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Theresa Neal / MDNR
The Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park often remains partially open.
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Theresa Neal / MDNR
The Upper Falls froze almost completely in February 2007, one of the coldest recent winters.
The Upper Peninsula’s dramatic waterfalls draw locals and visitors in spring, summer and fall. But most miss winter views of the impressive falls draped by massive icicles, locking the water’s motion.
Reaching some of these stunning scenes is relatively easy, but others require a fair bit of trekking on snowshoes, skis or by snowmobile.
January and February are the best months to see frozen falls at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, says Park Interpreter Bob Wild.
And people do call. “On a nice weekend, it’s not uncommon to see quite a few people.”
Bob often recommends the park’s Presque Isle unit, which has the most accessible waterfalls: Manabezho, about 100 feet wide with a 24-foot drop and upstream the smaller Manido and then Nawadaha falls. Presque Isle River, designated a wild and scenic river, is surrounded by old growth forest of hemlock, white pine and red pine. The road into the park is plowed, but, Bob says, “you still have to snowshoe in about 1 mile.”
Another waterfall in the park, Trap Falls on the Upper Big Carp River, requires more experience with backcountry winter travel.
A few other U.P falls to view:
• At Canyon Falls Roadside Park near Alberta, about 2.5 miles north of the junction of U.S. 41 and M-28, a boardwalk gives a nice view of Canyon Falls on Sturgeon River.
• Bond Falls, southeast of the Porcupine Mountains and 3.5 miles east of Paulding, is where the middle branch of the Ontonagon River “tumbles over a thick belt of volcanic fractured rock, dividing it into numerous small cascades,” reports Dan Dowdy, unit supervisor for the Baraga State Park Management Unit. The total drop is about 50 feet.
The popular falls may not completely freeze, but Sarah Long and her husband, Tim, owners of the Timbers Resort on Lake Gogebic, like to snowmobile to Bond Falls.“It is absolutely gorgeous,” she says.
• One of the easiest Alger County waterfalls to visit is Munising Falls in Munising. Look for the Munising Falls Visitor Center at the beginning of the short, paved trail up the shaded sandstone canyon leading to the falls.
“Munising Falls is certainly a great frozen waterfall to visit in the winter,” says Brenda St. Martin, who works at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The parking lot is plowed, but the trail to the falls is not.
• At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, February is the best time to see ice formations on the Upper Falls, an imposing 200 feet wide and 50 feet tall. Park Interpreter Theresa Neal says the coldest winter she’s experienced at the park north of Newberry was 2007. The Upper Falls were 75 percent frozen – “the most frozen I’ve seen it.”
• Wagner Falls Scenic Site, south of Munising just past the junction of Highways M-94 and M-28, is where Wagner Creek cascades over rock ledges.