Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rainbow Falls - Black River Scenic Byway (5 of 5)

Black River
north of Bessemer, Mich.

This is it - part five of five, and let me tell you if you've hiked all five of these, your legs might be burning a bit by this point. Rainbow Falls is the final stop on the waterfall portion of the Black River Scenic Byway (ends shortly after this at the harbor, which features a bridge to the other side for a longer hike). These breathtaking falls plunge into a gorge below, and are named for the rainbows frequently spotted by the top of the falls here:
The hike here sounds short, at 1/2 mile, and it will go by fast, but it is mostly downhill and will seem more challenging than the previous trails. The viewing platform only provides a partial view of the falls, and access to the gorge below for the brave (note that no good full views can be had from this side down there).
For a view like the one at the top of the post and the one below this paragraph, there are two options. First, if water levels are low enough, the river is not very wide at the top - somehow I was brave enough on my first visit to leap to the other side (2-3 feet). Subsequent trips have been on rainy days, so that option is out - proceeding to the harbor and taking the bridge to the trail on the other side of the river would also get you here but will easily add a couple miles to your day of hiking.
Getting there: From US-2 in Bessemer, take CR-513 north over 15 miles to the Rainbow Falls parking lot, the last waterfall lot on the byway.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate to Difficult



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sandstone Falls - Black River Scenic Byway, MI (4 of 5)


Black River
north of Bessemer, Mich.

While I've seen several other sites refer to Sandstone Falls as the "most boring" or "most normal" set of falls on the Black River, I find them to be by far the most accessible and interesting falls on the river. It is possible to walk right up to these falls, and at their peak the roaring water drowns out most other sounds in the area.

The view downstream is one of layered rock formations, foamy pools of water and so many vantage points to shoot pictures from that this may end up being the most time consuming. This may be one of the best waterfalls in the U.P. for rock hopping, and the sandstone here is smoothed down from years of pounding from the river.

The hike back to the falls is a quarter mile long, and not too strenuous. Like the other trails, it is a wide dirt path. Four down, one to go - the best part of this stretch is the variation, no two falls have the same size, shape or characteristics!
Getting there: Like all of the others, from US-2 in Bessemer, take CR-513 north 15 miles to the parking lot on the right for Sandstone Falls.

Overall: Great
Hike: Easy




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gorge Falls - Black River Scenic Byway, MI (3 of 5)

Black River
north of Bessemer, Mich.

Reached from the same parking lot as Potawatomi Falls from yesterday's posts, Gorge Falls are about 1/4 mile down the river, as it narrows and forces itself through the gorge it is named for, walled by volcanic conglomerate rock. There is a five foot drop a the top before the main falls drops:
The main drop of the falls is 25 feet before the river pools and calms down agains, this is one of the most scenic views on the river:

Getting there: From US-2 in Bessemer, head north on CR-513 for about 15 miles, this will be the second NFS parking lot and is labeled for both Potawatomi and Gorge Falls. There are separate trailheads for both but they meet and connect along the riverbank.

Overall: Good
Hike: Moderate


Monday, November 19, 2012

Potawatomi Falls - Black River Scenic Byway, MI (2 of 5)

Black River
north of Bessemer, Mich.

For the second installment of Black River Scenic Byway, we look to the Potawatomi Falls, the only wheelchair accessible falls on the byway - and made that way by recent improvements. The river here divides again, with most of the water shooting over the left side of the conglomerate rock, forming a very unique waterfall.
The river makes a seamless transition here into the next falls on the trip, Gorge Falls, and the same parking lot can be used for both. In high water, the river also shoots over the right side of this formation, though it is usually just a trickle.
The video below features a combination of both falls since they are so close together, so consider it a previe of tomorrow.

Getting there: From US-2 in Bessemer, take CR-513 north almost 15 miles, this will be the second parking are signed by the National Forest Service (north of Great Conglomerate Falls).

