Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saxon Falls - Michigan/Wisconsin border

Upper Falls
Lower Falls
Montreal River
Saxon, MI

Much like yesterday's featured Superior Falls, Saxon Falls is found on the border between Michigan and Wisconsin, and has had access to both the upper and lower falls made easier in recent years thanks to the XCel Energy company, which maintains a dam in the area. It took me three attempts to get the best views of these falls, but boy was it worth it!
My first attempt had us following a slight path to the right of the main gate, for a partially obscured view of the upper falls, from the riverside:
We ventured back several years later, took the side road and followed posted signs, working our way from the dam, across the river and to the top of the stairs to the powerhouse, which had a distant, blocked view of the upper falls. It was this August, on my third trip, that I found new, detailed signs in place which got us to the breathtaking views of both the upper and lower falls. We chose to go to the lower falls first, this journey starts at the dam:
Head down the wide grass path to the left of the "DANGER: Waterfalls immediately ahead" sign, look for the white sign for the falls and hop onto the metal catwalk. This will carry you over the river, and into the woods:
There will be a side trail to the left, marked for "top of falls" - we chose to come catch those on the return trip, staying straight the path is now old railroad ties on top of a water pipe:
Soon, the fun begins, as you get to the top of the hill. You will need to climb up a ladder, past the side of a building, down another ladder, and then descend an amazing flight of iron stairs, directly on top of the water pipe:
This puts you at the powerhouse, almost there!
Go around the powerhouse, take the bridge over the river (falls will now be in view), cross to the other side, hop down and follow the rocky ground for the view you prefer, I enjoyed these falls, and noted a similarity to the "shallows" falls on the Lester River in Duluth, MN.
Retrace your steps back to the "top of the falls" sign, and follow the 1/4 mile dirt path for a great view of the upper section, but keep in mind there are no barriers and it is a very steep drop:
Wow! This was quite the adventure and a completely unique waterfall experience - glad I made the return trip, enjoy the video below, which has footage of many of the things I mentioned above.

Getting there: From US-2 in Ironwood, head into Wisconsin, and either take County Rd B north to its end, or follow the Superior Falls directions, taking a right onto Cty Rd B before the river, then taking a left onto "Saxon Falls Flowage Rd." Take the right dirt road at the split, marked for falls access, there is ample parking near the dam.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate

Friday, September 21, 2012

Superior Falls - Michigan/Wisconsin border

Montreal River
Saxon, MI

One of several beautiful falls on the Montreal River (which forms the border between Michigan and Wisconsin), and one of two that access to has been recently improved by XCel Engergy, Superior Falls is a roaring gem reached by a short semi-difficult hike.

The first time, I visited Superior Falls (and according to the Penrose directions), it was viewed from an observation area near the top of the power station, providing a stunning and distant view of the falls.
When I returned here in August 2012, we found that a path leading to the base of the falls was open, providing an amazing view of the cliffs along the Lake Superior shoreline:
From here the path turns in and follows the river, mostly a well-worn flat path. It passes a powerhouse, then becomes more narrow as it gets rocky - the first view of the falls is great:
Getting in closer requires climbing on some rocks and following a curved shoreline of very loose rock - watch your footing, but the reward will be worth it.
Up close, it is easy to see how the falls make their way down the cliff, dropping about 40 feet. A dam upstream strips them of much of their former power, at some point this river would have been a lot higher!
A big thanks to XCel Energy for keeping access to these falls open - we need more companies like them! This is a great spot to hang out for awhile, and I even managed to set my camera up on some rocks for a makeshift tripod:
My next post will feature Saxon Falls, a nearby falls also accessed courtesy of Xcel, although the hike to both sections is more memorable for other reasons. Check out a short video of Superior Falls:

Getting there: From US-2 in Ironwood, head into Wisconsin, looking for WI-122, about 12 miles away. Turn right onto this road, and follow it about four miles, crossing back into Michigan, crossing the river and looking for the sign on the left for the falls an parking lot.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Glen Avon Falls - Beaver Bay, Minnesota

