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?

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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?

Kimball Falls, Wisconsin

Kimball Falls is not a particularly large waterfall, and I’m not really sure whether I would go and search for it if there weren’t a number of other really great waterfalls nearby. It is found between Ironwood/Hurley and Saxon. In that stretch, you’ve got Interstate, Peterson, Saxon, and Superior Falls, all of which are more interesting. Along the way, though, you’ll pass this small falls, and it’s very easy to stop and view them.

The falls are found at the Kimball Falls park, which is a very nice park. If I lived in the area, I’d visit it frequently. When we visited in October, the fall colors were absolutely spectacular that year, and so the trees were ablaze in reds, oranges, and yellows. It had also rained significantly in the past few days, making Kimball Falls seem at least a little bit more powerful.

Directions:

  1. As you’re heading west on US-2 from Ironwood, you’ll find the park in between Interstate/Peterson Falls and Saxon/Superior Falls. Heading west, the road to the falls will be on your left.
  2. The name of the road is logically Park Road. Turn left onto Park Road, and there should be a sign indicating the way to Kimball Falls.
  3. Turn right on Town Park Drive and cross the bridge, which is crossing the river the falls are on.
  4. Park wherever parking is available. At the time we showed up, I do not think we were able to park in the park itself, but there was parking nearby. The falls are very obvious from the bridge crossing right over them. Take some time to explore the park itself. If I remember correctly, there was a trail that led I know not where, but it looked like it could be fun to explore.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: negligible

Kimball Falls in October 2010

Where in the World is Kimball Falls?

Lower Potato River Falls, Wisconsin

I have a special relationship with Lower Potato River Falls. After pulling into the parking area, I headed toward Lower Potato River Falls. As I’m heading down the stairs, through the trees you can get a glimpse of the falls, but it’s really not that good of a view. Trees are blocking parts of the falls, and so I’m hoping that since the stairs lead further downward that I’ll be treated to a better view.

I get to the bottom of the stairs, and what I’m greeted with is a river…there’s no view of the falls to be seen, though I know they’re right around the bend! I wander along what I think is the east side of the river for some time, hoping that maybe that will lead to a better view…But, wow, the rock cliffs on that side of the river are surprisingly steep. I slowly realize that the only way I’m going to get a very good view is to actually cross the river.

Now while I like waterfalls, I’m not a big fan of getting wet. That probably seems very odd…loving waterfalls but not wanting to get wet. If the river were very shallow, I’d try and cross in an instant. But this river appears to be rather uneven in depth. It’s still rather shallow, but there’s essentially NO WAY I’m going to avoid soaking some part of my body, and I’m wearing jeans too. Not sure what’s crawling down below in the river, I decide to leave my socks on…again, very weird. I guess I just feel more comfortable with something between my feet and the riverbed. I take the first jump into the river, and it’s not as easy as it seems to cross. Big rocks shift, so it can be hard to get a firm stance…but I push forward, and after a few seconds, I’ve crossed the 20 foot wide river. I put my shoes back on and start wandering along the less steep western shore. As I turn the corner of the bend that’s blocking the view, my effort is rewarded with a truly beautiful scene. Lower Potato River Falls automatically becomes one of my favorite falls in Wisconsin. It’s a wide waterfall, and at the point I’m standing at, it’s reflection is being revealed in the water. It’s an amazing scene…Now I’ve just got to get back across the river. Upper Potato River Falls is just upstream.

Directions:

  1. From US-2, turn onto WI-169. If you’re heading west on US-2, you will take a left turn onto WI-169.
  2. From there, head about 3 miles (maybe more) toward Gurney.
  3. Turn left onto Falls Road, which is a dirt road.
  4. Head to the end of that road. Be careful, as some drivers go crazy on this road.
  5. From the parking area, head down the trail to Lower Potato River Falls.

Accessibility: (9/10, easy for poor view), 5/10 (moderate for spectacular view)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip (to see the spectacular view)

Lower Potato River Falls in June 2009

Where in the World is Lower Potato River Falls?

Superior Falls, Michigan/Wisconsin

Superior Falls in August 2008

I don’t have many favorites. Each waterfalls is unique, and so I often find it hard to classify waterfalls, or other things in general, as favorites. But Superior Falls is definitely one of my favorite waterfalls.

