The geological features that created Michigan’s natural beauty and attracts thousands of visitors every year also formed a lesser known, if not equally as stunning, physical phenomenon many don’t realize exist here: Waterfalls.
The state recognizes more than 300 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula and at the epicenter of Michigan’s waterfall popularity is Munising, home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where 17 falls can be found. The sites range in access from roadside stops to challenging hikes and from small, stream-like drops to cascading cliff falls.
“It’s amazing because people have no idea how many waterfalls there are,” said Phil Stagg, a photographer who has published five guidebooks on Michigan’s waterfalls. “You can find them all across the U.P., but in Alger County, and Munising specifically, there are really remarkable falls that are some of the most spectacular you’ll see anywhere.
“The variety makes a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy them at any time of the year.”
The changing seasons give waterfalls a unique look whenever visitors travel north to explore, Stagg said.
In the spring, water volumes are at a peak with the snow melt. Come summer, lush green growth of trees and other plants present a colorful and vibrant scene. Fall, Stagg said, is mesmerizing from the contrasting colors of the changing leaves. Winter offers a chance to see water seemingly frozen in midair.
“There’s always something new,” said Stagg.
Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising’s Visitors Bureau, said she frequently recommends self-guided waterfall tours or Pictured Rocks boat trips that offer waterfall views to prospective tourists or guests who stop in for information. She’s usually greeted with words and looks of disbelief.
“I have to convince them that there are actually waterfalls all around us,” she said. “Once I show them pictures and describe what they’ll find, there is a lot of excitement and interest. They come back and are thrilled to have seen something they never had before.”
Cearly said waterfall enthusiasts and first-time visitors can tailor their tour to their level of adventure. The most popular falls are usually the most accessible and the more secluded the fall, the more you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth.
“They will really take your breath away,” she said.
Here are some of Cearly’s recommendations:
Most popular falls:
Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in every season and this fall is also known for great ice formations in the winter.
Miners Falls: The impressive 50-foot fall is a 20-minute walk from a parking lot of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are two platforms for viewing and the park service advises to take the time to enjoy the views of the Miners Basin.
Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.
Most challenging hikes:
Chapel Falls: One of the larger straight drops, the 60-foot falls are at the end of the Chapel Road Drive and about a 2 1/2 mile hike to Lake Superior, where the famous tree and rock formation is found. Pictured Rocks boat tours are available to this majestic setting, one of the few where falls cascade into the Great Lakes.
Bridalveil Falls: A one-of-a-kind view is found on the 140-foot sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks and is part of an eight-mile loop that will also take you past the previously mentioned Chapel Falls. Boat trips from Munising will also grant you looks that will last a lifetime.
Spray Falls: A 70-foot waterfall located along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore can be observed by land or water. The remote area requires walking the trails along the cliffs and the Spray Falls are located 1.75 miles Northeast of Chapel Rock. If guests aren’t up for the hike, the falls are best viewed from a tour boat, kayak or personal watercraft.
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