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Great Conglomerate Falls- Black River Scenic Byway, MI (1 of 5)

Black River
north of Bessemer, MI

Today begins a five part series featuring the stunning waterfalls of the Black River Scenic Byway north of Bessemer, Mich. These falls are all of substantial enough flow and height to be considered among the best in the state, and the fact that all five are within a three-mile stretch of county road in Northern Michigan makes the whole experience even better!
Starting from the southern end, the Great Conglomerate Falls are located where the Black River splits around a rock outcropping that effectively splits the river in two, with water flowing around both sides before rejoining on the trip downstream. The 3/4 mile trail is wide and well-worn, and brings this view at the top of a viewing platform:
At higher flow, it is entirely possible the river could even flow over the top of this outcropping of conglomerate rock for which it is named. Here's a closer view of the left side:
And a view of the right side:
All of the trails along the river connect, so it is possible to hike from here all the way to the rivermouth, but plan on that taking most of a day. Tune in tomorrow for the next falls in this five part installment.

Getting there: From US-2 in Bessemer, head north on CR-513 for almost 15 miles and look for the National Forest Service sign on the right for the parking lot for Great Conglomerate Falls, all parking lots will be on the right, and about a half mile between each.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Temperance River Gorge and Falls - Minnesota

Temperance River
Temperance River State Park
near Tofte, Minnesota

Somehow on several previous trips through Minnesota's North Shore, we had bypassed the lovely Temperance River State Park. I can't explain how we missed it, but when we finally did stop in 2012 we were blown away by hidden falls, and miles of hiking trails, as well as a well-worn gorge that the Temperance River rushes through on its way to Lake Superior.
One of the unique features on this river are the "Hidden Falls"- so called because of their location, tucked back behind rock outcroppings in a way that makes them hard to photograph but amazing to behold:
These falls are reached by taking the trails on the west side of Highway 61. The gorge and falls are reached by trails on the east side of the road, and feature several bridges constructed years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps:
We sat here for almost an hour, taking in all of the surroundings - it would be very easy to spend half a day or more in this park. The video below does a better job of capturing the whole area, which proved hard to do with just one picture.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Aguasabon Falls and Gorge - Terrace Bay, Ontario

Aquasabon River
Terrace Bay, Ontario

One of the easiest falls to access when traveling the north shore of Lake Superior is Aguasabon Falls, a breathtaking plunge of the Aguasabon River into a gorge, located less than a mile off of Highway 17 just outside Terrace Bay.
From pictures I have seen, we have been very fortunate both years to catch these falls at their high water level, as the river roars into the gorge below, plunging nearly 100 feet in the process. A very short walk from the parking lot leads to a boardwalk and viewing platform, and for the more adventurous, the Voyageur Trail also connects here and follows the Lake Superior shoreline through all of Canada.

From the platform, it is easy to watch the river flow through this brief gorge before emptying out into Lake Superior. Back in Terrace Bay, check out the recently built replica lighthouse, open to the public and providing a great view of the bay from its top:


Getting there: Just after passing through Terrace Bay on Hwy-17, look for signs for the falls on the right, the road will be on the left, it isn't much of a drive and there is a large parking lot.

Overall: Great
Hike: Easy

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rainbow Falls - Schreiber, Ontario

Whitesand River
Schreiber, Ontario, Canada

One of the most beautiful provincial parks along the northern shore of Lake Superior in Ontario is Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, a fantastic 1,400-plus acres of wilderness, highlighted by the falls and a boardwalk-line trail.
The trail to the falls begins near Whitesand Lake, as the river gains its water flow from runoff of the lake, the first drop is a slide set of falls that winds its way downhill and around some rock outcroppings:
The river continues to wind its way downstream and downhill, and the boardwalk trail offers periodic cut-ins for good views of the falls, the "main set is about halfway down the trail and features double drops of 10 and 20 feet:
The best view of this set of falls can be found on a bridge that goes across the river. This marks the end of the boardwalk trail, though several dirt trails continue along the river's west bank. Taking the trail downstream and using caution along the steep drops, the falls that cascade below the bridge are almost as breathtaking as those above:
This was another place we visited where we found that pictures just can't capture the overall panorama of the area, which is why when we returned in 2012, I brought my handycam along to be able to better show just how amazing these falls are - enjoy!

Getting there: North of Schreiber on Highway 17, there will be signs for Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, follow these, and follow directions inside the park to the falls and trail.
Overall: Good
Hike: Easy

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yondota Falls - Marenisco, Mich.

Upper Presque Isle River
Marenisco, Mich.