Beaver River
Beaver Bay, MN

Unlike yesterday's Beaver River Falls, the spectacular Glen Avon Falls can not be seen from the road, but are worth the minimal extra effort to get to. A few short turns down back roads and a very minimal hike will put you at a wide river that drops and drops and drops as it makes its way downhill toward Beaver River Falls and eventually Lake Superior. This is a truly amazing place, plan on spending some time here - we first visited in 2011, and when we went back in 2012 I made sure I had a video camera as I feel pictures just don't do these falls justice.
While several of the bigger sets of falls come in at 8-10 feet in height, most of the drops are either more gradual, narrower, or shorter - and the rocks allow for a great deal of exploring and maneuvering to get the best photos possible.
Getting there: From the intersection of Hwy 61 and Lax Lake Rd. in Beaver Bay, turn onto Lax Lake Rd. Head north a little over a mile and a half, then take a left on County Road 3. After a mile, start looking for a dirt road on the left - both visits it has not been possible to travel down with our car so we parked on the side of the road and made the short trip to the river. Thanks to the North Shore waterfall book below, it's the main reason we found out about these beautiful falls!

Overall: Great
Hike: Easy

Friday, September 14, 2012

Beaver River Falls - Beaver Bay, Minnesota

Beaver River
Beaver Bay, Minnesota

The thundering Beaver River Falls can be partially seen from Highway 61 near the small town of Beaver Bay. These falls make an excellent addition to any Lake Superior Circle Tour or North Shore waterfall trip, and are especially beautiful at high water. They were still impressive on our first visit, but when we came back in June 2012 the water was high and roaring, making for a splendid panorama. The best vantage point is found from a trail near the large parking lot at Lax Lake Rd. The falls drop in so many sections at times it is hard to get the entire thing in frame!
Getting there: From Hwy 61 make the turn (right from north, left from south) onto Lax Lake Rd, then take an immediate right into the parking lot. The best trail is located at the corner near the bridge and steeply works its way to the riverbank under the bridge (see video)

Overall: Good to Great
Hike: Easy

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rock River Falls - Michigan

Rock River
Chatham, MI

Among the most secluded as well as the most beautiful falls in Michigan, Rock River Falls is nestled deep in the woods of the Hiawatha National Forest not far from Munising. Getting to these falls is no easy feat, as it requires several miles of driving on poorly marked/unmarked forest roads, then hiking between 1 and 1.5 miles on an at times poorly defined trail, all the while battling mosquitos or whatever seasonal bugs there may be.
These 15 foot falls drop over a limestone shelf into a small pool in a very beautiful forested setting. I don't always feel the reward (falls) is worth the hike we put in - this was one of the times I definitely felt it was! Other than battling mosquitos, the serenity of this place was awesome.
As you can see, large slabs of rock have piled up at the base of the falls - meaning at spring melt and other times the flow here has to be ridiculous. While this would make for beautiful pictures it would also make some of the trek to the falls very difficult.

Getting there: From where M-94 makes a 90 degree bend in Chatham, take Rock River Rd north for four miles. Turn onto Forest Rd 2276, a somewhat well maintained road, after 3.7 miles turn onto Forest Rd 2293, going .6 miles to a small parking area. There is no sign for the falls, and seasonally these roads can get pretty bad - either follow the directions in the Penrose book exactly or have a current National Forest map on hand to be sure. The hiking trail starts out wide like an old road but goes to crap after that - at times quite muddy and swampy.

