The new visitor center opened in 1996. You can pick up a map, brochures for area attractions and chat with the park rangers. Housed in the visitor center is a nice gift shop with a nice collection of posters, books, postcards, nature guides and other bric brac. There are modest displays higlighting the flora and fauna and explaining the history of the park. There is also a small theater which shows a nature film about Lake Superior's northern shore.
Unfortunately, the churning of the Gooseberry River brings lots of sediment in the springtime when the falls are at their peak volume. Therefore, you cannot reasonably expect to see pristine white falls in the spring. Nor can you expect to see the falls at their explosive best when the river runs clear later in the summer. Give and take.
Take the Falls Loop Trail. It is only a round trip of a half mile or so. The Upper Falls, Middle Falls and Lower Falls are all within several hundred yards of each other so it is no great chore to visit vantage points to take in all three falls.
For those wanting to stretch their legs a bit more, a longer hike of several miles to Fifth Falls is available. Fifth Falls is not any more scenic than the set of falls closer to the visitor center, but it is always nice to walk amongst the birch and pines.
Apparently, the beavers did not take the winter off and sun themselves in Arizona or Florida as many Minnesota snowbirds do. There was ample evidence that the beavers had been hard at work all winter long, felling trees to dam streams and build lodges. Beavers are driven by instinct to fell the birch trees, but it is a shame to see a beautiful birch cut down in its prime.
Just up the road, maybe 10 miles or less, there is another park, Split Rock Lighthouse. I don't remember that there was any camping up there but the lighthouse itself was very cool. Built between 1905 and 1910 after a November gale in 1905 causing shipwrecks, this lighthouse has been restored to its 1920's appearance.
The vegetation is incredible and Lake Surerior is beautiful. Take the time to hike through the park, spend some time at their wonderful and informative visitors center. Minnesota certainly puts a lot of effort into their State Parks.
Gooseberry Falls is one of a series of superb Minnesota State Parks along State Route 61 north of Duluth. I found all of the parks to be well-managed, with excellent visitor facilities, picnic spots, well-marked trails and easy access from the road. Each of the parks charges a small day-use fee, but if you are stopping just to look around briefly and take a few snapshots, there's no charge.
I hope that the people of Minnesota appreciate the splendors which have come under their stewardship - and that they continue to provide financial support (through their state budget) to keep these places accessible to travellers from nearby and far away!
Favorite thing: . . . and the Lower Falls are "below" the bridge. Both are an easy 5--7 minute walk from the Visitor's Center and parking areas.