The Long Way to Twin Lakes

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Hoping to continue momentum Jacob and Katie loop around Baraga and Houghton County, finding plenty of waterfalls and even more black flies. published on by

Highway over the river

After a successful adventure a few days ago I wanted to take Katie for a drive around Houghton County to visit another big group of waterfalls. This time I aimed for destinations that were easy to get to and close to major roads as she's not a fan of bushwhacking for miles through the dense summer growth. We planned to go on a big circle, driving through Baraga to Covington, over towards Bruce Crossing, and back up through Twin Lakes to visit around eight spots in all.

We took the scenic route south from Houghton along the back roads, stopping at Otter Lake near Tapiola. After quickly checking out the lake, cabins, and unused boat dock we headed further south and found the Hanka Homestead. The black flies dive-bombing our windows deterred us from getting out so we settled for viewing the old buildings from the car.

Old Hanka buildings across the meadow

Old Hanka buildings across the meadow

Boat launch on Otter Lake

Boat launch on Otter Lake

Our first waterfall stop was along Dault's Creek. I was a bit worried about these falls, as I had heard that they were on posted private property. When we pulled up to the suspected spot I didn't see any signs, though, and I could hear the rushing waters from the roadside. We parked on the side of the road and I walked down the creek's bank alone. The drop was small and pretty, especially with all of the dew-wet rocks and vegetation surrounding them. I wouldn't find out until much later that this set of rapids was a fraction of the real Dault's Falls, located several hundred feet downstream.

Damp rocks around Daults Falls

Damp rocks around Daults Falls

The next stop was a short distance to the southwest on a more remote road. Ogemaw Creek has a small waterfall on it near the old prison camp on Baraga Plains. We parked near the pond and all three of us headed up a trail that paralleled the creek. After a short climb up the hill I decided to head down the riverbank, something that Katie and Logan were not interested in. I went alone, finding a unique waterfall at the bottom of a lush green valley. After a few pictures I headed right back up the hill but didn't find Katie.

Sliding drops through the thick undergrowth

Sliding drops through the thick undergrowth

Curious, I headed back down the trail, figuring that she may have gotten annoyed by the wait and walked back to the car. They were there, sitting in the locked vehicle and looking fairly shaken. While I was down searching for Ogemaw Falls a small bear cub had wandered onto the path! Logan was instantly on alert and Katie had to struggle to pull him back down to the vehicle. After chuckling over the story and waving good-bye at the fisherman on the pond we headed onto Baraga Plains, with Logan longingly looking back to where we left his new found friend.

I didn't have very good maps of the Plains, just planned on winging it, so we ended up wandering around on the dirt roads for a bit before finding a pasture with some grazing cows. We stopped here and went over the directions until I got my bearings. Katie enjoyed feeding the cows, at least the few that wandered up to say hello, and Logan was also very interested in the large animals. I figured that the large river we had crossed before the farm was Sturgeon River, even though it wasn't marked, and that we just passed our next stop. We doubled back the few miles and followed some dirt roads to Tibbet's Falls.

Curious cows

Curious cows

This waterfall is one of several along the Sturgeon River, a few miles downstream from the rugged Canyon River Falls. While it travels over the same type of rock, long slabs of grey slate, the drops are much smaller and spread out. It may be due to the recent heavy rains and swollen waters, but Tibbet's Falls looked more like a set of rapids than an actual waterfall. The North Country Trail is near here, with a section of it providing easy access to the river from our parking spot, so the mild drops were at least easy to reach.

Angry, full Tibbets Falls

Angry, full Tibbets Falls

Black flies drove us back to the car early and we paused for lunch. Katie had packed us a small picnic, complete with a bag of dog food for Logan, in hopes that we could enjoy a meal outside. The insects were too much, so we managed in the back of her SUV instead. After finishing the meal we drove south and left Baraga Plains and continued on past M-28 towards the Lower Dam.

I wasn't sure what I expected to find at Lower Dam. The elevation changes are promising. East Branch Ontonagon River descends almost 150 feet from Upper Dam Lake down to Lower Dam, with the latter accounting for 40 feet alone. We did find a nice parking pull off and picnic table. There was no waterfall, though. There may have been once, with plenty of rock formations and a narrow river valley, but all that's left now is a narrow cement shaft with water pouring down it. I searched downstream for a few hundred feet and found only a sandy riverbed and dozens of spiders.