Overall: Great
Hike: Difficult

Monday, September 10, 2012

Little Union Gorge Falls - Michigan

Little Union River
Porcupine Mountains State Park, MI

Located inside an outpost campground off of South Boundary Rd. in the beautiful Porcupine Mountains State Park, the Union Gorge Falls slide shallow water over a 100 plus foot drop in a forested setting. It is a short hike to reach the start of the falls, and the trail follows the river bank for a quarter mile, intersecting several times with the Union Mine Interpretive Trail. Several sections of 10-25 feet highlight the area, thin water most of the year, most likely the best time to visit is in the spring.
The rock is smooth and flat, so with the right shoes and a degree of common sense and caution, it is possible to get in the river itself and get a better, wider view while following the river upstream.
The first long drop has a small, three foot deep pool below it, adding to the calm of the area. When we first visited in the fall of 2009, no one was here - when we revisited in August 2012 the campground was full.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Laughing Whitefish Falls - Michigan

Laughing Whitefish River
Rock River Twp., MI

One of the most unique falls in the state, Laughing Whitefish Falls is a state scenic site that features the river dropping over 100 feet, gradually over a limestone shelf. The falls are not located far from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and the nearby Au Train Falls, Rock River Falls and Whitefish Falls are also worth a visit.
What make these falls unique are the way that the water is forced over the cliff, but then fans out to the left in a gradual drop before it reaches the pool at the bottom. After a half mile walk, a platform and stairs helps get you down for a better view. The upper view of the falls, from the side:
The area does not receive a ton of traffic, you will most likely have it to yourself or be one of 2-3 cars there. The walk on the trail is smooth and flat through a lovely forest, great in the fall!

Getting there: from M-94 west of Chatham, turn north on Sundell Rd. (CR-327) and follow it (and signs) almost three miles before turning onto Laughing Whitefish Falls Rd, which will take you the rest of the way to the parking area - be warned this is a rough road, especially after fresh rainfall.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate

Friday, September 7, 2012

Jacobs Falls - Michigan

Jacobs Creek
Eagle Harbor, MI

Once again, we feature a Keweenaw Peninsula waterfalls that can easily be seen by car - this time it is the lovely slide falls known as Jacobs Falls.What appears to be a slide fall of about 20 feet is actually a series of falls, with several drops of 5' or more. Getting to the top part would require a lot of climbing and some unsure footing, but will reward you with several more sets of falls. There is a small dirt turnoff on the opposite side of the road from the falls - when we stopped by in Aug. 2012 three other cars followed suit - I love seeing others take an interest in Michigan's falls!!

Getting there: these falls are located on the side of M-26 between Eagle River and Eagle Harbor, marked by a brown roadside sign.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ogemaw Falls - Michigan

Ogemaw Creek
south of L'Anse, MI

The small falls found on Ogemaw Creek off of Baraga Plains Rd. are located about a hundred feet from the main road, but due to a deep gorge they are surrounded by lush forest making for a very picturesque setting. The "hike" to these falls is difficult and mostly downhill, and involves climbing over downed trees. The main, upper drop of the falls (above) is 6-8 feet high, and upon closer inspection we found that the creek drops 3-4 feet just below a small pool at the base of the main falls, then narrows and slides down the remainder of the gorge and out of view.
Photos are from a trip in May 2010 and the video below is from an August 2012 vacation.
Getting there: From US-41 south of L'Anse, turn onto Baraga Plains Rd.(left) and follow it a little over a mile until you see a pond on the left after a curve. Park near the pond, then look for a dirt drive on the right (straight uphill) just past the creek. Walk a little ways up this drive, then look for a way into the woods, and use common senses of sight and sound to guide yourself to the falls (which you should be able to hear by now).

Overall: Good
Hike: Difficult

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Miners Falls - Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Miners River
Munising, MI

The breathtaking and powerful Miners Falls are reached by one of the shorter and less demanding hikes through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. An almost 3/4 mile trek on a well-worn path through calm woods leads to an observation deck with the view shown above of the falls. Any time of year, these falls thunder through the gorge, as the river is forced through a narrow drop, at an angle, before the river returns on its trek to Lake Superior. While the view from the platform here is stunning, it is possible to reach the bottom for a closer view - be warned this involves climbing down narrow and sometimes slippery rocks, but the reward may be well worth it to some:

Getting there: Take H-58 east about five miles from Munising, and turn onto Miners Castle Rd. (on left) Travel down this road until you see the sign for a road to the right and the falls. There is a small parking lot (about 20 cars) and the path starts from here.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate