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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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?