Mont Ripley and Quincy Mill Ruins

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Only a short distance north of Houghton, Ripley and Quincy Falls make appealing targets for Katie and Jacob on a muggy summer afternoon. published on by

One last look back at Quincy Mill

Clouds and warm temperatures gave the area a contained, muggy feeling. There had been some rain early in the week yet things still felt dry, even with the humidity. Today I was only going after two waterfalls, both of them very close to Houghton. Katie, Logan and I piled into her car and headed over to Mont Ripley by Hancock in search of Ripley Falls.

While I had an idea of where the waterfall was (on Mont Ripley) I didn't know how to get to it. We parked right on Second Street, facing the ski hill, and marched up the hill. We were easily a quarter way up the mountain when an access road cut across our path. Turning est, the three of us headed towards the wooded boundary of the ski hill.

Michigan Tech from across the portage

Michigan Tech from across the portage

After a short distance along the gravel road we could hear Ripley Falls some distance below. A large number of uprooted trees and a steep hill didn't make the hike down appealing, though. With a better layout of the land we turned back to the car, following the road and ski hill down to Second Street.

This time we tackled the woods head on and made a beeline to the creek. On the way we found a footpath that ran parallel to the creek, making our hike easy. The path was above the creek, on the west side, and avoided a private backyard to the east. I still didn't feel comfortable this close to private property, though. The lowermost waterfall was just past the backyard, so I headed down quickly, took a few pictures, and retreated from the falls.

Waterfall over the mossy rocks

Waterfall over the mossy rocks

While the creek and waterfall were small it was still a pretty sight. Huge rocks and mossy trees lay scattered about with the creek seeping around and pouring over the obstacles. I've heard rumors that the water comes from an adit of Quincy Mine, or at least was diverted down this route, which makes a lot of sense. The creek felt immature, young even, and the channel carved should be much more defined.

Our footpath followed Ripley Creek right out to the old Ripley schoolhouse. This must be the usual approach. I was a bit stumped, as there is no sign of the creek here or even further down by M-26, so the entire system must flow through culverts straight out to the Portage after running over the falls.

We walked over to the Katie's car and prepared to head for the next waterfall. Katie wasn't feeling up for another trip so we drove back to our house. She and Logan stayed here while I drove off past Ripley to the old Quincy Mine. I had heard rumors of the nearby creek having several waterfalls on it and was up for a good wander.

Tall, old mining building

Tall, old mining building

Quincy Creek flows under M-26 near the old Quincy Mine, so I parked on the north side of the ruins and made my way over to the creek. Some well-defined paths snaked away from the parking area here, probably from people exploring the nearby ruins, and I let myself meander a bit before focusing on the creek. Immediately I ran into some barriers. The creek flowed through several man-made tunnels under old piles of poor rock that must have served as railroad grades at one time. While it was tempting to follow the creek through these tunnels I ended up climbing up around the ruins instead, heading west in hopes that finding the creek again would not be difficult.

Inside the old Quincy Mill

Inside the old Quincy Mill

The last grade is a well-established ATV trail and the creek was audible below through the brush. I tumbled down the steep creek walls through the brush to a pretty little waterfall that poured over a sandstoned ledge. It was difficult to get a good photo of it, as Quincy Creek enters a tunnerl shortly after the drop. I carefully lowered myself down the rock walls into the creek for some mediocre angles.

First drop behind the brush

First drop behind the brush

Walking upstream was not easy. The small creek had cut a deep gorge in the sandstone, complete with crumbling earthern walls and fallen boulders choking up the water's flow. Thick brush grew up the sides of the creek and hung over the water. I gave up any hopes of staying dry and slogged up the creek, slipping occasionally on mossy sandstone and pushing the brush aside.

A lush, green creek gorge

A lush, green creek gorge

It may have been a tough hike, but it was a pretty one. The walls towered up around me with trees reaching even higher up on the banks. Sandstone on the creek's bed was stained multiple colors. Quick twists and turns made for new sights and delights every couple of minutes. Not all of the falls and drops were tall, but there was a small dam that water poured over before fanning over the rock below that was very striking.

Too soon I noticed that it was getting dark out. I had travelled less than a mile upstream, slowed down by the choice to walk directly in the tiny, rocky creek, and didn't want to turn away from the exciting Quincy Creek. When I bumped into a tall cascade, about three feet tall or so, I snapped a few quick shots of the white water and darkening surroundings and started on my way back to the mill ruins.

Impressive upper waterfall

Impressive upper waterfall

Hoping to speed up the return hike I cut up the north bank to follow the level land back. The setting sun was starting to poke through the clouds, so I turned east and cut straight through the woods, leaving the creek's winding path behind. This was a mistake. The uniform woods quickly got me disorientated and the once-level ground started to rise and fall in small hills. Luckily I bumped into a different abandoned railroad grade, got my bearings, and headed down to the ATV trail.

Out of the woods I took a bit more time to check out the area. This trail was very cool, with deep cuts in the earth lined with rock walls for old trains to run through. Multiple footpaths led to this trail from the ruins in the east, some along the creek's approximate path and more by the old mill. I crept into the mill itself, with it's caving roof, crumbling foundations, and shattered skylights. There was plenty of graffiti marking up the walls, which only added to it's decaying beauty. While I was in waterfall mode this summer, I found myself considering a future adventure to explore this and the famous dredge across the highway.

Trip Photos

  • Michigan Tech from across the portage
  • Ripley Creek leaping from rock to rock
  • Waterfall over the mossy rocks
  • Cement culvert for Quincy Creek
  • Tall, old mining building
  • Inside the old Quincy Mill
  • Remains of an old trestle
  • First drop behind the brush
  • A lush, green creek gorge
  • Looking up at the second waterfall
  • A unique little drop
  • Tiny slabs along the creek
  • Impressive upper waterfall
  • Dark and tall railroad cut
  • One last look back at Quincy Mill

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