Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Discovering Osceola October 28, 2014

An artist's rendition of Chief Osceola, after whom Osceola, Wisconsin, is named, stands near the stairway leading to Cascade Falls.

An artist’s rendition of Chief Osceola, after whom Osceola, Wisconsin, is named, stands near the stairway leading to Cascade Falls.

I ALMOST DIDN’T DESCEND the stairs to Cascade Falls in Osceola, an historic community of some 2,600 located along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Polk County, Wisconsin, just an hour from the Twin Cities.

Many are drawn to the natural beauty of Cascade Falls in downtown Osceola.

Many are drawn to the natural beauty of Cascade Falls in downtown Osceola.

Peering over the edge at the labyrinth stairway to the falls, I hesitated. First, my fear of heights caused me to pause until I realized the stairs simply hugged the side of the Osceola Creek gorge. Then concern about ascending the 156 steps kicked in. In the end, down I went.

The falls through the trees.

The falls through the trees.

Sunlight peeked into portions of the gorge, highlighting the mist spraying from the falls.

Sunlight peeks into portions of the gorge, highlighting the mist spraying from the falls.

A shot of Osceola Creek, which rushes into the St. Croix River.

A shot of Osceola Creek, bordered by sunlit and shaded woods. The creek rushes into the St. Croix River.

Detailed autumn beauty on the path to the falls.

Detailed autumn beauty on the path to the falls.

A little history of the falls.

A little history of the falls.

And it was worth the laborious climb back up to listen to the rush of water over rock, to stand mesmerized by the falls, to imagine the history this place holds of mill and brewery. The falls were the reason this river town was founded in 1844.

Downtown Osceola from near the falls. Route 35 runs right through the heart of this town.

Downtown Osceola from near the falls. Route 35 runs right through the heart of this community.

To find a waterfalls in the heart of a downtown, along a state highway (35) is a bit of a surprise. I expect if my husband and I had explored more of this downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, we would have discovered more surprises.

A close-up of the Chief Osceola statue, a beautiful piece of art.

A close-up of the Chief Osceola statue, a beautiful work of art.

Especially impressive are the huge pots overflowing with flowers in the downtown.

Especially impressive are the huge pots overflowing with flowers.

This attractive signage hangs outside Osceola Antiques, which bills itself as the largest antique mall in northwestern Wisconsin with 11,000 square feet.

This attractive signage hangs outside Osceola Antiques, which bills itself as the largest antique mall in northwestern Wisconsin with 11,000 square feet.

Osceola Antiques also includes a place to get coffee,espresso drinks, candy and ice cream.

Osceola Antiques also includes a place to get coffee, espresso drinks, candy and ice cream.

However, after delighting in the waterfall, photographing a folk art version of Seminole Chief Osceola after whom the town is named, and perusing the cavernous Osceola Antiques, we headed to the next river town.

A local watering hole.

A local watering hole and eatery.

What now, I wonder, was our hurry on that Wednesday afternoon?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling