegouche State Park about two miles (three kilometers) to the east.[4][5] The feature is a shallow headland, with Lake Superior to the southwest, southeast, and northeast. Its high point is over 300 feet (approximately 90 meters) above the level of the lake; the lakeside cliffs stand up to several hundred feet (60 meters) above water level.[6][7]

Radio tower on Palisade Head

Flora and fauna[edit]

The headland is covered by a mixed forest of white spruce, mountain ash, aspen, paper birch, and oak.[8][9] Raptors can often be seen soaring over the cliffs. Peregrine falcons nest on Palisdade Head, Bald eagles nest in the area, and thousands of hawks of several species can be seen migrating along the shoreline in the fall.[3][10] There are plentiful wild blueberries and, less commonly, gooseberries.


Palisade Head is maintained in its natural state, and one can walk right up to the edge of sheer cliffs with the lake directly below.[11] In April 2010, a forty-eight-year-old woman fell from the top of Palisade Head and was killed. It is believed that this incident was an accident, because the woman was excited about starting a new job at the time of the fall.[11] On September 11, 2017, a fourteen-year-old girl lost her balance and fell to her death from the top of the cliff. [12]

Human uses[edit]

Palisade Head is undeveloped; there are no improvements except for an access road, antenna tower, short-term parking, and a few low rock walls near the edge of the cliffs. On clear days there are views of the Sawtooth Mountains to the northeast, Split Rock Lighthouse to the southwest, the Bayfield Peninsula and Apostle Islands of Wisconsin across the lake to the south, and ship traffic on Lake Superior.[7]

It is a regional center for rock climbing with many routes up the lakeshore cliffs.[13] The majority of the rock climbing routes range from 5.8 to 5.12 on the Yosemite Decimal System grading scale, with a few routes in the 5.13 range.[14] Most of the climbing routes require traditional climbing gear to protect the climber. A novice climber interested in climbing at Palisade Head may inquire with local gear outfitters that guide outdoor climbing trips.

These cliffs were used for more sinister, albeit fictional purposes in The Good Son, partially filmed on location at Palisade Head.[15]

Rock Climber on the North Tower. The route is called Don't Bring a Knife to a Gunfight, 5.11b. Climber: Ethan Anderson. Photographer: Ike Levine


  1. ^ "Map, Tettegouche State Park" (PDF). Minnesota DNR. 2019.
  2. ^ "Minnesota's Lake Superior Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program" (PDF). Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. July 2001. p. II-17.
  3. ^ a b "Tettegouche Park Information". Tettegouche State Park. Minnesota DNR. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  4. ^ Ojakangas, Richard W.; Charles L. Matsch (1982). Minnesota's Geology. Illus. Dan Breedy. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0953-5.
  5. ^ "America's Volcanic Past - Minnesota". USGS. Archived from the original on 2009-01-10. Retrieved 2007-01-06.
  6. ^ "Palisade Head Topo Map in Lake County MN". TopoZone. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Tracy, Ben (2006-09-25). "Finding Minnesota: Palisade Head". WCCO-TV. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  8. ^ "Palisade Head, Minnesota". Native Tree Society. 2005-09-23. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  9. ^ "Fall Color Reports – Palisade Head". Minnesota DNR. 2006-10-18. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  10. ^ "North Shore birds". Minnesota DNR. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  11. ^ a b "Hiker dies at Palisade Head", Duluth News Tribune, Apr. 10, 2010.
  12. ^ "14-year-old was peering over North Shore cliff when she fell to her death, sheriff says' Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Sept. 12, 2017.
  13. ^ "Rockclimbing database - Palisade Head". Retrieved 2007-01-06.
  14. ^ Farris, Mike (2012). Rock Climbing Minnesota and Wisconsin. Guilford, CT: Morris Book Publishing. pp. 138–162. ISBN 9780762773466.
  15. ^ "Filming Locations for The Good Son". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-01-06.

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