Return to West Branch Sturgeon

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A quick return to West Branch Sturgeon River to grab some better pictures of the falls and make a new stop at Prickett Dam. published on by

Lush green around Hogger Falls

A few months ago I had ventured out to West Branch Sturgeon and Hogger Falls on a dark, buggy evening. The pictures I had gotten of these waterfalls, especially Hogger Falls, were less than ideal thanks to the dim light. In the back of my mind I knew I should revisit this area to get some photos during the day. However, I had procrastinated through the summer, much more focused on finding new waterfalls. Then I learned about Prickett Dam on the Sturgeon River, less than ten miles away, and a plan came together.

Logan and I get ready for the drive early in the morning. Some of my friends were running an event at Michigan Tech and I wanted to be done with the hike early so I could stop by to say hello. We drove through the sunrise down to Nisula past Pelkie, making it to Newberry Road rather quickly. I remembered from my last visit that there was a two-track that led off of Newberry Road that would take us right to the falls, so I parked at a gated track near the river. It was the wrong track.

There are two overgrown two-tracks that run near the river. One cuts a straight line east while the other one, sitting close to West Branch Sturgeon River, is forced to swing along the river's curves. I was on the straight one and didn't realize my mistake until Logan and I had wandered up and down it for a while. Cursing I headed south, cutting through the thick green forest, and made it over to the correct track. Here I also got confused, as I had never traveled this far down the road. There were multiple paths that led down to the river and it took some trial and error to find the correct one. Finally Logan and I bumped into the river at the main falls, near an empty campsite, almost three hours after leaving Houghton.

Low waters running on the falls

Low waters running on the falls

We were behind schedule, and even though the daylight helped with the photos, the water was barely running. We didn't spend much time at the falls, taking only a few photos before heading upstream to the next three drops. The path was just as difficult as I remembered and I was forced to ford the river multiple times, often carrying Logan across, to avoid steep rock walls and thick undergrowth.

Overhanging rock wall above a drop

Overhanging rock wall above a drop

Eventually we made it to Hogger Falls, about a mile upstream from West Branch Sturgeon Falls. The last time I made it to Hogger I could barely make out the outlines in the dim light. Today I could see the entire thing. It's a pretty cool drop, with towering rock walls on both sides and a good-sized stepping formation on the right. We took a little more time here, enjoying the small waterfall, before heading back to the car.

Lush green around Hogger Falls

Lush green around Hogger Falls

The growth around the river was thick. My initial hope was to continue up the river just to make sure there were no drops between here and Newberry Road, but I gave up and cut over to the two-track. Even with new pictures in better light I had a nagging feeling I'd be returning. The river was really llow and the camera I used was over five years old.

There was just enough left to hit up Prickett Dam to the east. After visits to Redridge and Victoria Dam I had some hopes that there would be a decent waterfall here, either as part of the overflow or downstream of the dam.

Prickett Dam does not really have a waterfall, though. The heavy, industrial steel dam holds back a log filled-reservior and water pours down its face onto a cement bed. I took some time to explore the bridge below the dam and a small boat launch on the water. The water rushing down the dam looked fairly powerful and cool but it was a very artificial drop.

Side view of the chute

Side view of the chute

Bright sun over the reservoir

Bright sun over the reservoir

Logan and I headed back to Houghton, hungry and a bit tired. It had been a busy early morning, even if we only visited two waterfalls and a dam. We got back to Houghton just as our friends were finishing up with their event. They were equally tired and we ended up spending a lazy afternoon hanging out, playing video games, and ordering some pizza while Logan slept through the day.

Trip Photos

  • Low waters running on the falls
  • Water pouring from a ledge onto a sandy bed
  • Overhanging rock wall above a drop
  • Lush green around Hogger Falls
  • Sign for Prickett Dam
  • Rocky river downstream
  • Side view of the chute
  • Bright sun over the reservoir

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