Chasing Waterfalls

Potawatomi Falls, Ironwood. Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living/Image Studios Inc.Not even GPS helps—there’s no signal—when searching for waterfalls in the western Upper Peninsula, which boasts more than 200 named falls. It’s best to go in spring or after a heavy rain when the water runs fast. But that’s still no guarantee for success. Despite brochures and downloadable directions, some remain elusive! Here’s a handful of easily accessible falls from my journey.

More Chasing Waterfalls – More Waterfalls, Marquette County

For more information, contact the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Most offer mini pamphlets, some with maps, full of waterfall information. However, even with directions, some of these waterfalls are difficult to locate or access. Bring your sense of adventure and mosquito repellent. The information below comes from our writer’s firsthand experiences.

Marquette County
There are 77 waterfalls in Marquette County, second to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which has more than 90. Contact the CVB for a brochure, which folds out to a 2-foot by 3-foot four-color poster with area map. Twelve waterfalls with photos are highlighted, along with detailed driving directions. Here are three I visited:

Carp River—Morgan Creek Falls—Follow the brochure’s instructions and it’s easy to locate. When you reach the steps (29), a sign highlights local groups who provided labor and money to build the steps. The stairs lead to a dirt trail over exposed roots. From here, you can view the falls if you don’t want to climb down, which is fairly steep. For more of an adventure, cross the creek above or below the falls.

Dead River—Wright Street Falls—Follow the brochure’s instructions and it’s easy to locate. For more views, go past the aqua duct.

Warner Creek Falls—If you’re driving south on M-35, this waterfall is not visible from the road. You’ll have a better chance of spotting it from the North, but it’s best to turn around and park along the guardrail on the south side of the highway. Follow a worn path into tall grass and trees, which leads to the waterfall. If you’re brave, it’s possible to climb down and sit on a rock ledge. From here, you are directly over the waterfall. As you follow the path back, stop in the clearing, which offers a nice side view of the waterfall.


More Chasing Waterfalls – More Waterfalls, Baraga County

There are 52 waterfalls in Baraga County. Contact the CVB for a tri-fold brochure with excellent driving directions. Here are a few I visited:

Mitten Falls—I’m not sure if this is really Mitten or part of the Lower and Middle Falls. How I got there: Drive past Burger King and park next to the bridge for Falls River. Walk over the railroad tracks and cross the steel grate bridge. As you descend the trail, it looks like there are two falls, thin steep falls on the left and a bigger fall down the middle.

Power House Falls—Trust the directions on this one and you’ll see a wooden sign for the falls. Use caution, it’s a dirt road and I happened to visit during a torrential downfall. The falls are behind a concrete building, but visible from the car (if it’s raining). The drop is maybe 20-25 feet, but powerful, but that could be due to the weather. There’s a covered area with picnic table and grill.

Canyon Falls—Park in the roadside park and follow a wide gravel path. Ferns bloom next to a boardwalk that covers swampy sections. It’s about a 10-minute walk, but there are plenty of places to stop and observe nature and snap photos. Continue to the end, where the falls make a dramatic drop.

Tioga Falls—The falls are located on a path from the Tioga Creek Roadside State Park. Off to the right of the lot, there’s a well-constructed wooden pedestrian bridge that crosses the creek. But, to see the falls, follow the trail signs to the left. The paved path turns into a well-worn path through the grass. Once you reach the forest, the path becomes rough with exposed roots and rocks. Use caution. It’s a quick walk, about 5 minutes. The falls are at the end. While the drop is not dramatic, the falls are low and wide.

Tibbets Falls—It was a torrential downfall that day, so I headed the brochure’s advice, “use caution during wet weather, road may not be passable.”


More Chasing Waterfalls – More Waterfalls, Ontonagon County

There are 34 waterfalls in Ontonagon County. Porcupine Mountains boasts more than 90. Here’s some I actually found and some I hope to find some day.

Agate Falls—Park in the State Roadside Park and follow the walking path under the highway. Note, there is a small lot across the highway with a sign. If you park here you can still reach the falls, but you need to scamper down a grassy hill. From the roadside parking lot, it’s less than a 5-minute walk on flat ground. Overhead, high trestles support a railroad bridge. A viewing platform provides plenty of viewing spots. I met a Muskegon family on a long weekend, exploring waterfalls. After the trip, I followed up to find out more about their trip. They thought Bond Falls (less than 20 miles) was the most impressive. Their children had fun hiking along the top of the falls and discovering another series of falls.

Bond Falls—Other than Tahquamenon, this may be the best-known waterfall. It’s easy to locate and access. And, because it’s a state park, you’ll need a Michigan recreation passport. From the parking lot, you can hear the falls. Follow the wide, universal accessible paved path to the base viewing area. Visitors can climb steep stairs to the top, but use caution. Spray from the falls makes for slippery steps. If you have time, plan to spend a few hours exploring the park and falls.

Black River—The winding road north of Bessemer may be better known during winter for the nearby ski resorts. Five waterfalls line a 14-mile stretch of Black River Road. In the fall, visit Copper Peak Adventure Ride (the world’s largest ski jump) with incredible area views.

Great Conglomerate—from the parking lot, it’s about ¾ mile hike on a wide path with built-in stairs,    benches and rails where necessary. A gradual descent makes the hike fairly easy. You’ll hear the water, before you see it. Signs along the way point out differences in rock and let you know where you are on the trail. It’s possible to hike from fall to fall along the North County Trail, but I opt to drive.

Potawatomi and Gorge share an entrance sign, but each is in a different direction. I head toward Pottawatomi, which can immediately be heard. Follow the stairs and trail. From here, it’s closer to continue on to Gorge (about ¼ mile), instead of heading back to car and driving.

