As I may have mentioned before, the Black River has one of the best groups of waterfalls to be found in Michigan. If I had to recommend just one group of waterfalls to view in Michigan, I would suggest going and seeing these 5 waterfalls. Sometimes waterfalls on the same river can have a tendency to look very similar. The Black River does not fall into that category. The five major waterfalls are extremely distinct and unique, at least compared to the others on the same river.
Rainbow Falls is one of my favorites, though it is hard to explain why. There are few other waterfalls that I have seen that have the same “drop” pattern found at Rainbow Falls. Instead of just a simple vertical drop or even a cascade, the water jettisons from the crest of the falls, which is very narrow. The water then crashes into a rock wall, takes an actual 90 degree turn, and falls into a cavernous region below. The actual view is extremely hard to explain in words. After the water pools, there is another drop, and possibly more hidden below.
The other four waterfalls are most easily accessed from their designated parking areas, but NOT Rainbow Falls. There is a parking area for Rainbow Falls, but if you follow this designated trail, it leads to one of the most unspectacular views of a waterfall I could ever imagine. At first, I was extremely disappointed, as I had just walked some distance only to have a waterfall almost completely blocked from my view.
There are two ways to remedy this situation:
1) The river, which at some points is a hundred or more feet wide, narrows down to about three feet wide. I actually jumped over the river, which was not as easy as it sounds, since the water is moving so quickly. One poor step, and you could be pulled in.
2) After doing this, I learned of a more sane way to get to the much, much better viewpoint. Instead of starting from the Rainbow Falls parking area, start at the Black River Harbor parking area. I guess you can cross a footbridge over the river there, and take the trail on the east side of the river instead. It might be a 3/4 to 1 mile hike one-way, but that may be the same distance hiking the other trail.
Either way, both options lead to the much better viewpoint, which is where I took the photo. It might be better to arrive earlier in the day, as I was there later in the day when the sun was almost directly behind the falls, complicating attempts to take pictures. By that point, any picture would do, since for a period of time, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to see the falls at all.
1) From US-2, turn north onto Gogebic County Road 513.
2) Head north on CR-513 for about 15 miles to the end of the road to the parking area for the Black River Harbor.
3) From here, you should be able to cross the river, and access the trail on the east side of the river, as described above.
Accessibility: 7/10 (from west side of river)
Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?: map