I first visited the waterfalls on the Dead River in 2009. At the time, I was rather surprised. The book I had made it seem like the waterfalls were not particularly interesting. Instead, I found (at least) four wonderful waterfalls (Dead River Falls #1, #2, #3, and #4). After reaching the 4th waterfall, I tried to see if there was any clear path to continue along the river, but for some reason decided there wasn’t. I could see one more rather small drop in the distance, but couldn’t figure out how to get closer.
I went back in 2011, and found the trail to be closed due to upgrades of some sort, so I wasn’t able to explore the falls again. I hadn’t visited the Upper Peninsula much after that, so decided that this year would be the time to visit the falls again. The trail to the falls was reopened a few years ago.
I had hoped that they had solved some of the issues that exist with the trail, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Most of the trail is relatively safe, but there are one or two areas where it could be rather dangerous. At one point early in the hike, you have to follow the trail parallel to the river, and the trail is narrow and gets very close to a 15-20′ drop. One wrong step, and you could fall very near the river. I erred on the side of caution and tried to hike further up. A friend of mine almost slipped on the way back.
All of it is honestly worth it, though. This time, the trail to the fifth waterfall (also known as Stony Mills Falls) was much clearer. After reaching the fourth falls, it was a relatively easy hike near the riverbank to get to the fifth waterfall. I was surprised to find another moderately sized waterfall along the river, though I really didn’t know what to expect! There is a way to get close to the falls, but I decided against climbing further uphill. I was content with the view that I had from the rocks in the river.
- From US-41/M-28 in Marquette, you are going to turn at Wright Street near the Target and Taco Bell.
- Drive a short distance to Forestville Road, and take a left.
- Continue driving on that road for about 3 miles. You will curve left at one point and end up at a dam/power plant. (As a note, Reany River Falls is only a few yards from this parking lot.)
- From the parking area, head toward the bathrooms. You will see a trail leading up the side of a hill underneath power lines. Head up that trail.
- There is a sign pointing to the falls. You can follow the sign and it will get you to the first waterfall.
- From there, continue upstream. You will have to climb up a hill, which was moderately steep. It will help to follow the sound of the river. From the top of the hill, you should be able to find the trail leading to the other falls. The trail hugs the river.
When I visited in 2011, access to these falls was closed. After visiting in 2017, I can confirm that the trail has been reopened. I had hoped that maybe the trail had been re-routed to avoid some of the steeper parts of the trail, but that’s not the case. Please exercise caution when visiting these falls.
Accessibility: 4/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip
Dead River Falls #5 (Stony Mill Falls) in early August 2017
Where in the World is Dead River Falls #5 (Stony Mill Falls)?