I don’t know if it’s the location or the scenery, but this waterfall is just so intriguing to me. It is found on the Montreal River, which is natural border between Michigan and Wisconsin. The waterfall is viewed from the Michigan side, though it is best accessed by traveling through Wisconsin. It is aptly named, considering that is just hundreds of yards away from Lake Superior. Once you get to the viewing area, you are greeted by a rather tall waterfall. The view is just great, especially considering that most waterfalls don’t look spectacular from above…but this one does. It could be cliffs surrounding the falls that just add even more character and charm.

You can explore the area around the falls, and there are two or three smaller drops upstream that can be viewed close-up. The area around the falls is EXTREMELY steep, but somebody used some logic and put up tall metal fencing that allows for much safer access to the upper areas of the falls. There are signs still indicating you need to be careful, especially in case of the unexpected flash flood.

Update: When I initially visited in August 2008, the waterfall was at relatively low flow, which allowed visitors to see the underlying bedrock.  I then visited Superior Falls on September 26, 2010.  This was after what was a CONSIDERABLE amount of rainfall in the western Upper Peninsula, which led to a considerably different view, as seen below…

Superior Falls in September 2010

Directions:

  1. Though the best view of the falls is in Michigan, the easiest way to the falls is through Wisconsin. You will be driving along US-2 in Wisconsin, and you will come to WI-122.
  2. Turn north onto WI-122. Keep driving on this road.
  3. At some point, you will enter Michigan, which I believe is clearly marked with a smaller sign.
  4. After about 1/2 mile from the border, there will be a gravel road on your left leading to a power plant and parking lot. You are allowed to park here.
  5. Follow the roar of the water to the falls, or head down the steep hill to get a better view of Lake Superior. If you walk to the mouth of the Montreal River and look inward, you can actually glimpse the bottom portion of the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (for the simplest viewpoint)
Height: 70′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Superior Falls?

Upper Potato River Falls, Wisconsin

Upper Potato River Falls in June 2009

There are multiple drops on the Potato River in Wisconsin. The drops may not really end, meaning either there is one very long waterfall or many small waterfalls. However you interpret that, you really only get two different viewpoints, which is why I say there is only Upper and Lower Potato River Falls.

The Upper Potato River Falls can be easily viewed from a trail that leads to an overlook of the falls. I am not sure whether you can view the falls from the base. There was no clear trail down to the base, and the rock is rather steep in places. There was a faint trail that may lead somewhere, but I didn’t follow that lead.

The view from the overlook shows three separate drops. The drops are larger than they appear, though it’s deceiving in the picture since I’m looking at them from afar. The area is very beautiful, as is the waterfall. It’s just too bad there’s no easy way to get closer to it.

Directions:

  1. From US-2, turn onto WI-169. If you’re heading west on US-2, you will take a left turn onto WI-169.
  2. From there, head about 3 miles (maybe more) toward Gurney.
  3. Turn left onto Falls Road, which is a dirt road.
  4. Head to the end of that road. Be careful, as some drivers go crazy on this road.
  5. From the parking area, take the trail to the Upper Falls, which is on the left side of the parking area (from where you entered).

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Upper Potato River Falls?

Saxon Falls, Wisconsin/Michigan

Saxon Falls is an intriguing waterfall. First, the waterfall is on the Michigan/Wisconsin border on the Montreal River. I viewed it from the Wisconsin side, but it may be easier to view it from Michigan. Second, I’m curious what the whole waterfall looks like. The bottom portion is hidden from view by trees. If it could be seen in it’s entirety, it would probably be surprising, since I’m guessing there’s an unseen 50+ foot drop.

The hike to the falls from the power dam is short, but does climb over some steep terrain. Be careful! There might be a way to view the whole falls, but I’m guessing that it would involve some steep cliffs and may even be illegal.

Directions:

  1. From US-2 in Wisconsin, turn north onto WI County Road B. Go for 2.5 miles.
  2. Continue straight on. Do not turn left onto County Road B. There is a sign indicating that you are heading toward Saxon Falls/Dam.
  3. Park in the parking lot near the power house.
  4. The trail will be to the right of the power house. Follow the unmarked but clearly trodden trail.

Accesibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 60′
Length of Hike: 0.7 miles round-trip

Saxon Falls in August 2008

Where in the World is Saxon Falls?