An Accident on Falls River

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Hoping to visit a good number of waterfalls in Houghton and Baraga County Katie and Jacob head down to Baraga for an ill-fated trip. published on by

Water sliding down the slate banks

One week after our first waterfall adventure in the Keweenaw I woke up to a sunny Saturday morning. I had close to a dozen destinations planned out, Katie had a delicious picnic packed up, and Logan was itching for another adventure. The three of us headed south on US-41 towards L'Anse with high expectations for the day.

The towering bishop over Baraga

The towering bishop over Baraga

Our first stop was at the Bishop Baraga site. Katie had never been there before so we spent a good amount of time walking around and checking out the numerous little spots. We had to take turns in the gift shop, as pets weren't allowed in, but otherwise we spent the first visit of the day strolling together along the paths and reading the signs. After the shrine we drove over to a drug store in downtown L'Anse to pick up some sunscreen and bug spray before continuing down to the lake and parking near the town park.

Falls River Falls was the first waterfall of the day. After doing a fair bit of research I had decided that we should tackle this hike by starting at the town marina and following the river upstream, as I wasn't entirely sure how many drops there were or where exactly they were along the river. A road led straight from the town across the river to some workplace, with a path picking up on the east bank leading upstream. We followed the path.

Equipment near the riverside factory

Equipment near the riverside factory

I was pretty happy about the path, as Katie prefers paths to bushwhacks and they're much easier to handle Logan on. We headed up, past the towering factory on the east and the lumber plant to the west and to the first small waterfall, a funneling of the wide waters through an old cement dam structure. Solid rock reached across and started diverting the river here too, replacing the gravelly riverbed and causing small, swirling drops and rapids.

Old cement dam

Old cement dam

The next waterfall was a short distance upstream, an elongated, even slide that water poured down and around. It wasn't a sheer drop or plunge, but it was easily five feet tall and made for a very pretty waterfall. This drop was much more difficult to view, with steepening river walls on both sides, so we passed it by for now and followed the river up the riverbank. Before we knew it the river bent sharply to the south and the main waterfall opened up in front of us.

Large, sliding drop ahead

Large, sliding drop ahead

Numerous cascading drops

Numerous cascading drops

Still generally shaped like a long slide, the main drop is in an incredibly tall and varied cascade over solid grey rocks with many separate plunges, pools, and chutes. From the railroad trestle downstream to us the river must drop at least forty feet in all. We stopped here, resting on the bench near the path, drinking in the view. After a while I decided to head up the side alone, taking the path upstream with occasional cuts down to the water's edge to get a different angle. When I reached the railroad bridge the path cut up to the tracks and I turned around. I didn't think that there were more falls upstream and had told Katie I wouldn't be long. It would be a few more days before I revisited and found the upper drops on the river.

I headed back to Katie and Logan and we retraced our path back to the car. It was getting close to noon so we drove through the BK Lounge for lunch on the road, pouring a small dish of dog food for the puppy. Logan didn't feel like eating in the car so we figured we could just let him eat with Katie while I explored and took pictures at the next stop. Our next stop was a short distance up the road, anyways. We pulled up to a large open area right off of Power Dam Road and I headed out alone.

Unsure of this area I bounded ahead, alone, exploring the grassy meadow. This must be where the reservoir was, years ago, though it must not have been too large. The river ran through the middle of the meadow and I followed it downstream to a few small drops. There was nothing here that promised waterfalls so I headed back to the car, where Katie and Logan had been waiting for me.

Sandy beach in the empty reservoir

Sandy beach in the empty reservoir

We turned back and headed down the turn before the dead end, Power House Road, took us to an old cement building and a rushing, roaring waterfall.

This was Powerhouse Falls. There was little doubt of the cascading water tight against the small cement building, smaller drops both up and downstream. I still was suspicious of more waterfalls nearby so I headed downstream first, along the slanted riverbed, before any photos of the main falls. A few hundred feet later and a misplaced step stole my balance, spilling me into the river and dropping my camera in the process. Our trip was over.

Slick moss on the banks

Slick moss on the banks

My camera, a birthday present from Katie, seemed broken. There was a bad dent in the side and water dripped from its insides. I ripped out the batteries immediately and we set the camera out on a dry shirt in the car. There was no use in continuing today so we headed back to Houghton, defeated.

Trip Photos

  • The towering bishop over Baraga
  • Equipment near the riverside factory
  • Snowmobile bridge over Falls River
  • Old cement dam
  • Large, sliding drop ahead
  • Numerous cascading drops
  • The three bridges over Falls River
  • Sandy beach in the empty reservoir
  • Water sliding down the slate banks
  • Slick moss on the banks

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