Eight Reasons to Get Out and Explore Michigan’s Waterfalls this Summer

Today, Michigan-based photographer John McCormick shares some visually compelling reasons to get out and explore Michigan’s many rushing waterfalls this summer.

If you’re looking for things to do in Michigan this summer, try exploring some beautiful waterfalls. This will be a great year for it! The heavy snow and below average temperatures this past winter have resulted in fast flowing rivers and raging waterfalls all across Upper Michigan this spring. My wife and I and our three boys have been exploring and photographing these gems for over 30 years and the ones mentioned here are a few of our favorites.

Some of the waterfalls are easy to find and easy to access, while others require a little more effort.  The most popular waterfall to see is Tahquamenon, and it is also one of the easiest to access. There are two drops – the upper and lower. The upper falls are more than 200 feet across and plunge approximately 48 feet. Both of these waterfalls are within the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and this area has some of the best camping in Michigan.

Tahquamenon Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Tahquamenon Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

One of the more remote waterfalls to see is Spray Falls in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This one is about a three mile round trip hike, starting from the trail-head at Little Beaver Lake campground. It is rated a moderate hike. Spray Falls plunges 70ft over the Pictured Rocks cliff edge directly into Lake Superior. This stretch of hiking trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in Michigan. See our Pictured Rocks gallery.

Spray Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Spray Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Another easy to access waterfall ‘and fun to photograph’, is Wagner Falls, just South of Munising, Michigan. It’s a beautiful scenic spot, and just a short walk through the woods. If you visit this one in the springtime, you will see Marsh Marigolds blooming along the edges of the creek just below the falls. It makes for a pretty picture! As a side trip while in the area, head over to Miners Beach just West of Munising and see the little but very picturesque, Elliot Falls, aka Miners Beach Falls.

Wagner Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Wagner Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Elliot Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Elliot Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Moving on from Wagner falls on M94 heading South and West you will find the little town of Chatham, MI,  which is about 25 miles from Munising. Near Chatham, is Rock River Falls. This waterfall is hidden in the Rock River Wilderness Area. Getting to it involves driving on some old logging roads and then hiking a mile or so through the forest on some ‘not so well marked’ trails, but if you are looking for a back-country waterfall adventure, this one is for you. Also, Just a few miles West of Chatham, is Laughing Whitefish Falls. It’s another easily accessible waterfall and a beautiful area of the Rock River Wilderness.

Rock River Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Rock River Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Laughing Whitefish Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Laughing Whitefish Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Farther West in Upper Michigan near Paulding, Michigan, is Bond Falls. This one has it all. Easy to access, wheelchair accessible, and one of the most spectacular to see. Don’t forget to get some ice cream at the Paulding General Store, or maybe look for the “Paulding Lights”. People have reported seeing these mysterious lights for 40 years.

Bond Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Bond Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

One more waterfall I will mention, that gets little attention, is Ocqueoc Falls near Onaway, Michigan. This is the only recognized waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. You can hike the Ocqueoc Falls Pathway that starts here and runs along the river. Also at the falls area there is a picnic area with tables and grills. This area is also wheelchair accessible.

Oqeuoc Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Oqeuoc Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

I could go on and list many, many more waterfalls to see. I do highly recommend visiting my Michigan waterfalls gallery to see over a hundred photos my favorite shots taken over many years of travels.

John McCormickJohn McCormick is a lifelong Michigan resident and has been interested in Michigan Nature Photography for over 30 years. Michigan is a beautiful place to live and photographing that beauty is his absolute passion. Check out more from John on his Michigan Nut Photography Facebook page or on his website.

Nine Things You Might Not Have Known About The Soo Locks

Engineer’s Weekend in Sault Ste. Marie is June 27 – 28, 2014. This last weekend in June has something for everyone, including boat races, spectacular vistas and the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the great Soo Locks.

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

Check out these nine interesting facts about the Soo Locks to inspire your visit from Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

A man-made marvel and the busiest lock system in the world, by cargo tonnage, yes the Soo Locks! On average, between seven and ten thousand ships come through the locks during the shipping season each year.  Built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond.  We have repeat visitors every season; they call themselves Boat Nerds, that watch ships from all over the world use this free lock system.  Now here are some facts about the locking system and the St. Mary’s River.

$500.4 Billion value attributed to the iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks each year. An average of 80 million tons of cargo moves through them each year.

7,000 passages each year – Crews at the Soo Locks complete these lockages during the 42- week- long navigations season. They are open 24 hours a day.  Can you take your personal boat through the locks? Yes, as long as you have permission from the lockmaster.

2,342 miles- ships from all over the world visit this port as the locks are a part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which connects Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic!

22 Million gallons of water to lift a boat. The locks are powered by gravity itself!  Water moves in and out of the lock chambers by just opening and closing valves.

