Iron River - Bruce Crossing - Watersmeet

 If you're looking for fabulous fall color, look no further than Michigan--it's around nearly every bend in the road. We invite you to take time along the way to discover the many local U-pick orchards, pumpkin patches, cider mills, and autumn festivals for a real taste of the harvest season in Michigan.

Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 135 miles

Begin your tour in the Iron County seat of Crystal Falls, a picturesque city on a hill dominated by its 1891 Romanesque Courthouse.  Take a side trip down County Road-424 to the Alpha Circle Historic District, a 1914 mining village intriguingly built around a traffic circle.  Travel a bit further west on 424 to Pentoga Park Indian Burial Grounds, the site of an Ojibwa gathering spot on the south shore of Chicagon Lake.

Back on US-2, Bewabic State Park, four miles west of Crystal Falls, is on the Fortune Chain of Lakes and ideal for canoeing or kayaking.  Stone and log structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the difficult 1930s remain.
Continue west on US-2 to Iron River and jog about two mile south to Caspian and the outdoor collection of buildings of the Iron County Museum.  Exhibits include six log structures of a pioneer homestead, lumber camp buildings, a headframe used in hoisting ore, and the 1890 home of Carrie Jacobs Bond, composer of "I Love You Truly" and "A Perfect Day."  (Open through September). 

Just across from the museum along the Iron River is Apple Blossom Trail, where U.S. Surveyor Harvey Mellen identified the outcropping of ore in 1851.  The hike/bike trail follows the rail line that once hauled iron ore. 

If you're interested in seeing a Civilian Conservation Corps project that is on the National Register of Historic Places, take a sidetrip to see more than a dozen buildings at the 1930s Camp Gibbs, now a recreation area.  Two miles west of Iron River turn north on County Road-657 and head 10 miles north.

Head west toward Watersmeet, where the Ontonagon River flows north into Lake Superior, the Wisconsin River flows south into the Mississippi, and the Paint River flows east into Lake Michigan: it's where the waters meet.  Sports fans will know Watersmeet as home of the Nimrods high school basketball team, and those itching to try their luck will want to stop at the Lac Vieux Desert Casino Resort.

This area is a blur of woods, wildlife and, of course, water, including the Cisco Chain of Lakes, with more than 270 miles of shoreline along 15 interconnected lakes.  Fall color is abundant in the surrounding Ottawa National Forest and 19,000-acre Sylvania Wilderness Area, with its spruce, balsam, maple, birch, and aspen trees---many of them 300-400 years old.  Watch for wolves, white tail deer, American bald eagles, loons, black, bear, coyotes---even the elusive moose.  Stop at the Ottawa Visitor Center at the crossroads of US-2 and US-45 for information to help you make the most of your visit.

The color continues north on US-45 through Paulding, and if it's near nightfall you may want to make a side trip to witness the "Paulding Light," a distant glow that rises out of the forest, hovers, and disappears.  Is it a ghost, gases or car lights?  Theories abound.  Travel about four miles north of Watersmeet, turn left on Old US-45, then left in about a half mile onto Robbins Pond Rd.  Wait at the pullover on the second hill, and make your own guess about the mysterious light. 
Continue north on US-45 and be prepared to brake for waterfalls -- hundreds of known and unnamed falls.  Most require that you drive unpaved county and forest roads, and then hike to reach them (some are extremely remote), however the lovely Bond Falls are easily accessible from the town of Paulding; take Bond Falls Road east to the natural attraction. 

Back on US-45 head north to Bruce Crossing, and turn right at the intersection of State Route 28.  Travel about seven miles east to the roadside park, and take a short walk to view Agate Falls.
Continue east on SR-28 through Trout Creek, an old lumber town being brought back to life by new settlers seeking a simpler life.  Still heading east on SR-28 you'll breeze through Sidnaw, another lumber settlement with Henry Ford connections.  The spectacular Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area is just north of Sidnaw.

Follow SR-28 to Covington, a farming center that still celebrates is largely Finnish immigrant heritage.  Check out the UP Made Artists Market housed in the old Covington School.  Turn south on US-141, and watch for moose.  You'll pass through Amasa, another one-time logging and mining boomtown.  Then it's another 15 miles back to Crystal Falls, where the courthouse clock chime will pronounce an end to your wilderness excursion.

