Pothole Falls, Michigan

Pothole Falls in June 2006

I used to call this an unnamed waterfall, only to discover that people have given it some type of designation. I’ve decided to refer to it as Pothole Falls, though some refer to it as The Potholes. This is one of the more widely photographed waterfalls/features in the park, even though it isn’t a very tall waterfall.

Pothole Falls is found downstream from the much larger Manabezho Falls (which is downstream from Manido and Nawadaha Falls). While those falls are larger, they are “normal” waterfalls. Pothole Falls is really more of a collection of potholes, formed as rocks caused deeper erosion in the river bed. And while the potholes are not particularly large, they are very photogenic. I visited in early June 2006, and there was still enough water flowing down the river to obscure some of the potholes. If you visit later in the summer, less water flowing down the river will likely be a good thing, as the potholes will become more prominent.

These should be very easy to visit. There is a nice trail system to the waterfalls along the Presque Isle River, and if you follow the trail downstream, there should be a bridge over the river where the falls can be viewed easily. When I visited in September 2010, I believe the bridge over the Presque Isle that would have provided the view was closed, so I’m not sure if that has been fixed. I would think so, but follow any posted signs. (In September 2010, I’m not sure I would have been able to see the potholes or the falls because the water level was extremely high…some of the highest levels anybody had seen, especially considering it was not spring.)

Directions:

  1. From US-2 in Wakefield, head north of M-28 for a short ways.
  2. Turn left onto Thomaston Road (which may be numbered County Road 519).
  3. If it is not numbered Co. Road 519, you will soon end up connecting into Co. Road 519. From there, just keep driving north for a ways. You will end up entering the West Entrance to the park.
  4. The parking area for the short trail to the Manabezho Falls is clearly marked. From that viewpoint, head downstream toward the bridge, if it’s in use.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 3′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Pothole Falls?

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Peterson Falls, Michigan/Wisconsin

Just outside of Ironwood and Hurley are two waterfalls found within a short distance of each other. The short distance between the two has created a significant amount of confusion about the identity of the falls. Some books have referred to the falls as Interstate Falls, while others called it Peterson Falls, or both at the same time! It ends up that Peterson Falls is the upstream waterfall, while Interstate Falls is downstream.

I’ve visited Peterson Falls twice, and the visits could not have been different. On the first visit August 2008, there was enough water flowing to call it a waterfall, but one could probably rock hop to the Michigan side. You could actually see three separate portions of the falls.

Peterson Falls in August 2008

In September 2010, there had been a significant amount of rain just before visiting. The falls were wildly different. There would have been absolutely no way to rock hop, as the falls were inundated by water. It actually lost a little bit of its character. (I wasn’t even sure where to photograph…)

Peterson Falls in September 2010

It is much easier to visit them from the Wisconsin side, so follow the directions below to ensure you’re standing in Wisconsin! Interstate Falls is to the left on the trails. Peterson Falls is to the right. At one point the trails intersect, but it can be a little bit confusing. Just don’t leave after seeing only one waterfall! They’re very close to each other. And if you’re exerting yourself to see either falls, you’re probably not on the right path. Both falls are very easy to visit.

Directions:

  1. From Ironwood/Hurley, head west on US-2. You will pass from Michigan into Wisconsin.
  2. After a short distance, you will see Center Drive on your right. If you take a look, you will even notice a white sign for one of the falls.
  3. Turn right onto Center Drive, a dirt road, a head down it. At one point, you will veer right.
  4. There is a dirt pit in the area, so that’s likely how you’ll know you’re in the right area. The road is blocked by a small “rock wall”. From this sandy parking area, head down a well-worn trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Peterson Falls?

Gabbro Falls, Michigan

I visited Gabbro Falls just over two years ago during the beautiful fall colors season in the Upper Peninsula, and I was both surprised and impressed! The Black River in the westernmost county of the Upper Peninsula is one of the not-to-miss rivers. Along a portion of the National Scenic Drive, you’ll find five waterfalls within just a few miles of each other. During the fall season, it’s spectacular!

And yet, there’s another waterfall that is considerably further upstream that doesn’t get as much attention, and yet it’s equally as impressive. Gabbro Falls is only a few miles outside of Ironwood, and almost equidistant from Bessemer and Wakefield, both east of Ironwood. When I visited the Upper Peninsula in September 2010, it had just rained profusely, so much so that the waterfalls were intense, to say the least. Gabbro Falls may have been at its most voluminous. The fall colors made it a sight to behold!

I had absolutely no chance to explore whether there was a way to get to the base of the falls because of the high flow. At that time, there was virtually no option to do that, so the photographs were taken from the side and the crest.

