If R&B group, TLC had ever visited the Upper Peninsula, I suspect they would not have been able to keep telling us, “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls.” Surrounded by fall color, on a hot summer day, or frozen solid, there is never a bad time to see a waterfall. Yet, spring is undoubtedly a special time to explore Michigan’s waterfalls.
5 reasons to go waterfall hunting in spring
Who doesn’t love a roaring waterfall? Between the thawing ice and snow, and prevalent spring showers, this is the ideal time to see falls at their peak. Some, like mighty Tahquamenon, may not look that different, but for most, the change in flow is palpable.
The average temperature in the Upper Peninsula at this time of year ranges from 40-65 degrees. That may still seem slightly chilly to some, but if you’re visiting a spot that requires a bit of a trek, those temps will be a delight. They also mean you have far less chances of encountering pesky mosquitos or black flies.
All but one of our state’s roaring falls is in the Upper Peninsula. That means a fair amount of driving, and even a trip over Mighty Mac for most people. In the winter, such trips can be precarious. Last month the bridge was closed for 12 hours due to falling ice. Earlier this month, ice storms made it far too dangerous to drive in the northern half of the U.P. Then, of course, there will be all of the summer road construction to contend with, not to mention additional traffic. Late April and May, give the best chance of smooth sailing to waterfall destinations.
Exploring Michigan’s waterfalls in the spring, increases the likelihood of understanding what it must’ve been like to be among the first humans to encounter these special sites. Most people wait until summer or fall to plan such adventures, so it’s not uncommon to be among only a handful of people visiting a waterfall at any given moment. Walk through the winds and breath in that pine-scented air. Imagine a time when the land was unchanged by the hand of mankind. Listen to birds welcoming you to their home. Avoid a sense of needing to rush in or out to make room for other people. Exploring Michigan waterfalls in the spring can be a Zen-like experience.
Whether you wish to camp, or stay in a cushy hotel, all your lodging options are easier to come by at this time of year. Not only are they more readily available, but often more affordable.
Choosing the Right Route
There are over 300 hundred waterfalls scattered across the Upper Peninsula. Naturally, some are more of a trickle, even in the spring, while others are majestic. Some are easily accessible, while others take significant effort to reach. When choosing your destination, consider how much time you have, what type of falls you wish to see, and how accessible or challenging you want them to be.
So Visible You Can See Them from Your Car
For those who want to see some plummeting water, but don’t have the time or inclination to stop for long, there are actually a few lovely falls that you can see while driving by. In the Munising area, home to a multitude of options, you’ll find Scott Falls and Alger Falls roadside. Travel further west to the always lovely Keweenaw Peninsula and you’ll spot Jacob’s Falls and the Eagle River Falls.
Big and Easy to Access
If you only ever make it to one or two falls, then aim for Tahquamenon in the aptly named town of Paradise, or Bond on the southwestern side of the peninsula. Each has ample parking, and just a brief walk to viewing platforms with majestic views at any time of the year.
More Bang for your Buck
Well actually, viewing waterfalls is one of the state’s greatest free pastimes. That said, gas is certainly not free these days, so you may want to head to areas with more than one nearby waterfall to explore. If you head to Bond Falls, for example, then you may also want to explore nearby Agate Falls and O’ Kun de Kun Falls. Keewenaw Peninsula has about fifteen falls, not to mention spectacular views nearly any way you head. In the Ironwood area, you’ll find the Black River Scenic Byway, and its five big falls. Each is worth a stop. Be prepared for stairs if you want to get up close and personal.
Last, but the best waterfall hunting of all, is at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are seventeen falls from which to choose. Munising and Wagner are among the easiest to reach. Chapel and Miners will have you stretching your legs for about a mile. If you want some serious solitude and a bit more of a workout, then look for Rock River and Au Train.
Whichever you choose, spring in the Upper Peninsula will have you waterfalling in love.