Pentoga Park
1630 County Rd 424
Crystal Falls, MI 49920
Phone: (906) 265-3979
Pentoga Park is located in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the southern tip of Chicagon Lake in Iron County. Iron County purchased the land for this park in 1924 as a tribute to the Native Americans that congregated here and to preserve their burial grounds. Enjoy the natural environment and view the Wooden burial structures that have endured time to protect and mark the graves of the ancient Ojibwa bands that made this spot their permanent area headquarters in the 1800s. The park offers swimming, fishing, boating, 100 camp sites and more.
Bewabic State Park
720 Idlewild Road
Crystal Falls, MI 49920
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (906) 875-3324
A 137-site campground is situated in a shady, wooded site with buffer strips between most of the sites. Bewabic has picnic areas, a tennis court, a hiking trail, two playgrounds, an excellent beach and a boat launch to Fortune Lake. It is also part of the Iron County Heritage Trail system. The 2.5 mile ski trail will be groomed for both classical and skating style skiing. The park is also open to individuals who want to snowshoe. However, the snowshoe enthusiast must use alternate areas other than the groomed ski trails. The hiking trail to the south of the park is ideal for snowshoeing.
Iron County Historical Museum Complex
Museum Road
PO Box 272
Caspian, MI 49915
Phone: (906) 265-2617
An historical museum with 22 buildings located on a former 1903 iron mine site. Features five outdoor complexes, two art galleries and a cultural center seating 500. There are frequently scheduled quilt, craft and art shows, concerts, plays and festivals. Featured on the national register of historic places. Open mid-May through October.
Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino & Golf Course
5384 Highway US 45 North
Watersmeet, MI 49969
Toll Free: (800) 583-3599
Phone: (906) 358-4226
Come stay and play with us at the Dancing Eagles Resort where you will find a great casino, a 200 acre Ottawa National Forest challenging 18 hole course, heated pool, whirlpool, sauna, full service restaurant, banquet / convention facilities. Discounts for Senior's, AAA and AARP members, cribs available upon request. We have 25,000 square feet of gaming floor for you to enjoy over 650 video and reel slots including video poker, video keno, and wide area progressives with denominations from one penny to $5.
Watersmeet Ranger District
Ottawa National Forest
E23979 US 2 East
Watersmeet, MI 49969
TTY: (771)-771
Phone: (906) 358-4551
The Watersmeet Ranger District is one of five districts on the almost one million acre Ottawa National Forest. Both the Wilderness and the recreation areas receive high use, particularly during the summer season. Five campgrounds and a major visitor center, add to the heavy recreation program.
Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area
Ottawa National Forest
Watersmeet, MI 49969
Reservations: (187) 744-6777
TTY: (771)-771
Phone: (906) 358-4724
The Sylvania Wilderness and Sylvania Recreation Area, is located near Watersmeet, Michigan and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Combined with the adjacent Recreation Area, this 18,327 acre wilderness offers an outstanding experience for those who want to camp, fish, hike, canoe, ski, or enjoy the solitude of a wilderness experience. Few Wilderness compare to Sylvania. Here you will find 34 named lakes - some with sandy beaches, others surrounded by record-sized red and white pines. This large natural area with its old growth forest and pristine lakes provides habitat for a wide range of living things. While exploring Sylvania you might see threatened or endangered plants and animals. Camping is permitted at designated sites by permit only. Permits can be obtained on a walk-in basis at the Sylvania Entrance Station or can be reserved by selecting "Sylvania Wilderness BCTRY Camp" through Reserve America on line at Reservations can also be made by calling toll free, 1-877-444-6777. International calls can be directed to 518-885-3639 and TDD calls to 1-877-833-6777.
Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness
Ottawa National Forest
Kenton, MI 49967
TTY: (771)-771
Phone: (906) 358-4724
Throughout this rugged, steep Wilderness, the Sturgeon and Little Silver Rivers and their tributaries have carved falls, rapids, ponds, oxbows, and terraces. Stunning views are possible from the eastern rim of the gorge. Except for a few naturally bare slopes, most of the land is forested with pine, hemlock, aspen, sugar maple, birch, and basswood. When the leaves of the hardwoods change color in the fall, they form a vivid tapestry. There are few established trails in Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, and the few overgrown logging roads are hard to find and follow. The North Country National Scenic Trail parallels the northern and eastern boundaries for about eight miles.