Monday, July 21, 2014

Overlooked Falls and Greenstone Falls -
Porcupine Mountains State Park, MI

When it comes to waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains, the big falls on the West end of the park - Manabezho, Manido, and Nawadha Falls - tend to get all the glory, but there are many more beautiful falls inside the wilderness state park. As part of our 2014 Lake Superior Circle Tour, we finally made the hike to Overlooked Falls and Greenstone Falls, two waterfalls that are not that difficult to get to yet aren't visited as often as others. Both are reached from the same parking lot at the end of 
Little Carp River Rd. off of South Boundary Rd.
Overlooked Falls is reached in a few hundred feet, and there is a trail down each side of the river, offering pretty similar views. It's a set of 3-5 foot drops on the Little Carp River, but the scenery here is spectacular.
Continuing downstream, the river continues to drop and provide sets of little falls that make the half mile hike go by a lot faster than it should.
Greenstone Falls are wider, and a bit taller. It may take a bit of work to get down to river level for photos, but you're not too high above the river to start with and there are a few paths.
This area is also home to the Greenstone Falls Cabin, which can be rented from the state park.
One of the neat features of this trail is that there are several boardwalks in place for crossing to the other side - this gives the option of taking one path downstream and another on the trek back to the car:
You may notice in the photo above that my dad has on mosquito head netting - this should be considered a must-have for this hike. We only took them off briefly to take pictures, and we kept moving as much as possible. 
This is a sample of one of the additional falls on this river.
Take your time and enjoy everything the "backcountry" has to offer!
Be prepared for:
mosquitos, flies, etc.
wet, sloppy terrain (especially after rain)
moderate difficulty hiking

Monday, July 14, 2014

O Kun de Kun Falls - Bruce Crossing, MI

During this year's Lake Superior Circle Tour, my father and I were able to visit a good handful of waterfalls that we had previously not visited. One of the most impressive hikes was the trip to 
O Kun de Kun Falls, located north of Bruce Crossing in Michigan. While the hike had it's challenges, I was on a mission to correct a previous error on an earlier trip - stopping at the Upper Falls, calling it good and heading back. The trail to O Kun de Kun Falls begins at a parking lot just off M-45, and winds through the woods alongside the Baltimore River for about a mile and a half.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow, and it is also part of the North Country Trail. When we visited in June 2014, we found the trail in pretty good condition and ran into a National Forest Service crew trimming branches along the way. Where need be, boardwalks are in place:
There were a few muddy spots, and the picture below is a good one of the "worst" conditions we encountered:
Now, on to the waterfalls. A little over a mile into this scenic hike, the Baltimore River drops 10 feet over stone ledges to form the scenic Upper Falls (also referred to as the Creamy Peanut Butter Slide). Since this is a fairly impressive falls, I don't feel as bad for stopping here the first time. 
One of my favorite things about both falls on this river is the muddy brown color, as it contrasts perfectly with the lush green forest surroundings. Keep following the trail a little bit past these falls, and remember that there is a wooden bridge across the river below O Kun de Kun Falls - if you haven't seen the bridge, keep going.
The amazing falls here are about 25 feet in height, and they are a plunge falls that drop over the rock in a way that makes it possible to get in behind them if you are so inclined.
These falls will vary in flow seasonally, and the river is quite calm both above and below. As seen in this photo, there is also a small side falls.
On the way back to the parking lot, make a quick trip closer to the falls and explore the rock ledges for a close-up view:

Directions: From the intersection of M-45 and M-28 in Bruce Crossing, 
head north on M-45 for about 8 miles.
Watch for a sign for the North Country Trailhead 
and the O Kun de Kun Falls parking area.
Well-signed from the parking lot, easy-to-follow trail 
that will run around 2.5 miles round trip.

video coming soon

Be prepared for:
seasonal water flow changes
bugs (mosquito netting recommended)
wet/rough terrain (boots a good choice)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wawa Falls and Silver Falls - Wawa, Ontario

<<Important note: construction in the area has made reaching these falls trickier but not impossible. When we were there in June 2014, the bridge was almost completed. It may be wise to check for updates with the local travel bureaus before attempting a visit.>>

The Wawa, Ontario area is great for waterfall enthusiasts, as there are three easily accessible waterfalls located within five miles of each other. This post will look at two that are reached from the same parking area, and a follow-up post will look at the most impressive falls in the area. Wawa Falls and Silver Falls are located just south of town and only a mile or so from Highway 17, and both are impressive in height and water flow.
Wawa Falls is the lower set of falls on the Silver River here, and is reached by following a footpath to the left of the bridge crossing the river. It is rocky and steep here, so use all necessary caution while reaching the bottom for a better view of the falls. Depending on water levels, this XXX foot high cascade can possibly be viewed from a better vantage point farther out (as seen in the video above)
Silver Falls seems to var quite a bit in water flow, and signs in the area indicate that is due to the river being dammed in places. It is possible to get quite close to these falls, but caution must be used when the alarm sounds and water levels rise. Head to the right of the bridge, or cross it and head to the right - either way you will end up with a solid view of these falls. A short video shows the falls in 2012 and the surrounding area including the old bridge:

