My friend Debi and I decided to go on a vacation hunting for waterfalls. We’re trolls and live under the bridge. While the mitten is beautiful, we wanted to venture further, across the Big Mac Bridge and into the U.P., a land of breath-taking beauty. First you have the scenic shoreline of Lake Michigan and the rugged beauty of the Lake Superior shoreline. Then there’s National and State Forests, islands and mountains too. Need I say more? We had to go.
We began our limited research on waterfalls. How many are there? Ummm…. That’s not an easy question I found out. Most agree that there are at least 150. After that, who knows? I read somewhere that there were 150 to 300 waterfalls. Really? That’s quite a gap. The problem is with determining “What is a waterfall?” If a waterfall doesn’t exist year-round, is it a waterfall? How high and how wide does it have to be? If there are five waterfalls right after each other, do those count as one or five waterfalls? To be or not to be a waterfall? That is the question.
Tahquamenon Falls is the mother of the U.P. waterfalls. The Upper Tahquamenon is huge and the Lower is scenic, splitting as it comes down, creating an island in the middle. You can take a row boat out there. There are many paved paths at the upper falls, making them easily accessible. These falls are maintained with tourists in mind and are heavily advertised. That is where Tahquamenon Falls is unique.
Most of the falls in the U.P. are obscure. If you’re looking for a sign marking their existence, you better keep your eyes open. We were looking for Warner Falls and we zoomed right on by the sign. They had it on a guard rail facing east when the road traffic was going north and south. How are you supposed to see that when you’re driving!
At least they had a sign. Some do not. County Road 510 was very interesting. There was little traffic and most of it’s a dirt road, but at the south end, some of it’s paved. There were bumps going all the way across the road and they seemed to be evenly spaced. Speed bumps? Seriously? My bad. What I thought were speed bumps at first, I realized were drains under the road so the water could flow from one side to the other.
I did enjoy traveling down CR 510. It went through woods and was a scenic drive. Since the road was dirt, I wasn’t sure of the speed limit so I looked for a posted sign. Eventually I saw one – 35 mph – for snowmobiles. That’s when you know you’re in the U.P. – speed limit signs for snowmobiles, but not cars. Love it.
We did see an occasional sign warning about equipment entering the highway. Highway? It was a dirt road with little to no traffic!
We were on CR510 looking for Yellow Dog Falls and Big Pup Creek Falls. Again, no signs. We went past them and had to come back looking for them again. At the Yellow Dog Falls someone had put five walking sticks against a tree. I took one and was glad I did. You had to cross two little streams that had logs going across them to walk over on. Then there’s the mud in occasional spots. Watch out for tree roots! There are no steps. You have to climb up hills in spots.
At one of the falls, there was a pickup truck parked there but no sign of the driver. We were out in the middle of nowhere. “I hope he’s not a weirdo,” I said.
“OK,” Debi said, reading the sign on the truck and pointing at it. (“OK” was the name of an Industrial Supply company.)
One morning we went to a Travel Center. We were told about everything there was to see except the waterfalls. We had to ask about them. Everyone seemed reluctant to mention them. Even some of the names aren’t the most welcoming. Here are some of them: The Dead River Falls, Black River Falls, Mosquito Falls and Hurricane Falls. There’s even one called “Unnamed Falls.” Hmmm. I guess they ran out of names.
I’m assuming they don’t encourage the obscure falls because they’re not right for everyone. Some have rugged trails that you could get hurt on. The paths aren’t paved or wide, so if you wander off the trail you could get into poison ivy, stinging nettles or wild parsnip. Insects can be a nuisance too. We didn’t see a bear, but they’re out there. If you don’t like to take risks, stick to the advertised falls. They’ve made them tourist friendly and they’re worth seeing.
One day we picked up Debi’s niece and nephew to go waterfall hunting with us. All of us were looking at the scenery while I was driving. Autumn was the only one to spot a deer in the woods at the side of the road. When asked why she saw it and no one else did, she responded, “I have Yooper eyes.”
I enjoyed my time in the U.P. It was a paradise and the people who live there were friendly. If you get a chance to go hunting waterfalls – go. You’ll be glad you did!
Yooper: One who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. www.dayoopers.com (A Yooper band)
Troll: Yoopers call someone who lives in the Mitten (under the bridge) a troll.
The Big Mac: Nick name for the Mackinac Bridge
U.P. – The Upper Peninsula of Michigan (above the bridge)
Mitten – The Lower Peninsula of Michigan (under the bridge)