1000 foot boats- There are 13-1000 footers on the Great Lakes, and the largest boat that comes through the Soo Locks is the Paul R. Tregurtha, coming in at 1013 feet which is larger than three football fields! The first vessels on the great lakes were 40 foot-long canoes.

Mikel B Classen

Photo courtesy of Mikel B Classen via Sault Ste. Marie CVB

9 hours between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it takes a freighter about nine hours to pass through the St. Mary’s River system

21 foot drop- A thick layer of bedrock holds back the waters of Lake Superior where it joins the St. Mary’s River. This drop prevented boats from passing through. This reddish sandstone lines most of Lake Superior southern shores and is about 1000 feet-thick.   The Fairbanks Scale Company, which is still in business today, built the first permanent lock, State Lock.

3-4 cents per ton- From 1855 to 1881, this was the toll, but today it is free.

The propeller in Soo Locks Park is from a steamer named the Independence, which exploded just northwest of today’s locks.  One crewman is said to have survived a trip down the rapids on a hay bale from the ship.

Now that you know more about the Soo Locks, come and visit us during Engineer’s Weekend, when you can go into the locks and get up close and personal with this engineering marvel!

Engineer’s Day is always the last Friday in June, which is June 27th this year. See what Engineer’s Weekend is all about in the video below.  

Have you been to the Soo Locks? Tell us about your experience!

Six Spectacular Lake Superior Cruises

Michigan’s largest lake is often an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of  Things to do in the U.P. describes six unique ways to experience Lake Superior by boat.

Photo courtesy of Jonathon Smith

Photo courtesy of Jonathon Smith

Lake Superior is a magical body of water. There’s just something magnetic about the largest of our great lakes that draws people to it. And those who’ve visited Superior’s waters can (and often do) attest that it’s more than a lake. Somehow, no matter where you’re from, Lake Superior feels like home.

Of course, you can hike the hills that flank the lake, swim her beaches or ride bikes along her shore, but there’s nothing quite like actually getting out on the water. This month, filmmaker Aaron Peterson released a video, produced for The Marquette County Visitor’s Bureau, that beautifully showcases the lake.

Sailing on the Coaster II (featured in the above video) is a spectacular way to see Lake Superior, but there are other cruises available, too. Below I’ll list a few of the most popular ways to see “the big lake” by boat.

Marquette

Superior Odyssey
(906) 361-3668

As you can see in this video, Superior Odyssey’s historic Coaster II is definitely one of the most unique ways to see Lake Superior, and a great way to see a side of Marquette many never do (ie. from the water). From a two hour sightseeing trip to full day and even overnight trips, you’re sure to find something in their schedule that fits your schedule!

Marquette Harbor Cruise
(906) 225-9000

Glide along Marquette’s beaches, the Blackrocks rock formation and the cliff’s of Presque Isle Park on the Isle Royale Queen III. Snacks and beverages are available, and the sights are unbeatable. And just like a cruise with Superior Odyssey, you’ll have the opportunity to see the beautiful, but often missed view of Marquette from the water.

Munising

Pictured Rocks Cruises
(906) 387-2379

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Vedua

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Vedua

Explore the stories in stone (as their website says) with a Pictured Rocks cruise. For most folks, the Pictured Rocks cruise is the best way for them to see these regionally famous rock formations. Hop on one of their cruise ships and in just a few hours you’ll see rock formations, beaches and waterfalls that would take days to explore on foot. And even if you have the time to hike, many sections of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are best viewed from the water.

Riptide Ride
(906) 387-8888

Riptide Ride is the Munising area’s adventure cruise. Promising “360 degree spins and amazing speed” all while touring Pictured Rocks, this boat tour is perfect for those looking to spice things up a little. But bring your camera, there are plenty of pauses for sightseeing opportunities, too!

Houghton

The Ranger III
(800) 949-2026

If you ever plan to visit Isle Royale, the two ferry’s that travel from the Upper Peninsula to Lake Superior’s largest island are also a terrific way to see the expansive waters of Superior. Operating out of Houghton, the Ranger III is the largest piece of moving equipment owned by the National Park Service. It’s 165 feet long, 34 feet wide and can carry 128 passengers. (It can also carry private boats up to 20 feet long!) The “leisurely ride” to Rock Harbor takes about six hours.

Copper Harbor

The Isle Royale Queen IV
(800) 949-2026

The other Isle Royale ferry is the Isle Royale Queen IV. Departing from Copper Harbor, the Isle Roayle Queen IV will get you to Rock Harbor in about 3 hours and fifteen minutes. And while you’re there, make a night of it by staying at the Rock Harbor Lodge.

As you can see, you’ve got options when it comes to seeing Lake Superior up close and personal. Have you taken any of the boat cruises mentioned here?

Written by Jesse Land, publisher of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of the Marquette County Visitor’s Bureau. Find more information about the Marquette area at TravelMarquetteMichigan.com.