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My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Pleasant Penninsula: Tahquamenon Falls


On Sunday, we took on one of the crown jewels of the Upper Peninsula: Tahquamenon Falls, a series of rapids and waterfalls in the Tahquamenon River that are extraordinary not just for their size and beauty but also for their unique golden-red color. Cedar, hemlock, and spruce trees in the surrounding forest and swamps infuse the water with tannin (or tannic acid), the same astringent found in grapes that makes your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth a little bit after a sip of good wine. The acid has two important effects on the water -- it softens it so that the falls produce prolific amounts of foam and it gives it this incredible coloring. While the intensity of the color varies throughout the year, at its richest, the whole river looks like a flow of liquid amber.



The Lower Falls are a series of several rapids that flank a small island. For the best view, you have to rent a rowboat from the park and heave-ho your way to the island, which has a little hiking path to follow and allows you to get right next to the water. Fair warning: The water is very accessible from the island and we saw several people wading in it and allowing their small children to wade in it. This is a really effective way to lose a small child as the river's sandstone bed can be extremely slippery and the current, which seems harmless enough in the shallows, gets treacherously quick around the rapids. Even a grown man can easily lose his footing and end up sleepin' with the fishes, so keep to the shore and keep a close eye on your kids.


Shallow but fast-moving water through the Lower Falls. All the park signs through this area say "Beautiful but Treacherous."


This is as far into the water as we got, even though it was a hot day and the river was tempting. Safety first, boys and girls!

Disclaimer: Stride is a professional adventurer. Do not attempt this at home.


There's about a four-mile hike from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls. This path starts out as a well-maintained boardwalk along the river but quickly becomes a rugged, often overgrown, trek through the woods with several steep inclines. There are a few gorgeous vistas and some beautiful stretches along the river that make it worthwhile, but be prepared with some good hiking shoes, bug spray, water, and snacks, and keep in mind that once you get to the Upper Falls, you've got to get back.


Along the way to the Upper Falls, we spotted the work of one Michigan's original lumberjacks. He apparently got distracted and couldn't be bothered to finish off this poor tree.


The Upper Tahquamenon Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, second only to Niagara. Obviously, the fifty-foot drop makes this waterfall a bit more formidable than the rapids downstream, so you can only approach it by standing on a lookout platform.

After we had taken in the view and the foam and the incredible amber water, we got an anticlimactic bite to eat at the nearby lodge and then started the four mile hike back to our campsite at the Lower Falls.



The main strip of Paradise, MI, the town closest to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, is quite the booming metropolis, sporting approximately two greasy spoon diners, one chainsaw art gallery, and this root-beer-stand-turned-trailer-lot. We settled on breakfast at a blueberry-bedecked diner called the Berry Patch. Imagine, then, our dismay when we discovered they didn't have any blueberry pancakes. Not my idea of Paradise. :(

But it didn't matter anyway because Monday morning we were off to our next adventure at Drummond Island


george said...


This is a wonderful blog! It was a very good read.

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Warm Regards,
George Christodoulou
Travel Blogger | OneTravel

G said...

That would be fantastic! I'll be emailing you!