Sandstone—From the lot, the waterfall is about ¼ mile, but the steps and trail drop sharply to the falls. A sign warns visitors to use caution and avoid overexertion. It’s much easier going down then climbing back. The spray from the falls is a welcome relief after climbing steps.

Rainbow—Along the road, there’s a campsite (Black River Campground) between Sandstone and Rainbow Falls. Again, it’s a ½ mile to the falls, but more steep stairs. A large viewing platform welcomes the adventurous. It’s the last fall in the series and the water calms at the bottom, where I spot a fisherman.After Rainbow, continue driving to the end of the road, about one mile. It deadends at the Black River Recreation Area, a perfect picnic spot or place to let children run off excess energy. At the back of the park there’s a suspension bridge, built by the CCC in 1938–1939, reconstructed in 1968 and improved in 2009. It sways as you cross the Black River and leads to the North Country Scenic Trail and Lake Superior shore.

Bonanza Falls, Silver City. Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living/Image Studios, Inc.Bonanza Falls—From Silver City, take M-107 to M-64 south about 1 mile. There’s a sign on the side of the road.  Turn on the gravel road. A placard welcomes visitors and explains how the discovery of silver never made anyone rich. It turns out, it costs more to mine silver then it’s worth. Park in the lot. It’s a short walk to the clearing with a lone picnic table. From here, you can kind of see the waterfall, but for better views, scramble down the short, steep path. The rock formations are amazing, as layers of slate have been exposed over thousands of years. Of all the waterfalls I found, this ranks as about the easiest in terms of location and access.

Cascade—Drive west on M-28 (Bergland) and turn on 400 (USFS 222). It’s at least a solid 7 miles on this gravel road before there’s any sign. After the sign, turn into the clearing and park your car. The waterfall is in the Ottawa National Forest and you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s about a one-mile hike through swampy ground—sometimes there’s a plank bridge, over rocks, fallen trees and exposed roots. When you see sunshine and hear the falls, you’re practically there—maybe 25 more yards. The trail ends at rocks; climb down to reach the falls. You can kind of see the falls from the top of the rocks, but for better views, scramble down.

After driving on an isolated road with more deer than cars and hiking one mile, a few rocks were not going to stop me from viewing the falls, which are wide and fairly slow. This may change due to spring thaw and rain. Always looking for an adventure, I decide to not go back the way I came, instead turning north and east hoping to end close to M-64. There may have been a Potato Farm Road in there somewhere. My next stop was Scott’s Superior Inn, which I blew past in less than a few miles, not realizing exactly where I was on the highway. The whole thing reminded me of Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation where they magically end up in the tree farm. A note on Scott’s Superior Inn. Ideal location—about halfway between Ontonagon and Porcupine Mountains. From my cabin I could see Lake Superior. A short walk on a sandy trail leads to the lakeshore and sandy beach.

O Kun de Kun—This waterfall is fairly easy to locate, about 7.5 miles east of Bruce Crossing on M-45. And, there’s a sign on the side of the highway. Pull into the U-shaped lot and park along the dirt road. From here, it’s about a one and a half mile hike over varied terrain. At times, you’re walking on planks, forest floor, and exposed roots and over fallen trees. It’s a slow hike through the woods, which allows opportunities to interact with nature. As you head deeper into the woods, there’s less chirps from birds and more critters. There’s no official viewing spot when it comes to seeing the waterfall. Follow what looks like a worn path through trees to get near the water’s edge. The wide waterfall conveys subtle beauty with water cascading over flat rocks.

Victoria Dam Falls—Due to construction, Victoria Dam Road was closed so my attempt was thwarted.

18-mile Rapid Falls—Directions can be sketchy and this is the case with this waterfall, which was never located. The gravel road I was on leads to private property, which signaled a quick U-turn as I head back to the highway.

Root Beer Falls—The directions seem fairly simple, “Take M-28 north of Wakefield. Go left on Wertanen Rd (after County 519). Falls can be seen on the left.” Simple, right? No. A sign reads, Dead End, but the road looks drivable. Mistake No. 1. Large portions of the road are washed out and there’s barely enough road to drive on between ruts. I think about turning around, but don’t. Mistake No. 2. Past the ruts, the road gets better until I reach a wooden fence blocking the road that really is washed out. Gone. Note to self—pay attention to signs.

Gabbro Falls—Along the Black River stretch, I meet a fellow waterfall chaser. We trade notes about falls we’ve seen and which ones are still on our list. He mentions Gabbro, which is on my to-see list. Later that day, I head out. Again, the directions seem fairly simple, “Take US-2 between Bessemer and Wakefield to Blackjack Road. Turn north and go past the second gas clearing and park (1.5 mile). Walk the line west to the river and go upstream for upper and down for lower.” I find the second gas line, but there’s nowhere to park. I play it safe and park at the ski resort. I see a road that looks better than some I’ve driven on and it’s parallel to the river. Perfect. I start walking. It’s not bad and I’m kind of proud of myself until I lose a shoe in the mud. I retrieve my shoe and continue walking. Finally, I can kind of see the waterfall. I’m at the bottom and it looks incredible. I snap a picture, wash my shoe and head back. After my trip, I email the gentleman and ask where I went wrong. I’m still not sure, but somehow, he came from the top. He mentions a camp garage across the road where an empty van was parked. From there, a path leads to the top of the falls, but with all the spring growth he says I really have to be looking for it. I’m still not sure I will be able to locate unless I find the abandoned van.

For More Information, Contact:

Baraga County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Porcupine Mountains Ontonagon Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Western Upper Peninsula Convention & Visitor Bureau

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