Sunday, August 26, 2012

Black Slate Falls and Quartzite Falls - Skanee, Michigan

Slate River
L'Anse, MI

Michigan's Upper Peninsula provides many chances to see multiple waterfalls on the same river not far from each other, and the beautiful falls on the Slate River known as Black Slate Falls and Quartzite Falls are a great example of that. Both are reached from short trails on either of an old bridge on a logging road. The trail to Black Slate Falls is upstream from the bridge, a short walk over pine needles and packed dirt leads to this view:
By taking the downstream trail, which is wider, smoother and features a makeshift campsite, you reach the beautiful Quartzite Falls, where the river drops over slate rock shelves and into a deeper pool at the base:
I took my watershoes along and found one of several shallow crossings, to get a better view from the other side:
Be warned, the rocks here will have you checking multiple times to get a straight photo. A look into the riverbed between the two falls, will show the reason for one of their names, as veins of quartzite glitter under the surface in seemingly endless stretches:
Here is a short video of Black Slate Falls:

And here's one of Quartzite Falls:

Getting there: from L'Anse take Main St. out of town, it becomes Skanee Rd. eventually. Go 11 miles out of town, look for Arvon Rd. on the right and turn there. You're on this road for 3.5-4 miles, looking for a logging road on the left. Shortly after that turn, you should cross the old bridge and park on either side in the turnouts, then follow the trail. According to other directions, the road takes a big turn right and then ends at a slate quarry if you miss the turn onto the logging road.

Overall: Great
Hike: Easy to Moderate

We found these falls through this book, which still has accurate directions many years later. If you're going in search of waterfalls in MI, I consider this book a must-have:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

High Falls, Pigeon River - Minnesota

Pigeon River
Grand Portage, Minnesota

While yesterday's Middle Falls are impressive, the High Falls seen above are among the most impressive in the entire state of Minnesota. While some don't consider them the "tallest in the state" because they are also in Canada, at 120 feet they dwarf all others along the North Shore. The sheer power of this waterfall is overwhelming - they are large, loud and the mist coming off of them often forms rainbows above the river.
The view of these falls is much better from the Minnesota side and are located inside Grand Portage State Park. A half mile, paved and boardwalk hiking trail leads visitors up the river and to several viewing platforms to see the falls. Informative signs along the way talk about the falls, the river, the history of the area and native plants and species.

Getting there: Grand Portage State Park is located just before the border crossing on Hwy-61 (or just after if coming from the north). The falls trail begins just behind the visitor's center.

Overall: Great!
Hike: Easy

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Middle Falls, Pigeon River - Ontario

Pigeon River
near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

The Middle Falls of the Pigeon River are not nearly as impressive as the High Falls (best seen from the American side) but are powerful in their own right - spanning the entire width of the 50 foot river and dropping about 20 feet in a thunderous rush. When we read about reaching these falls from the Ontario side we thought it would be more challenging than it was. The Pigeon River Provincial Park is described as unstaffed, but would better be described as deserted. We were a bit surprised to see grass covered parking lots, building remnants and no one else around!
We also got to spend some time photographing a very friendly fox along the side of 593:

Getting there: From Thunder Bay, take 593 (not marked well) to the north just before the border into the U.S. (or from Minnesota it is just after crossing the border, and follow it about half a mile until you see the falls on the left. Parking in the old parking lot is not a possibility with a car, so find a spot on the shoulder. We drove about 2 miles further looking for additional falls and did not see any with access.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy

Here's a video of the fox, he was at the corner when we drove to the falls and still there when we came back:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two Step Falls - Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota

Baptism River
Tettegouche State Park, MN

The Two Step Falls may pale in comparison to the High Falls of the Baptism River that it shares Tettegouche State Park with, but they are quite spectacular in their own right. The river here falls two separate times - the first about a ten foot drop, then the river calms for about fifty feet before dropping again another ten feet almost out of sight from the trail. This hike can get a bit steep and is fairly demanding, but puts you up quite close to the falls. We were fortunate enough to catch these at high water in June 2012 and had the place to ourselves for about half an hour.

Getting there: Tettegouche State Park is located off Hwy 61 just south of Silver Bay. The Two Step Falls are 1/2 mile downstream from the High Falls and reached from the same trailhead. Ilgen Falls are also on the same river but reached from a different parking lot.

Overall: Good
Hike: Moderate

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Upper Tahquamenon Falls - Paradise, Michigan

Tahquamenon River
near Newberry, MI

The largest and most visited falls in Michigan are without a doubt the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. I felt no waterfall blog could be complete without a post about these majestic falls - so here it is. There isn't much more to say about these that hasn't been covered already, they are very easy to get to, the path is well maintained and there is a great gift shop and restaurant/brewpub near the parking lot. There are several vantage points for the falls, the one above is from the top of the falls - here it is easy to see the copper color of the river (especially in the fall). Above the falls is a popular place to throw change from what is observed below the river's surface:
The other vantage point involves taking the left trail at the split, this will put you down in the gorge at the river's edge for more of a straight-on look at the falls, albeit from further away:
On the way back to the parking lot, I highly recommend a side trip on the nature trail (still ends back at parking lot) which adds around a quarter mile to the trip back. The scenery is amazing in the fall, as the bright oranges and yellows of the leaves contrasts with the green of the pine and spruce making the entire area "pop."
The falls drop nearly 50 feet here, making them one of the largest sets of falls east of the Mississippi. A short drive back on M-123 wil take you to the Lower Tahquamenon Falls, not as tall, but equally impressive in their own way.

Getting there: From M-28 in Newberry or , take M-123 to signs for the state park and falls. Watch for wildlife int he many marshes and ponds along the way - moose have often been spotted through here.

Overall: Amazing
Hike: Easy (many steps)