One of the many great Upper Peninsula waterfalls located in the Ottawa National Forest, Yondota Falls is still secluded enough that it does not see much traffic. Parking near a bridge over the river and following a short, well-worn path will put you at a series of falls of various sized drops. The upper section has the largest drop, as part of the river forces its way into a small gorge on its trip downstream
Much like the nearby Kakabika Falls and Burned Dam Falls, this is an easy place to lose track of time while taking in the numerous drops of a powerful river, in a quiet forested setting. A trip back to the main trail and farther downstream will provide a view of more falls:
There are many places where climbing and rock-hopping can provide a closer view of parts of the falls. As always, use caution on rocks that look wet or slippery. The larger rocks on the riverbank have a pinkish tone to them and appear to be granite. I have seen a few pictures where heavy rainfall or spring melt makes the river so strong the entire section of the upper falls is covered with water.

Getting there: from US-2 near Marenisco, turn north on CR-523, go three miles to a bridge over the river. Cross that bridge, park on the opposite side and look for the falls sign and trailhead.

Overall: Good
Hike: Moderate




Sunday, November 11, 2012

Caribou Falls - Minnesota

Caribou River
northeast of Little Marais, Minn.

The trail to Caribou Falls is in a state wayside rest area right off of Highway 61 on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Less than a mile of easy hiking here will put you at the base of an almost 40 foot waterfall. This is part of the Superior Hiking Trail, and the trail continues on past Caribou Falls to a few more sets of falls and even a hidden waterfall on Crystal Creek inside a cave. Another offshoot carries the trail all the way into George Crosby Maintou State Park, home to more falls.

The falls here are incredibly powerful, and depending on water levels it is not hard to get very close to the base of the falls for pictures.
The river is forced into a tight squeeze between rocks at the top, but then fans out over its drop for a very dramatic effect. When we re-visited in 2012, we once again had the place to ourselves, but were able to tell the difference in water levels as getting in as close as I am in the picture above was not possible.

Getting there: The wayside is located on the west side of Highway 61 near mile marker 70. Follow the easy, well-worn trail to the falls, but be sure to consult the detailed direction in the Wallinga's book before heading farther to Crystal Creek.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate




Saturday, November 10, 2012

Burned Dam Falls (Mex-i-min-e Falls) - Watersmeet, Mich.

Middle Branch Ontonagon River
near Watersmeet, MI

Tucked away in a serene state forest campground, Burned Dam Falls are located in a quiet and unassuming setting, yet the power of this river and its rich history are easily evident. This was once a very busy logging area, and is still a popular area with fishermen and canoe and kayak enthusiasts. The drop in the river is not much, but as the water slides over and around several rocks it makes a gradual five to eight foot drop before settling down to calm once again:
The name refers to a dam that was once at the site, see the video below for further historical detail. This is a very well maintained state forest campground, located in the Ottawa National Forest. The trip to the campground is not difficult, as only the last mile is a dirt road which leads right into the campground. Looping around in the back of the camping area, you will see the sign - the short trail to the falls is right there. This is a great waterfall to spend some time at and many opportunities for climbing and hopping around on rocks can be had.
Our August 2012 trip found about half of the 10 campsites occupied. That was a second trip for me and both times the water levels have been great for photography.

Getting there: From US-2 in Watersmeet, head north on US-45 for a mile, then take a right onto Old US-2. Follow that for 7 miles to a sign for the campground. Turn left here on FR-4500 and follow the dirt road about a mile into the campground.

Overall: Okay
Hike: Easy

Friday, November 9, 2012

Falls of the Poplar River - Lutsen, MN

Poplar River
Lutsen, MN

The scenic shoreline of Lake Superior is the backdrop for one set of falls on the Poplar River in Lutsen, Minn. The other sets of falls have more of a rapids feel to them and are in a more rugged, forested setting near a ski resort. Remnants of an old mill building, and a wooden bridge add to the overall scenery at this location.
The Lutsen resort rests at the bottom of a hill drive, right on Lake Superior. This popular tourist resort features a restaurant, trails, kayak rentals and parking lot access to see the lower falls. The best vantage point comes from this old building along the river:
The building is crumbling, with floor missing in spots, so use extreme caution if you go in. From here, you can see the river cascade over rocks as it roars towards the lake - the picture above is 2012 with high water, the one below is from 2011 and has water only on the left side:
The other sets of falls are located on Ski Hill Rd., past the Caribou Highlands Lodge. There is a shirt hiking trail that will lead to the river and a panorama of forest, mountains and river featuring sets of falls all looking similar to this:
The stunning beauty of this area is great in all seasons, water levels typically higher in the spring and peak fall color (according to my dad and stepmom) here is phenomenal.

