Thunderstorms Over Silver River

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An epic thunderstorm cuts a trip to Skanee short, leaving Jacob and Logan soaked to the skin after two short stops. published on by

Looking up the rock face

After a fun weekend chock full of waterfalls Logan and I were itching to be back in the woods. As soon as I was done with work we headed down to L'Anse, ignoring the thunderstorm warnings, to clean up some missed spots by Skanee. We made good time south, pulling up to Silver Falls before the thunder grew too omnious.

I had already been here this summer with Katie and Steele to visit the well-known lower drops. If you turn left at the fork you end up at a nice access point with restrooms and paths along the narrow chutes. However, upon analysis of satellite photos I noticed another drop upstream near a possible old railroad bridge. To check this out I took the right fork today, parking at a small dirt pull-off before the road runs into the river.

Mist hanging over Silver River

Mist hanging over Silver River

Following the river upstream proved to be more difficult than visiting the lower drops. I tried sticking close to the water's edge at first, pushing my way through the thick undergrowth, and was driven up the hill by the tangling weeds and reaching branches. After a short, tough push, we came out at an open clearing close to where Silver River bends a right angle and could make out the waterfall. It was pretty cool, a sideways slide that was much larger and more impressive than the lower drops.

Looking up the rock face

Looking up the rock face

By now the thunder had grown quite loud, surprisingly quick, so I didn't waste time on the final push. The way the water slides makes it hard to get a good angle. We were on the western bank and the river slid away from us. The only way to get good pictures would be to cross the river above the falls on a narrow chute, up by the cement remains of the small railroad bridge.

Thick, heavy drops started falling as we climbed the falls. I crossed hurridly with Logan in my arms, making it to the east bank, when the sky opened up with a huge flashbang. Visibility dropped to nothing. The air was a semi-solid moving wetness that was hard to breathe. I was not ready for this. Logan and I cowered next to the cement foundation under a few branches, inches away from the rushing waters, and waited for the storm to pass.

Fifteen minutes later and nothing had changed. The rain was still coming down hard and the thunder and lightening shook everything around me. I was noticing something even more alarming - Silver River was rising. It wasn't by much, but between the increasing gap and slick rocks we soon wouldn't be able to cross the river. Shakily I stood up, a shivering Logan wrapped tightly in my arms, and segmented out the route in my head. Rationally I knew the odds didn't matter much, but I really did not want to be out on the open bank when the next lightening bolt hit.

As soon as the next bolt flashed I tumbled and tripped across the river and ran along the bank, counting the seconds between the strikes out loud. We made it back in the woods and I was tempted to slump down to the ground to rest when the next dazzling burst of lightening and ear-ringing crack shook me to the core. I didn't know how close the strike was. It didn't matter, it was too close. I slogged back to the car, staying high above the river bank and still clutching Logan tight.

We made it back to the car, tumbling in with little regard for my seats. The dog and I were both soaked to the skin, though my seats seemed willing to drink up the water. I yanked the battery out of my phone to dry out, though it looked like my camera case had kept that dry enough. After watching the windows fog up with the change of temperature and our collective wet for a few minutes I started to wonder if the road behind me would still be passable. I was done with this river for today anyways.

The storm had lessened in the meantime, so when I came to Skanee Road I stubbornly decided to turn right. There was one more easy stop that we could make today. Slate River was definitely out of the question but Ravine River Falls, a spot that had been on my list for awhile now, was still close by. I turned right, away from Houghton, hoping for a quick trip east.

I had a new set of directions this time. I drove down to Roland Lake and parked near a driveway for 21678/21680 Ravine River Road and headed down it. Logan stayed in the car this time, still a wet uncertain mess from Silver River. The rain had turned into a steady drizzle now, one that felt like it could continue all night.

Bright red cabin near the river

Bright red cabin near the river

There were some small drops below a wooden bridge next to a red cabin. I took a few photos and left without exploring much, uncomfortable this close to private property. There really isn't any photos of Ravine River Falls that I could lean on, anyways. This was really frustrating for me - Slate River was located just a few miles away and had a deep gorge with dozens of impressive waterfalls within. Ravine River, which actually sounded like it would be exciting, had so far yielded nothing but a small set of drops less than a foot high.

Tiny shelves of rock

Tiny shelves of rock

Logan and I were both shivering and uncomfortable in the wet by now so we turned and headed back to Houghton without any more stops. This was the second time a storm had forced me out of the woods so easily this month. Promising myself to either prepare more thoroughly next time we turned in for the night, worn out from the short trip.

Trip Photos

  • Dark clouds over Keweenaw Bay and Huron Mountains
  • Mist hanging over Silver River
  • Peeking around to the falls
  • Looking up the rock face
  • A slick, mossy western bank
  • Tiny shelves of rock
  • Wet bridge over Ravine River
  • Bright red cabin near the river

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