Cataract Dam Falls on Middle Branch Escanaba River

a surprisingly rocky and natural spillway for a basin

Lower splaying drop
  • Morning light over Cataract Basin
  • Rising fog above the dam
  • Water cascading neatly over the dam
  • Narrow steaming chute
  • Sun bright over the upper drops
  • Lower splaying drop

On the north side of the Sands, just on the other side of Gwinn, a dam holds up the Middle Branch Escanaba River to form a small reservoir barely large enough to warrant a gravel boat launch. Water cascades over the dam onto a set of natural waterfalls carved in the blocky brown rock. Thick undergrowth and the occasional large tree cover both banks, hiding the falls and river until one is right upon them. Downstream of the channel the river spreads out over a wider, large waterfall before entering a swampy stretch of the river.


Turn right on County Road EEF, about 3 miles north of Gwinn, and take it 1.7 miles to Cataract Basin, leaning left at any forks along the dirt road. Park at the basin and head over to the dam, following the small footpath downstream to the river guage. Footpath may be hard to make out in the thick undergrowth and ends at the gauge, before the lower falls, so just stick close to the river if things get confusing. Lower waterfalls are near a big sandy bend, just past the huge metal pipe.

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