Sunday, January 29, 2012

Falls of the Presque Isle River (Manabezho, Manido, Nawadha) - Porcupine Mountains, Michigan

Porcupine Mountains State Park
Ontonagon County, MI

Some of the most spectacular falls in Michigan can be found on the Western end of the Porcupine Mountains State Park. The four falls within the park boundary on the Presque Isle River showcase different heights, formations and landmarks as the river makes its way to Lake Superior. In a little over and hour you can complete a hiking loop with great views of all four falls - or if you are pressed for time, Manido and Manabezho Falls are both five minutes away from the parking lot.

First off, there is Manido Falls:
From Manido Falls, following the west bank of the river to the north, the mighty Manabezho Falls comes into view, with a drop that almost rivals Tahquamenon Falls.

From Manabezho Falls, the boardwalk path continues almost to Lake Superior, at which point a bridge was built to make river crossing possible. From the middle of this bridge, take a peek at an unnamed waterfall on the Presque Isle, and note the potholes it has worn into the rock:
Once you have reached the east bank of the river, you can follow the well-worn dirt path heading south. It is important to note that you need to watch your footing, there are no guardrails on this side and it is a very steep drop. Soon Manabezho Falls reappears, and you get a great full view of the falls. Shortly after you leave Manabezho Falls you will again see Manido Falls. The trail continues upstream, where after about 10 minutes you will see Nawadha Falls. Though they can be viewed from the other side, it is a partial and mostly blocked view. The view from this side is better:
It is possible from this point to either backtrack or continue completing the loop. From Nawadha Falls the trail heads toward South Boundary Rd. Cross the river again at the road, and pick up the trail, again on the western bank. Within 15 minutes you will be back at the starting point.

This great trail highlights just a bit of what the Porkies have to offer, and the hike is quite rewarding for the amount of time and effort put in.

Getting there: From the east: from the Porcupine Mtns. State Park entrance, follow S. Boundary Rd to the other end of the park and take a right turn into the park, or if coming from the south/west: Take CR-519 north at its intersection with M-28 east of Wakefield and continue on to the park entrance (well signed). Either way, once you pass the ranger station, continue into the park and take the right fork marked for the falls. All trails begin from the east end of this parking lot.
Overall: Amazing
Hike: Moderate

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wyandotte Falls - Twin Lakes, Michigan

Misery River
Elm River Twp., MI

Located less than a mile off of M-26 in the Upper Peninsula, Wyandotte Falls is still a bit of a hidden gem, depending on the water level when you visit. Our first attempt, in the late summer, yielded barely a trickle over the rock. When we returned in May of 2005, the falls were much better, and I have seen photos of them with even heavier flow after spring thaw or rain. A short trail leads through quiet woods and within 5 minutes or less you've reached the falls. This is a great spot to pause and take in the full surroundings of the area.

Getting there: From M-26, turn west onto Poyhonen Rd. (just south of Twin Lakes State Park) and follow it past the golf course just under a mile, look for a small turnout on the left with a sign for the falls. The short trail begins here.

Overall: Okay to Good
Hike: Easy

Friday, January 27, 2012

Warner Falls - Palmer, Michigan

Warner Creek
Palmer, MI

Just south of Palmer, MI are these delightful roadside falls. You can see them from your car or access them from below or above. Warner Creek makes a plunge here into a very calm pool in a quiet setting despite being next to the road. When we visited in 2006 we even had a blue heron fly overhead as we were leaving. The Penrose book lists directions based off the IGA store in Palmer, in '06 it was no longer an IGA and may not even be open anymore.

Getting there: These falls are located on M-35 just south of its intersection with CR-476. They are on the east side of the road.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scott Falls - Munising, Michigan

Scott Creek
near Munising, MI

Scott Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls in Michigan to access. Located just off the side of M-28 between Munising in Au Train, you can even see this waterfall from your car! Scott Creek drops about 15 feet here off a sandstone cliff into a small pool below. Depending on water levels due to recent rains or snow melt you may be able to hop over the creek and get behind the falls. Heavier flow makes this harder but not impossible. Above photo is from June 2010 and the one below is from October 2008.

Getting there: Falls are located on the east side of M-28 across from a Michigan Roadside Park. You can either park there or on the shoulder on the falls side, it really couldn't be easier to get to these falls.

Overall: Good to Great
Hike: Super Easy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wagner Falls - Munising, Michigan

Wagner Creek
Munising, MI

Just south of Munising lie the serene and scenic Wagner Falls. Nestled in the woods at the end of a short dirt trail is a wooden boardwalk and platform. With all the hype given to the many falls inside the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this beautiful Michigan Scenic Site is a much quieter, less busy place to take in a beautiful waterfall. Wagner Creek makes a series of drops over the rocks here, around 20 feet in all from top to bottom – where the creek calms down before emptying into the Anna River.

Getting there: At the junction of M-94 and M-28 south of Munising, take M-94 south about a quarter mile and look for the parking area for Wagner Falls Scenic Site on the east side of the road. It is a short trail that leads to a wooden overlook of the falls.

Overall: Very Good
Hike Difficulty: Easy

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bonanza Falls - Silver City, Michigan

Big Iron River
Silver City, MI

Located just down the road from the entrance to the Porcupine Mountains, Bonanza Falls is something of a hidden gem. Since it is technically outside of the park, it isn't included on much of their literature. I first found out about the falls from Penrose's "198 Michigan Waterfalls" book. I fell in love with the location on my first visit, and have been back seven times over the past four years. Among the things that keep me coming back: easy access to the falls, very little traffic at the falls, abundant wildlife and probably above all the complexity and uniqueness of these falls.
I've never seen these falls at "high" water, so the upper section of the falls splits into two sections: the one seen above and the one seen below:
The way the slate rock comes up at an angle here makes for multiple water drops, and also provides a way to cross the river if water levels are low. If you're ready for more, follow the trail down the east bank for even more sets of drops, it's hard to do this scene justice with a photograph.
During our visits, we have seen deer and eagles in the area as well as evidence of bear and other mammals visiting the falls.

Getting there: from the intersection of M-107 and M-64 just outside Silver City, go about a mile south on M-64 and look for a dirt road on the west side of the road. This short road has an informative sign about the history of the area and Bonanza Falls (also called Greenwood Falls) itself. There is a parking area near the top of the falls, use caution as the trail to the bottom of the upper section has some steep slides and drops.

Overall: Amazing
Hike Difficulty: Easy to Moderate