Snowmelt on Gooseneck and Hungarian Falls

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Taking advantage of the Keweenaw's mighty spring melt Jacob heads up to Gooseneck Creek to confirm some suspicions before taking a group over to Hungarian Falls. published on by

Gushing uppermost drop

Gooseneck Falls held a bit of a mystery. I had originally hunted down the waterfall based on a blurry image of a single, cluttered drop over small rocks and found two sets of long, sloped rocks barely dampened by a meager stream. I never expected the creek to be large, as it has a small watershed that only extends to Quincy Airport, but the deep sandstone gorge it has carved and even the orginal blurry picture were both evidence that there must be more to the creek. With the Keweenaw flowing with the strength of spring melt I returned to Gooseneck Creek hoping to find a decent waterfall.

Last time I parked up next to the bridge over the creek. This time Logan and I skipped ahead a short distance, parking further down Forsman/Mason Cross Road on a small drive, the entrance to the planted pines just east of the creek. A large swamp lay ahead of us, just to the right, and I didn't want to attempt hiking too close to the waterlogged ground. Instead we stuck to the drive, walking parallel to the creek for a few hundred yards before it ended in a thick cluster of soaked brush.

Dreary planted forest

Dreary planted forest

Tough bushwhacking

Tough bushwhacking

This type of undergrowth was a personal distaste of mine. Roughly ten to fifteen feet in height, the small clusters make it impossible to cut a straight line for any length of distance. The constant weaving and ducking made it easy to get lost before I started using a GPS, but now it just slowed us down and forced me to constantly check my position. When we bumped into a second drive on the other side of the brush I was more than happy to follow it dutifully.

It was obvious that this track would connect to the railroad grade to the south, the one that cuts east-west from Airport Park Road. From my last adventure here I knew that the land around the grade was on private property so I was anxious to cut to the creek before reaching the grade. My chance came with a small sidetrack leading west off the track towards the river. A small footpath led down to the creekbed, past a small child's fortress built under an overhang, and to an impressive roaring waterfall. This was the creek I was looking for.

Roaring upper drop

Roaring upper drop

Swollen with the melting snow the water gushed over the sandstone lip, down the sloped layers, and crashed onto the boulders below. It was hard to recognize this as the upper drops from last year, the ones that were barely damp and covered in moss. The small creek, the one that was barely a trickle, was now too large to even think about crossing.

I headed downstream up the railroad grade. Apparently the landowners didn't like snowmobile traffic, as they had parked a large, old truck on top of the grade, making it impassable. From this I'm guessing that the private property stretches from Airport Park Road to Gooseneck Creek. The lands to the east must be public, as I know it's used for snowmobile traffic, and they probably bypass this stretch by turning either left or right at the creek. The paths and little fortress may be from the landowners, but I'm assuming they don't own that bank.

Oddly blocked railroad grade

Oddly blocked railroad grade

Getting down to the creek south of the grade was more difficult than I remembered. The steep banks were soggy and any grass and undergrowth was either dead or too small to get any help. It took awhile to make it down to the creek, just below the lower falls, and get some good photos of the roaring white water. I was tempted to continue downstream. On my first visit I ended up walking all the way to Dollar Bay, past multiple boulders and drops. I'm sure that the swollen waters made for some fantastic scenes, but I had a schedule to stick to.

Huge lower drops

Huge lower drops

Logan and I went back up the creek bank, above the falls, scrambling in the steep muddy slope. We followed a path along the bank back to the railroad grade (getting flashed by a trail cam along the way) and retraced the difficult path back towards the planted forest. Eventually we made it back to the car, muddy and a bit tired. I had gotten a few photos and the GPS coordinates and now it was time to drive back to Houghton and meet up with some fellow hikers.

Katie and James were free that afternoon and wanted to check out Hungarian Falls in full flow. With Gooseneck Creek so swollen I had little doubt that Dover Creek would be just as impressive. I grabbed a snack from the house before picking up the two and doubling back north, this time driving past Dollar Bay to Lake Linden.

Golf Course Road was muddy but not impassable. I was able to drive up to the northern gate, where we parked and headed west towards the upper falls. There were other people visiting the area today, all parked down at the southern entrance, probably more interested in the largest lower drop. Our route was quiet for a bit, some talk mingling with the soft squishy mud underfoot, though it didn't take long for the roar to filter through the trees ahead of us.

