Tour Guide of the Yellow Dog

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Jacob takes a group of friends east of Big Erick's campground to the Yellow Dog Plains to explore Pinnacle Falls and, eventually, the Marquette area. published on by

Color around the falls

Six in two vehicles drove east on the Yellow Dog Plains. Our group had spent the night at Big Erick's bridge, tossing a few beers back over a warm fire, and now we were heading to Marquette for a day of hiking and (not by my choice) shopping. Emily and Dave, our housemates, were in one vehicle while Katie, Kyle, Logan and I were in another. Dave followed me close after we left L'Anse to avoid getting lost on the winding Ford Road. Once we got on the triple A our route was a simple straight line through the dusty plains.

There was plenty of falls that I wanted to check out in this area but only one that I knew well enough to attempt with this large of a group. We pulled onto the track to Pinnacle Falls, a spot I had visited earlier this summer with Logan, in hopes that I could find the correct route down without another river wade.

I was able to backtrack the correct turns to the parking area, even though I had been in the back of an SUV last time, and we stopped and stretched our legs. The drive had been through very remote areas and after this last track leading us further from the wide 'main' road we felt even more wild and removed. I led the group over to the trail and we started down the steep, rutted trail that leads to the Yellow Dog River.

Downhill was easy and we half-trotted with an excited dog pulling us along. The first bit of confusion came early when a post marked a fork in the trail, a fork with no directions. Figuring that the right fork just led to the river above the falls (which is correct) we continued straight ahead to find a second fork. This one confused me.

The once-wide trail had narrowed by now with a footpath leading up a rocky spire and a smaller footpath going left and downhill. I knew the left one would take us below the falls but I wasn't sure how far downstream it would go. Plus, I wanted to climb back up this rocky pinnacle. We all headed up the steep path, weaving around the small trees, and was greeted with a bird's eye view of the falls and river far below.

By now Katie was getting a bit tired of climbing up and down so much. When I started heading down the spire, veering to the right so I could cross the upstream timber crib, she decided to stay put for a bit. Emily stayed with her and the guys came with me. Of course, Logan wanted to continue onwards, so I took him with us down the steep slope.

Once we reached the bottom we turned and followed the riverbank to the timber crib. The river runs far too tight against the pinnacle's sheer face on the east bank so we crossed the old logs and climbed down. There is a deep pool under Pinnacle Falls so we had to circle around a bit to find a rocky place to ford. Looking straight up at the waterfall from this vantage offered a great view of the towering pinnacle.

Looking up the rocky pinnacle

Looking up the rocky pinnacle

Once we crossed back to the east bank I noticed a small camping area and path leading up around the pinnacle. This was the same path that we had followed down, the one that we forked off of to climb the outcropping, so we took it back. Katie and Emily had seen us from above and were waiting for us at the fork, and together we all headed back to the cars.

We had a quick lunch next, sitting on bumpers or walking around the parking area while munching on peanut butter and jelly crackers, and I offered a few options for the next stop. We could search for Wylie Dam or Hogback Falls, or head over to Yellow Dog Falls, but Katie and Emily were more interested in getting to Marquette than wandering around. Emily was praising up the Dead River Falls, a spot I had hoped to visit this year, so we decided to head down County Road 510 with no more detours and hit up that waterfall - and then maybe go shopping after.

The drive was a pretty one, with sunlight filtering through the gently-turning foliage overhead and steep hills extending away from the road. The going was a bit slow, with quick twists and some bumpier sections, and it took us a long time to reach US-41. A quick hop over, and, after letting Dave and Emily lead us through the Forestville area, we were at Dead River Falls.

I had heard a lot of mixed information about this waterfall. I wasn't sure how many drops there was or even how to reach them without bluntly following the river upstream. Thankfully, Emily knew the way and we headed up the steep hill before circling back down to the river. On the way she told us a few stories from previous visits, stories from high school summers and afternoon swims.

We reached the river and headed upstream, keeping close to the river along a few paths. The first obstacle we bumped into, a deep and stagnant pool that slowly drained into the River with a narrow log over, was too much for Logan and I had to carry him across. The rest of the party either hacked up around the pool or followed across.

Large pool and steep rock ahead

Large pool and steep rock ahead

After the pool a large jut of rock poked up in our way with a sandy trail leading up it. I could hear the first waterfall just up the river and decided I didn't want to get too far up the bank. As soon as I was able I climbed back down to the water, using a recently downed tree as a hazardous ladder. When I was eyeing up the drop ahead, trying to decide how to photograph it, Kyle attempted to come down another way and fell.

The rest of our day and weekend was a frantic rush. I won't get into details - just that the fall was bad. He's okay now. This was the first and only serious injury during all of my adventuring in the Upper Peninsula and I'm only glad that it didn't happen out in a more remote area and that we all were able to get out of there in one piece.

Trip Photos

  • Color around the falls
  • Looking up the rocky pinnacle
  • Close view of the lowermost drop
  • Large pool and steep rock ahead
  • Jacob carrying a timid Logan across the scary pool

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