Directions:

  1. As you’re headed east out of Ironwood along US-2, you’ll pass through Bessemer.
  2. A few miles east of Bessemer, you’ll find Blackjack Road on your left. Turn left onto Blackjack Road.
  3. Go 1.5 miles along Blackjack Road, following it to the left as it veers across the Black River.
  4. After crossing the bridge over the Black River, veer left and start going uphill (to the left of a ski area).
  5. Opposite of the building along this road is the short trail that leads to the falls. If I remember correctly, it is not extremely obvious, so it may help to open the window and listen for the rush of water. Park at the edge of the road, and hike to the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Gabbro Falls view from the crest (September 2010)

The falls from the side

Where in the World is Gabbro Falls?

Interstate Falls, Michigan/Wisconsin

First off, there are two waterfalls along the Montreal River just outside of Ironwood/Hurley, and there is confusion about which is named which. They are only about half a mile from each (at the most).

I first saw Peterson Falls about in 2007, but couldn’t figure out how to see Interstate Falls. There is no real sign indicating a path to the falls. Trails actually start at the real estate signs posted on trees, as the area on the Wisconsin side near the falls is currently for sale. (In 2016, the land was gifted to the Northwoods Land Trust, which means the falls are easier to visit now!)

In October 2010, I found the trail to the falls, which can be found as an offshoot of the far more obvious trail to Peterson Falls. Hopefully, signs will now be clearer with the land owned by the Northwoods Land Trust. When I finally arrived at the falls, I was only mildly surprised to find out that there was a huge amount of water flowing over the falls. The western portion of the Upper Peninsula had gotten a LOT of rain, and this meant that some of the rivers had very high volumes, some much higher than even in spring. There were flood warnings on certain rivers. This made it almost impossible to get great pictures because there was an amazing amount of spray. Looking at other pictures of the falls, I’ve never seen this much water flowing.

Directions:

  1. From Ironwood/Hurley, head west on US-2. You will pass from Michigan into Wisconsin.
  2. After a short distance, you will see Center Drive on your right. If you take a look, you will even notice a white sign for one of the falls.
  3. Turn right onto Center Drive, a dirt road, a head down it. At one point, you will veer right.
  4. You’ll see a real estate sign. You might be able to park here.
  5. Walk along the trail nearby, heading toward the river. You can see the crest of the falls, but getting to the base can be more difficult (especially in such high flow).

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy to crest), 6/10 (moderate to base)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Interstate Falls from the base in October 2010

Interstate Falls at the crest

Where in the World is Interstate Falls?

Sandstone Falls, Michigan

Sandstone Falls, which clearly gets it’s name from the surrounding sandstone rock, is the fourth of five major waterfalls along the Black River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Out of the five waterfall, it is probably the least interesting. It’s not that it isn’t a nice waterfall to visit, it’s that the other four waterfalls are so uniquely shaped. Even so, what I love about the Black River is that the five waterfalls you can visit are all different shapes, heights, and widths. There is no repetition here.

Directions:

  1. From US-2, turn north onto Gogebic County Road 513.
  2. Head north on CR-513 for about 13 miles, where you will notice the first waterfall (the furthest upstream), Great Conglomerate Falls. You can park there to access all of the falls on one trail.
  3. Head down to the third parking area on the right, which will be the trail head to Sandstone Falls. From there, head down to the falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Sandstone Falls in August 2008

Where in the World is Sandstone Falls?

Rainbow Falls, Michigan

Rainbow Falls in August 2011

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.

Directions:

  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)
Height: 45′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles or 1.5 miles round-trip

The falls in August 2008

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?

Great Conglomerate Falls, Michigan

The Black River splits into two at least once during it’s journey toward Lake Superior, and this split produces Great Conglomerate Falls. The Black River is rather wide at this point, and so it is difficult to photograph the whole falls at this point. I used the panoramic mode on my one camera in order to get the complete falls as best as I could.

Great Conglomerate Falls is the first of the five major falls on the river. As I’ve mentioned before, these are five falls that could not be more distinct from each other. Great Conglomerate Falls is the only of these falls to split into two separate pieces. It is one of the wider falls on the river.

Directions:

  1. From US-2, turn north onto Gogebic County Road 513.
  2. Head north on CR-513 for about 13 miles, where you will notice the first waterfall (the furtherst upstream), Great Conglomerate Falls. You can park there to access all of the falls on one trail.
  3. Head down the trail to Great Conglomerate Falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 1.5 miles round-trip

A panoramic view of Great Conglomerate Falls in August 2008

The falls in August 2011

Where in the World is Great Conglomerate Falls?