On Highway 17 south of Wawa, head west on Michipicoten River Village Rd. Turn right when you reach a T intersection and follow to the bridge - Silver Falls is off to the right
and Wawa Falls are off to the left.
 This book was a big help in leading us to these waterfalls the first time we visited:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cascade Falls (Cascade River State Park) -
Lutsen, Minnesota

My father and I first visited the Cascade River State Park Recreation Site near Lutsen, Minnesota on our first Lake Superior Circle Tour in 2011. We made the short, quarter-mile hike up to Cascade Falls (an impressive 25-foot plunge), snapped a few pictures then went on our way. We had no idea what we were missing out on by not following the trail farther, until my dad returned the next fall with my stepmom and found the additional cascades on the trail. There are so many turns and drops to the river with so many places to climb on rocks for better views, that it would be easy to spend a day here to take it all in.
This has become an annual stop for us now, and in high water each drop is spectacular. There is a copper tint to the water similar to many of Michigan's Upper Peninsula falls and given how easy and well-worn the path is, there's little excuse not to follow it and check out this great park!
As always, caution is advised when venturing off the trail to get closer views, but the rock is fairly smooth and flat in most places, especially near a bridge that spans the river and marks the start of the trail's loop back to the parking lot.
As further reinforcement of how beautiful this area is, on one of our visits there was a woman painting the landscape. I would love to see the finished product.
This picture shows how close the drops are, and gives a small look at how many there are. Cascade Falls is the gem here, but it's just the beginning. It's just over a mile to make the full loop, and as you can see it's more than worth the effort. The video below is from our visit in 2012 and I tried to give a good look of the entire loop.

The parking area for the falls is at mile marker 100 on highway 61 in MN, north of Lutsen and south of Grand Marais. The path goes straight up to Cascade Falls, then follow it uphill and off to the left, as it follows the river before crossing and heading down the opposite bank. The Wallingas' book Waterfalls of the North Shore (linked in upper right corner), first turned us on to these falls and provided excellent directions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Silver Creek Falls - Ahmeek, Mich.

You won't find the officially unnamed falls on Silver Creek in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in tourist brochures or on most maps, but they are worth the effort to visit on any trip to the Keweenaw. Located only a few minutes from the road, it's a short hike of medium difficulty that gets you back in the woods to this 15-foot high waterfalls tucked in a peaceful section of the woods full of green and brown colors.
It may be a short hike back to the falls, but don't be misled by how easy it is at first. A fairly well-worn path heads into the woods for about an eighth of a mile, but once you get closer to the creek there will be a need to navigate around downed trees. As long as you stay close to the creek bank, the falls are pretty close. The creek is shallow, and with a pair of waders you could probably walk right up to the falls.
The creek bed is conglomerate rock, which gives some character to the water as it cascades down the main drop then continues through a few smaller ones. These falls are pretty spectacular, and not visited very often which is appealing.
To get to Silver Creek Falls, turn onto 5 Mile Point Rd off of M-28 near Eagle River and follow for about two miles to where the road crosses Silver Creek (signed). Turn around and park in one of the wide, sandy areas on the side of the road. Look for a path into the woods before the guardrail and follow it about a quarter mile to the falls. We first checked this out based on directions in the Penrose Michigan Waterfall guide (see link on right) and years later, their directions are still accurate. Below is a video I shot in August 2012.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Agate Falls - Trout Creek, Mich.

Easily accessible from a roadside park off of M-28 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Agate Falls should not be missed. Only a handful of other falls in the state can come close in height or width, and while reaching the base of the falls requires some extra hiking on a narrow path down the hill, it is more than worth the effort.
The parking area for Agate Falls is on the south side of the highway, and the trail is wide, paved and almost immediately heads under the road and heads into the woods. It's easy to hear the falls, and views of the river are plentiful through the trees. After maybe a quarter mile, you will reach an old train trestle and shortly after that a viewing platform.
I imagine many people get confused here, as the view of these stunning falls looks something like this from here:
Stepping back about ten feet and looking off to the right, there is a well-worn path in the dirt between the trees. This won't be easy going, as it is mostly downhill and there are roots to avoid, but if it is dry and proper caution is used there is no reason to worry.
If water levels are high, there may be a need to hop over some standing water and sometimes the mosquitoes are quite thick. We've been fortunate to pretty much have this lower part to ourselves the past two times we were there, making for some breathtaking views as the middle branch of the Ontonagon River drops 40 feet over sandstone ledges.
It's pretty easy to see why this waterfall used to be featured on postcards, and why it remains a popular stop to this day no matter the season (the trestle bridge is part of a snowmobile trail).
Agate Falls can be found on M-28 four miles west of Trout Creek and about 6 miles east of M-45. I have added a short video from a trip in June of 2013.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Big Eric's Falls - Skanee, Mich.