A wet road into the woods

A wet road into the woods

In a typical, direct manner, I led us straight to the upper drop first, bypassing the small reservior and overflowing dam. I liked visiting the falls in a row, which made it easier to remember the order for photos and marking the coordinates. The uppermost waterfall, which usually consists of a few separated plunges over dark volcanic rock (unlike the lower waterfalls, which are all over sandstone), was a solid wall of roaring water. I had guessted that it would be swollen, yet this was incredible.

Over full flowing upper drop

Over full flowing upper drop

James and I crawled down to the creek's edge, creeping as close to the angry waters as we dared. We had both been here before, in early fall, when the water had slowed to a trickle. This was more flow than either one of us could have imagined pouring over the rock face. Eventually we moved on, starting on the downstream hike, still a bit shocked by just how powerful the waterfall was.

After going over the upper falls the creek enters a relatively large reservior with two separate overflows. The eastern chute rarely has water in it and the western a mild trickle. Today they both were gushing. The east overflow is a direcet cement drop, blocked off by a metal fence, but I was able to get a few photos through the lattice. When we walked west to the other overflow, which is more of a cement slide with a final cascade over sandstone, I ventured upstream along to get a few photos.

Falls beyond the foamy reservior

Falls beyond the foamy reservior

Whitewater flowing down the main dam chute

Whitewater flowing down the main dam chute

The next drop downstream is one of the smaller ones. There are a few railroad ties that usually provide a way across the creek, ties that were now completely covered in the rushing water. Between the small drops and swollen creek it was hard to imagine the steep rock face. Everything was covered in the water, making the waterfall appear to be nothing more than a rounded set of rapids.

Overflowing middle drop

Overflowing middle drop

A few dozen yards downstream took us to one of the more iconic drops of Hungarian Falls. A steep, direct wall of sandstone with a small undercut cave reaching in from the west bank, the fifteen feet of drop made a solid curtain of foaming white water. It was at this drop that we started meeting other explorers again, visitors who usually only come for the final two drops.

Brown curtain plunging down the bowl

Brown curtain plunging down the bowl

The last drop is by far the largest. The gorge it cuts out provides a great view south to Lake Linden and Torch Lake, with the drop itself is over fifty feet high. James and I took a quick detour along the west bank to an unnamed side creek that falls down the gorge carved by Dover Creek. I was able to get a partial view of these side falls before we headed back to Katie to enjoy the main waterfall. The quick side trek did show us that a small apple orchard, upstream the unnamed creek, is connected to the Hungarian Falls area by a four-wheeler path to the west, one that probably extends all the way to Oneca Road.

Back at Dover Creek we crossed to the other side, ducked under an overhang, and followed a path along the tip of the steep gorge. Looking back we were able to get partial glimpses of the huge waterfall behind us. It was too tempting. James and I looked around a bit, finding some possible clearings below, and swung over the gorge's edge down the steep banks to get some better views.

Steep and muddy, the banks had few footpaths and fewer handholds to guide us down. We cut a diagonal down the gorge, trending downstream, towards a possible clearing with views up to the main falls. I made it slightly farther than James, about three quarters down, and found a vantage of the waterfall. Maintaining three points of contacts on the tricky slope I managed to take a few photos before scrambling back uphill to a worried Logan and anxious Katie.

Huge lower falls

Huge lower falls

The way back was an easy stroll along wide paths to the car. I was a bit tempted to continue downstream to the railroad trestle, possible searching for a lower set of rapids below or getting a view of the side falls. Katie was ready to head back, though. It didn't help that our unleashed dog was constantly dashing away from us to greet other groups of hikers. He's usually pretty good at coming back when we call - not today. After the third mishap we leashed him and he was quite sullen. We made it back to the car, happy about the trip yet done for the day.

Trip Photos

  • Dreary planted forest
  • Overflowing spring creek
  • Tough bushwhacking
  • Overgrown and flooded two-track
  • Little fort below the cliff overhang
  • Roaring upper drop
  • White waters hiding behind large trees
  • Oddly blocked railroad grade
  • Foamy rapids
  • Huge lower drops
  • The top of the lower slide
  • A wet road into the woods
  • Gushing uppermost drop
  • Falls beyond the foamy reservior
  • Whitewater flowing down the main dam chute
  • Overflow chute to the side
  • Overflowing middle drop
  • Brown curtain plunging down the bowl
  • Spring skies over Torch Lake
  • Upper falls on the side
  • Tiny side tributary through the young forest
  • Dry orchard over dry grass
  • Mist rising from one of the larger waterfalls
  • Green clinging to the wet rock
  • Huge lower falls
  • Lower Hungarian Falls and rapids

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