Tahquamenon Falls in July

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Sunburned and tired, Katie and Jacob make a quick stop at the Tahquamenon Falls after a long camping trip over the Fourth of July. published on by

Far away lower drop

We were so sunburnt. Katie and I had spent the Fourth of July weekend in Alcona with my parents. One of my family's loose traditions was a canoe trip down the Alcona River and camping at a nearby site, a tradition that was followed once out of every two or three years. A combination of the reflective waters on the river and not enough sunscreen left Katie and I red as lobsters. Wearing jeans and sleeping in a tent were bad - having a young Logan constantly jumping up on our burned legs, begging to play, was sheer torture.

On the way back up to Houghton I talked Katie into a quick stop at Tahquamenon Falls. We had a state park pass, one that we barely used, and Logan could use the socialization. There was still a rush to get back to a familiar, soft bed and cold showers, but a brief stop couldn't hurt. When we got north of the Mackinaw Bridge we took M-123 instead of US-2, heading north to Paradise.

For as many times that I had driven to and from Houghton I had only taken M-123 once, just to change up the drive a bit. It's a nice drive, especially with the lack of speeding cars that rush down US-2 (although I have a hard time sticking close to 55 myself on that highway). North of M-28 was also a nice change, the empty, swampy lands eventually giving way to the houses and sand of Paradise.

Not truly sure where to go once we reached the area around Tahquamenon I had my eyes peeled. I turned into the first parking lot we found, which ended up being for the lower falls. The parking lot was stuffed, a surprising site for how remote Paradise is. It wasn't your typical U.P. crowd, either. A wide variety of colors and cultures wandered around, a rich mixture of languages surrounding us, all here to visit the waterfall.

Hand drawn map near the parking lot

Hand drawn map near the parking lot

The paths were confusing from the lot with multiple paved routes leading from the parking area. We chose one and headed towards the river, which seemed a better direction then into the woods. Sure enough, a distant roar followed by a view across a large, boat-riddled pond and we were at Lower Tahquaemenon Falls.

Falls and row boats

Falls and row boats

We followed the paths right, upstream and around the pond, to get a closer view of the drops. The path we walked on was nice, swampy sections bridged by wooden walkways, but a combination of the July heat and our sunburns forced us to stop multiple times. Logan didn't quite understand our slow pace but was happy of all the attention a puppy caall n get at a state parks.

When we reached the viewing platform for the lower falls I was a bit disappointed by the relatively small size. The wide river was impressive, sure, yet the drop seemed only to be a handful of feet at best. I waited for a chance to take some pictures of the falls (it was quite crowded) and then we headed back to the car. There was a trail here, one that led up along the river to the upper falls. A four mile hike did not sound attractive today. Instead we chose to drive the short distance.

Closeup of one of the lower drops

Closeup of one of the lower drops

The parking lot for the upper falls was also full when we showed up. After we found a spot we headed to the far side of the lot towards the obvious start of the trail. There were even more people here, which could be attributed to the lunch hour and a pub right off the trail.

These paths were also wide and paved and it was easy to guess which direction to head by the flow of people. The roar of the falls was audible long before we could see the river through the tall trees. A couple of viewing platforms looked out over the brown waters and huge plunging curtain. Again, it took a while for the platform to open up for me to swing over and snap a few pictures. The Upper Tahquamenon Falls are much larger and more impressive than the lower ones and I was quite content with staying on the safe platform above the roaring waters.

Brown sheet of Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Brown sheet of Upper Tahquamenon Falls

We were ready to continue on now. We took M-123 west to Newberry, back to familiar roads, and made it back to Houghton in good time. I thought about asking Katie if we could stop by the Dead River Falls... and thought better of it. It was nice to get back to Houghton in the mid-afternoon with enough time for cold aloe and naps in our soft bed.

Trip Photos

  • Hand drawn map near the parking lot
  • Far away lower drop
  • Falls and row boats
  • Looking down the swirling brown waters
  • Closeup of one of the lower drops
  • Brown sheet of Upper Tahquamenon Falls

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