Getting there: From Hwy 61 in Lutsen, head up Ski Hill Rd (CR5) almost two miles past the gondolas for the ski lodge and look for the Superior Hiking Trail parking to reach the Upper Falls. For the lower falls, turn onto Resort Rd. near mile marker 90, follow signs for Lutsen Resort, and find parking there - the trail to the falls is back off of the road you came in on near the base of the hill.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy



Thursday, November 8, 2012

High Falls of the Baptism River - Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota

Baptism River
Tettegouche State Park
near Silver Bay, MN

Somehow in my posting about Minnesota waterfalls I covered two of the three major waterfalls in Tettegouche State Park (Two Step Falls and Ilgen Falls) but neglected the highlight of the whole park - the High Falls of the Baptism River. These nearly 100-foot falls are spectacular at any water level, and we have been fortunate to catch it at high water marks the past two years. This is the largest set of falls entirely within the state of Minnesota (High Falls on the Pigeon River is taller but partially in Canada). This park sees a tremendous amount of use and visitors seem more than willing to tackle the somewhat challenging hike to this falls and the others in the park.

Some views can be had from the top of the falls, but the best views come from below. From that first vantage point the trail winds, then a suspension bridge crosses the river.

After the bridge, stairs and trail descend to a viewing area below the falls, take a look at the difference in access and water levels between our visits in 2011 and 2012:
2011
2012
As you can see, the heavy rains and flooding in 2012 before we hit the area made quite a difference. There are no protruding patches of rock and gravel in the bottom photo, and unlike the first year I was not able to wade in inches of water to get to the large rock for photos.

Getting there: Tettegouche State Park is located off of Hwy 61 north of Silver Bay, it is well signed and  easy to navigate to the hiking parking lots. A state park sticker or day pass is required.

Overall: Amazing
Hike: Moderate



Monday, November 5, 2012

Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls - Copper Falls State Park, Wisconsin

Bad River and Tyler's Fork of the Bad River
Mellen, WI

On one of our many trips into Michigan's Upper Peninsula (2009), we dipped into Wisconsin to check out a few of the falls from Pat Lisi's book, Wisconsin Waterfalls: A Touring Guide. Copper Falls are the highlight of a beautiful state park in northern Wisconsin. Brownstone Falls are also found in this park, and the miles of hiking trails lead to other falls and great gorge views. Copper Falls are about 30 feet in height and can be viewed from a trail that leads to the opposite side of the river as well as one that goes right above them. The one negative I took away from this park was that there aren't a lot of quality vantage points for pictures - many trees in the way. What makes Copper Falls especially hard is that the river bends around a large rock right near the top, partially obscuring several drops.

The path is smooth and not very challenging. The surroundings are forested, and teeming with wildlife. While hiking to Brownstone Falls, we noticed a whitetail deer several feet off the trail, not the least bit bothered by our presence or that of a passing group of loud children.

Brownstone Falls has a drop of 30 feet as well, and the surrounding rock faces' red color really stands out against the water. You can see a bit of what I was talking about with trees being in the way here in the lower right hand corner. Apparently we were there at a lower water time than most of the pictures I have seen, both of these falls look stunning in the spring. Any time we can see two new waterfalls this stunning in the same park, it is a good day.

Getting there: the park is located two miles north of Mellen. From Hwy 13, turn onto State Highway 169 heading northeast for about two miles to the park entrance on Copper Falls Rd. A $10 day pass or WI sticker is required (steep - that's what we pay in MI for the whole year) and more info on Red Granite Falls, a 2.5 mile round trip hike elsewhere in the park, can be obtained at the office.

Overall: Great
Hike: Moderate - handicap accessible in most parts, some uphill inclines.