Bond Falls and Dry Sandstone

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On the way back from Appleton Logan and Jacob make some quick stops in Ontonagon County, including Onion and Sandstone Creek Falls. published on by

Rotting logs and intruding trees

Driving back from Appleton after a weekend with Katie and her family seemed like a great chance to hit up some waterfalls far south of Houghton. I shook up the normal drive by bearing west up US-45 instead of the usual 41-through-Covington route. This approach added a healthy amount of time to the drive and I pulled into Paulding later in the afternoon than I expected.

Bond Falls is one of the major waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula. It's a signficant tourist draw, not as built up as Tahquamenon to the east, but with a dedicated state park and gift shop. While the falls were impressive, with multiple upper drops and a large reservoir above, trying to take photos and hold an excited puppy in check around so many people was quite difficult. After a brief stop here I continued northwards up to Kenton to a much more remote stop.

Deep green around Bond Falls

Deep green around Bond Falls

I had attempted to find Onion Falls earlier this year and later learned that I just didn't go far enough. I was on the correct forest road, 1130, and had pulled off to the shoulder at the first small dip in the road. I should have continued west for another half mile to the big bend instead. With this bit of knowledge (and hoping for a bit of luck) I parked near the field and was met by a wide meadow.

Logan and I got out and stretched our legs, getting ready for a long hike. I had only a vague idea of where these falls were, somewhere to the south, so we passed a tumble of logs that must have been a barn or shed at one point and followed the grassy meadow downhill. A wide, dry ditch drained out the far side. Hoping it would led us to Onion Creek we took it, ducking under the log and branch clutter at the bottom. When we found water I was disappointed. Surrounded by thick, marshy undergrowth with several beaver dams crossing, the creek was a sluggish, muddy mess at best.

Beaver dam on the river

Beaver dam on the river

I knew from the last visit that there was nothing to find upstream so we turned right and climbed a bit up the banks to get away from the thicker growth. It was relatively easy going aside from walking on an angle. Once the dams cleared out and the river started flowing a bit faster I decided to walk right in the creek, jumping a bit from rock to rock, just to be on somewhat level ground. The walls started to rise up around us, towering sandstone in some locations, and I started to look forward to what this waterfall might look like. So far we had passed by a few sliding sandstone drops, though there was nothing taller than a foot so far. With dramatic banks like the ones surrounding us my hopes were rising.

More promising flows on Onion Creek

More promising flows on Onion Creek

The waterfall we found was disappointing. A sloped ledge maybe two feet high with water sliding down evenly across it, barely breaking into foam near the bottom, stretched across the full length of the river. I've seen smaller named drops but this gorge had gotten my hopes up. The creek continued down a steepening gorge, probably with more small drops downstream. I was done with Onion Falls for today. Logan and I headed up the steep bank back north.

An even, sliding waterfall

An even, sliding waterfall

An ATV track waited for us above the river so we followed that out for a bit. After a short, easy walk it took us to an open, grassy meadow. Thinking this was the same field that the car was parked on I trucked up the hill, not focused on my surroundings, when I looked up and was surprised to see a huge cabin at the far end. I had no idea where we were at.

Avoiding the urge to backtrack I pushed forward past the cabin. A road led to the right, which took us right back to Forest Road 1130 and my parked car. I was quite confused. Later I found out that there are two meadows, very close to each other, and turned at right angles in regards to the slope. which explained how confused I was by the slopes and roads.

We had burnt through a lot of time at Onion Falls so I decided, without feeling too torn up, to skip out on Vista Falls. Instead I drove back south towards Bruce Crossing. On the way I made a quick stop at Sparrow Rapids. I wasn't really sure if I wanted to include rapids on my adventures, especially since there are so many named rapids along the branches of Ontonagon River, and Sparrow Rapids decided for me. It was a nice little campground, deep in the woods, and the rapids were little more than ripples on the water. I passed by after a few quick photos, making a note to avoid rapids in the waterfall searches.

Back on US-45 I thought briefly about stopping by O Kun de Kun again but pushed forward to unexplored areas instead. Parking off a small track on the south side of the Ontonagon River bridge I headed west on an overgrown ATV trail. My plan was to run parallel with the Ontonagon River until I bumped into Plover Creek, which should have a small waterfall upstream.

Muddy inlet into Ontonagon River

Muddy inlet into Ontonagon River

When the track dipped down at a trickling, muddy creek, Logan and I followed it upstream. It was tough to hike up the creek over the sandstone shelves and around multiple downed trees, even though the flow was more sets of muddy puddles than a rushing stream. The main falls were all but dry, a tiny trickle dribbling down one side of the flat shelves. Also, the creek I had hiked up had run right back up to US-45. I was on Sandstone Creek, not Plover.

Barely trickling sandstone

Barely trickling sandstone

I headed back to my car along the side of the road, disappointed. Bond Falls was busy, Onion Falls was tiny, and Sandstone Creek Falls, an unintended stop, was barely trickling. I was done. Plover Falls was a short distance to the west and there were other nearby stops I could have made, but I was done. Logan and I headed back to Houghton to get ready for the work week.

Trip Photos

  • Deep green around Bond Falls
  • Nice wooden walkways
  • Looking sideways at the lush setting
  • Old foundations in the grassy meadow
  • Rotting logs and intruding trees
  • Beaver dam on the river
  • More promising flows on Onion Creek
  • Trees laying across the shallow river
  • An even, sliding waterfall
  • Overgrown ATV trail
  • Muddy inlet into Ontonagon River
  • Muddy little creek
  • Purple weeds on the path
  • Reflecting pool
  • Barely trickling sandstone
  • Dry falls
  • A sign for the creek on the US 45

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