Otter Falls on West Branch Otter River

a few rounded humps along a shallow river

Upper drops
  • First view of Otter River
  • Rounded upper drops
  • Forlorn equipment left on Hazel Swamp Road
  • Tiny moon of foam on the river
  • Swollen springtime river
  • Taller drop of Otter Falls
  • Large, underwater slab of sandstone
  • Upper drops
  • Tiny sign along the drive

As the wide, shallow Otter River winds a path east to join Sturgeon River it flows over a few rounded slabs of sandstone north of Alston. The tallest set of drops are located right on a sharp bend, just below Brule Creek's inlet, and some smaller falls lie downstream beyond a cabin on the south bank. Thick woods surround the river on both sides, creating a pleasantly shady river valley.

Directions

There are several different paths to Otter Falls. None are particularly great.

The easiest way involves a bit of trespassing. Head west on M-38 out of Baraga, driving for 12 miles or so before turning right on N Laird Heights Road in Alston. At 2 miles this road turns into Tauriainen Road, which runs straight into Otter Falls after another 1.7 miles. Before the river the road crosses into private property, as it leads directly to a cabin near Otter Falls.

For a indirect route turn at Hazel Road off of M-38, 11 miles out of Baraga, and head north about 3.2 miles. The road jags over to the left and becomes Hazel Swamp Road after N Laird Road. Park near the powerlines a short distance down Hazel Swamp Road, following the access road until you hit Otter River. Turn and follow Otter River (not the track, as it veers away from the river) up to the falls. Try to cross the river before hitting the falls, as the cabin is on the east bank.

To completely avoid the cabin stay on M-38 past Alston and turn on Pike Lake Road in Nisula. Turn right on the second track leading right on the far side of Otter River, about 2.6 miles north of Nisula. Drive or walk down these two-tracks, bearing right on the first fork at .5 miles and right again at the intersection at 1.8 miles. Follow it until you notice that the land on your left is dropping away - this will be the west bank of Brule Creek. Follow the creek downstream until it bumps into Otter River. The falls are a short distance downstream.

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