Sign and parking area at the dam

Sign and parking area at the dam

Sandy river below the dam

Sandy river below the dam

We drove west to Jumbo Falls on Jumbo River. The route got a bit tricky after we left Golden Glow Road, as it splits into several directions with no explanation in an overgrown gravel pit. We went as straight as possible through the pit and continued south, finding an informational sign about fish and some well-groomed trails to the waterfall. The mosquitoes back here were bad, so after a few pictures we headed back to M-28.

Old, overgrown sand pit

Old, overgrown sand pit

Dark waters over the falls

Dark waters over the falls

Our next stop was the main attraction on today's trip. Agate Falls is a well-known waterfall near Bruce Crossing, just a few miles downstream from the even more popular Bond Falls. All three of us got out at the roadside park and walked down the pathway, under the highway, to the viewing platform high above the drop. Katie and Logan opted to stay on the platform while I ventured down the steep hillside for better pictures, a decision she regretted after viewing my photos later. Agate Falls is a huge waterfall, by far the largest one we had seen today, and we enjoyed the relatively domestic stop.

Old trestle high above the falls

Old trestle high above the falls

Turning north at the Bruce Crossing we stopped next at O Kun de Kun Falls trailhead. I had hoped that the forest service road was accessible, that we could just drive all the way to the river. The road was gated and locked. We tumbled out and got ready for the mile plus hike and started down the road. Ten minutes later and I was walking alone. The black flies were ridiculous, clustering around on us, and Katie and Logan beat a quick retreat to the car. Eventually I found the North Country Trail that led off the road to Baltimore River and followed the trail to the upper falls.

Side view of the upper falls

Side view of the upper falls

The river was clear with a smooth, brown bottom. I can easily imagine how the spring melt could stir all this up and give the water a light brown hue, which could explain why kayakers call this upper drop Creamy Peanut Butter Slide. The waterfall was more of an abrupt plunge over a slab of sandstone than a slide, similar to the real O Kun de Kun Falls only a few hundred yards downstream. The main falls were much taller, complete with a camping site and suspension bridge below, and I spent a lot of time checking it out. Eventually I tore myself away from the waterfall and headed back to an irritated Katie and Logan, who were more than ready to head home after dealing with today's warm temperatures and inescapable insects.

Looking up at the falls from the bridge

Looking up at the falls from the bridge

There was one more stop before Houghton, though. Light was beginning to fade from the sky when we reached Wyandotte Falls on Misery River, near Twin Lakes. I didn't have much information on the area, not sure if we would even make it here in time, but we got lucky. A sign pointed us down a narrow trail right past the golf course. A five minute walk through huge cedars brought us to the trickling falls. Even though the water was barely flowing the forest and mossy boulders were unnerving, reminding both Katie and I of the Entwood from Lord of the Rings.

Dry, mossy rocks

Dry, mossy rocks

Night had fallen when we pulled into Houghton. Logan was tired from the full day out and I was quite happy by the results. We had visited every waterfall on my list, with only Lower Dam Falls being a disappointment. Many of the drops in Houghton County were now checked off and I was making good progress on the project, especially for just how far south today's journey had taken us.

Trip Photos

  • Boat launch on Otter Lake
  • Old Hanka buildings across the meadow
  • Damp rocks around Daults Falls
  • Small, wooded creek
  • Spring colors at Ogemaw Falls
  • Sliding drops through the thick undergrowth
  • Misty, green valley
  • Pond upstream from Ogemaw Falls
  • Curious cows
  • Angry, full Tibbets Falls
  • Ridge stretching across the river
  • Blue NCT blazes along the riverbank
  • Reservoir of Lower Dam
  • Water pouring down the chute
  • Sandy river below the dam
  • Ontonagon River near Jumbo Falls
  • Sign and parking area at the dam
  • Old, overgrown sand pit
  • Katie and Jacob doing a quick pose
  • Dark waters over the falls
  • A well-trod path along the river
  • Pig farm
  • Highway over the river
  • Old trestle high above the falls
  • Closer look at Agate Falls
  • Small upstream drops
  • Side view of the upper falls
  • Sandstone of Creamy Peanut Butter Slide
  • Downstream at the footbridge
  • A foamy main drop
  • Looking up at the falls from the bridge
  • Walking suspension bridge below the falls
  • Different view of O Kun de Kun Falls
  • Interesting sign along the NCT path
  • Dry, mossy rocks
  • Trickling stream below the falls

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