Gunshots at Copper Falls

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Surprised at the lack of snow Jacob takes a bunch of friends up to the Keweenaw for some quick evening stops. published on by

Odd rocks above the falls

Another week had passed by and we still didn't have snow sticking to the ground! I skipped out of work early on Friday afternoon and picked up Katie, Faith, and Cory for a quick drive up in the Keweenaw. We had been getting a fair amount of wet sleet and rain this week. With the wet weather I hoped that Upper Copper Falls, a drop that Faith and I had just found a month ago, would be flowing.

Before heading up the Keweenaw Ridge we zipped over to Phoenix and parked about a mile down M-26. I wanted to show Faith and Cory a cool drop on this river, Fenner's Falls, so the three of us took off through the woods and to the edge of the gorge. From my last trip I remembered the path that led down to the base of the falls, a perfect spot right below the pool. We found it easily and, crawling slowly and using roots to help us over the steep sections, made it down to the riverbank.

Fall leaves on the path in

Fall leaves on the path in

The river was swollen today, far larger than I remembered it being back in July. We slowly climbed up the side of the lower drop, a conglomerate dome that water fanned over, in order to catch a glimpse of the upper half. The view wasn't that good.

Figuring that the other side would give a better view I started playing with the idea of crossing the full river. Crossing here on the crest was out of the question. The strong flow would easily sweep me from the slick conglomerate rock and down into the pool. I headed downstream alone and crossed knee-deep through a cold set of rapids while Faith and Cory just watched me, high and dry on the bank.

Getting back up on the east bank proved rather difficult. This bank was steep and covered in pine needles, deep water pooling below. I would scramble up the side, reaching through the dirt to find roots, just to slide back down into the waiting cold. It was comical but frustrating for me, getting muddied and doused repeatedly, until I gave up and half-crawled, half-waded upstream. Cory and Faith just watched and laughed.

Faith and Cory showing off across the falls

Faith and Cory showing off across the falls

Fenner's Falls is much more impressive on the east bank. Once I got on steady ground I took my time, enjoying the full falls, slowly working my way up the bank. Eventually I got to the crest of the lower falls, across the river from my friends. I did not plan on heading back the way I came. Shouting over the roar of the falls I told them to just climb back up and wait for me at the car. I was heading upstream past the upper drops and, hopefully, find a better way across and up the bank.

Climbing the upper falls was difficult but worth it, as I was able to get a lot of cool views of the swollen river. There was no easy crossing up here, though, no rapids or rocks to take across. I had promised Katie that I wasn't going to get dirty on this hike. Without much of a choice I jumped, thigh deep, into the cold waters and thrashed across. Now truly soaked I scaled the gorge wall clumsily, reaching the top. Katie gave me a disappointed look as I dripped my way into the car.

We drove through Eagle River without stopping at the main falls here. We had been here plenty of times already. Plus, I was holding off on a revisit until the spring melt. I had seen pictures of these falls after snowmelt, water reaching from bank to bank in one strong white curtain of raging water.

Large rocks around the trickling drop

Large rocks around the trickling drop

We were disappointed but I took some photos anyways. While we walked around the base of the falls, looking for any signs of the famed adit entrance, a black shape swooped down. A bat was dive-bombing us. We jumped back in surprise and watched as it made dives near the water before a wing was caught below the trickling waterfall. The bat dropped like a rock, falling between the rocks and disappearing. I couldn't make out where the bat had disappeared. Maybe there was a way in through the rocks, a way just large enough for the little rodent to crawl through. We could make out no sign of the bat or hole.

Climbing up from the falls I suggested that we head east to the piles of poor rock. There may be some mining remains, something Cory was particularly interested in, or at least a good view of Lake Superior to the north. As we marched east a loud gun shot blasted through the trees. Two more shots came in quick succession. It was close by, maybe less than a mile. It didn't matter if there was a range nearby or some bird hunters, none of us wanted to deal with gunfire. Our retreat to the car was quick and quiet as we tensed for additional shots that never came.

An hour or so of daylight remained in the sky. I didn't have anything in particular planned out. There were still mines, even though my knowledge of the Copper Country's rich history was severly limited. We headed over to one that was visible from 41, Centennial #6 in Kearsarge, to give Cory his mining ruin fix.

The leaning wooden shaft

The leaning wooden shaft

There were a lot of cool things to check out here. The old mine hoist was leaning precariously to one side, with big tears and gaps in the wall that let us peer into the structure. The more modern sheds were tightly closed up, perhaps still holding valuable equipment inside. A few large vats sat around with stinking discolored water in them. It felt quite industrious, not like the older parts of Quincy Mine at all, but the rust and decay was still a very authentic scene. The Centennial made for a good final stop before heading home to Houghton, even if it wasn't a waterfall.

Trip Photos

  • Fall leaves on the path in
  • Gushing upper drop of Fenners Falls
  • Faith and Cory showing off across the falls
  • Odd rocks above the falls
  • Large rocks around the trickling drop
  • Green tainted water
  • The leaning wooden shaft
  • Looking down into the covered shaft
  • Huge roller

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