While Big Eric's Falls are nowhere near being the biggest or most impressive falls in the Upper Peninsula, they are easily accessible and are one of the many waterfalls located off of Skanee Rd. along the shore of Lake Superior. Here, on the Huron River near Big Eric's Campground (MI State Forest). There are multiple drops of up to six feet here as the river flows over rocky ledges, and access from both sides of the bridge leaves lots of room for exploration.
This is a close-up view of one of the small drops on the left (east) side, which shows the rock formations well.
This is one of the upper drops closest to the bridge, and a smaller drop of around a foot farther downstream.
Finally, a look at the largest drop, far to the right (west bank) and close to the bridge.

Big Eric's Falls can be reached by heading out of L'Anse on Main St./Skanee Rd. for a little more than 18 miles, then turning right onto Eric's Rd. when a fork presents itself. It's a little over a mile to the parking area for the campground and falls, the bridge will be in view and only a hundred yards away. 
Below is a video I shot in April of 2012:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Keene Creek Waterfalls - Duluth, Minn.

One of my favorite things about Duluth, MN (and there are many, many things I love about this city) is the presence of waterfalls within the city limits. With numerous creeks and rivers flowing towards Lake Superior, these falls provide places of serenity hundreds of feet from busy urban areas. One creek that features small yet unique waterfalls is Keene Creek, which can be accessed from several spots on the Skyline Parkway.
The first falls are reached by parking in a large dirt lot near Skyline Drive and Highland St. Across the street there is a short trail into the woods that reaches an old bridge over the creek. There was some "interesting" graffiti there on our visit, further driving home the point that this is a very urban waterfall.
The falls here look to vary between 3-10 feet depending on waterflow. The Wallinga's book lists them at eight feet but they were closer to four in August of 2012. The gently flowing creek splits over some rocks here, before landing in a reflective pool that had quite a collection of trash and debris in it (pop cans, shoes, etc).
The creek flows directly under the old bridge mentioned above, and this appears to be a favorite target for graffiti artists. The vibrant colors on the wall contrast with the tranquil calm of the greens and blues in the area, but almost have a beauty of their own when viewed solo:
From these falls, a short (.3 mile) trip east on Skyline Drive to another, smaller dirt pullout leads to another short trail through the woods to a more breathtaking spot on Keene Creek. Here the creek drops over rock at a height of around five feet, in three distinct sections before it makes a few smaller drops below.
A close-up view of the "upper" section here shows the moss/lichens attached to the rock. While these falls are not going to be featured on a calendar anytime soon, they must look spectacular during spring runoff.
These falls don't appear to be visited very often either, so if you're looking for a quiet, scenic hike away from crowds this is a good spot to start. Below is a short video I took in August 2012.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Schweitzer Falls - Palmer, Mich.

Schweitzer Creek
Palmer, Mich.

The Schweitzer Creek Falls near Palmer are not far away from Warner Falls, and while the drop here may not be as steep the setting is great and this makes for a quick side trip while in the area. It requires some trail-blazing hiking through the woods to get to the falls, but when we visited in November of 2006 we had little trouble making it in and out. It was wet and there had been significant recent rainfall, which seems to have helped the flow of these falls. The drop here is about 10 feet, and there were many angles for photographs. I later learned that there is an upper falls as well, and this summer I hope to make it back to the area to check that out.

Getting there: We followed the directions in the Penrose book, which starts by taking M-35 south of Palmer to its intersection with CR-565. Take a right onto 565, stay on 565 when it splits CR-476. After about three miles total the road will cross the creek, watch for a road (possibly driveway) off to the right. We parked here and headed through the woods to the creek, about five minutes. Use appropriate caution on wet banks and wet rocks.

Overall: Good
Hike: Moderate

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Eagle River Falls - Eagle River, Mich.

Eagle River
Eagle River, Mich.

When it comes to Michigan waterfalls that are so easy to visit they shouldn't be missed, Eagle River Falls has to be one of the top five. Locate just off M-26 in the Keweenaw Peninsula village of Eagle River, these falls drop 40 feet, then the shallow river rolls under several bridges before reaching Lake Superior (about 2 blocks away). There are dam remnants at the top of these falls, and spring is likely the best time to view them. Water levels the past five or six times I have been there (photo above is 2011) aren't what they used to be, sometimes only the far right ribbon is flowing. Here is a picture from a trip to the falls in 2000:
The bridge these falls are viewed from has some history of its own, and a Michigan historical marker that is two-sided highlights the history of the bridge and the village of Eagle River.

Another attraction in Eagle River is its lighthouse, which is now a private residence but can be viewed from the opposite side of the river on East Main St. (about a block from the falls). This is a great and quick stop on the way to Copper Harbor, and like most other towns in the Keweenaw Eagle River is full of history.

Getting there: The parking area for the falls is located on the east side of M-26, at 4th Street.

Overall: Good
Hike: Easy