Spray Falls, Michigan

Spray Falls plunging into Lake Superior (August 2010)

I’ve been wanting to visit Spray Falls for a considerable amount of time, and I’ve been finally able to add it to the list of waterfalls I’ve seen. I’ve visited the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore about seven or eight times by now, and I’ve always put off visiting Spray Falls.

I’ve read stories that made it sound like it was a terrifying journey to view the falls from the trail. I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t go alone just in case something bad happens.” Other descriptions also made it seem like there weren’t so great views of the falls from the trail, and that the only real way to get a great view was from the Pictured Rocks cruise. Well, that’s a bunch of bull.

The hike to the falls is not short, though.  It is rather long. I think the book I have says about 3 miles one-way, but I would hazard to say that it is longer than that. There is a lot of curving as you hug the shoreline. There are some steep parts, but they’re not all that bad. It’s just a long hike, but well worth it!!! You get to be rewarded with the view of a waterfall plunging into Lake Superior. And by the way, it is MUCH more interesting than Bridal Veil Falls, which people seem to have an obsession with when showing pictures that represent the Pictured Rocks. Spray Falls is NOT seasonal, which makes it much more worth it to hike to see the falls.

Directions:

  1. From Munising, head east on H-58 for 20 miles or so.
  2. You’ll pass the center of Melstrand on your way, and then you’ll come to the road leading to Little Beaver Lake. Take a left onto that road, and head down that road for about 3 miles.
  3. On your left there will be a parking area for the trail head.  Park here.
  4. Start your journey at the trail head. It can be a little confusing at first. You’ll be starting on the White Pine Trail, which is not very clearly marked. You’ll see a bunch of numbered signs, though, that indicate you’re following the right trail. There is another “fake” trail that looks like it might lead somewhere, but it doesn’t.
  5. After about 0.5 miles, you’ll see a sign pointing toward Lake Superior and Beaver Lake. Head toward Lake Superior. It will wind around for a ways.
  6. After a while, you’ll be at Lake Superior. Look for the sign that points toward Chapel Beach. You want to follow this trail, which will be to your left. You’ll follow this trial for however long, passing by a number of a campground sites. FINALLY, after much effort, you’ll come to the sign indicating Spray Falls which leads to the “outlook”. It’s a cliff edge, though it wasn’t really that scary, and that’s coming from someone who’s not a fan of heights. Then return the way you came or head on to Chapel Beach, another 2 miles further.

Accessibility: 3/10 (hiking), 10/10 (cruise)
Height: 70′
Length of Hike: 6 miles round-trip

Wide view of Spray Falls and the Pictured Rocks

The view of the falls from the Pictured Rocks Cruise

Where in the World is Spray Falls?

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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?

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?

Potawatomi Falls, Michigan

Potawatomi Falls is very close to Gorge Falls, which I just mentioned talked about. Gorge Falls is narrow. Potawatomi Falls is wildly different, even though it is less than a quarter of a mile upstream. It’s very difficult to gauge size from afar, so maybe the waterfall isn’t as wide as I think, but it’s still pretty wide. The width of the falls does vary on the time of year. In times of low flow, the waterfall is probably 25’+ wide. In high flow, the width of the falls almost triples, as the water flows over a much larger area. Here’s a picture in high flow.

There are two different ways to view the falls: park at one of the beginning or ending falls (Great Conglomerate Falls or Rainbow Falls) and take the hike past all of the falls. Roundtrip, I’m guessing that’s at least 6 miles? Or you can drive and walk to each of the falls separately (Potowatomi and Gorge are at the same parking area). This may be just as long, as some of the hikes to each separate falls are 3/4+ miles one-way.

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. You can also pass that parking lot and head to the next parking area, which will be for both Gorge Falls and Potowatomi Falls.
  4. From the parking area, it can get a little confusing, at least it was for me. Gorge Falls is further downstream, so you should head to the left. It’s actually a rather short walk to this falls if you find the right trail quickly. You may also end up at Potowatomi Falls, like I did, which you can distinguish since it is MUCH, MUCH larger!

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip

Potawatomi Falls in August 2008

Where  in the World is Potawatomi Falls?

Gorge Falls, Michigan

Gorge Falls in August 2008

The waterfalls of the Black River should be extremely high on the priority list of waterfalls to visit Michigan. If I could choose one river with multiple waterfalls to suggest visiting, this river would be the one. The Black River has at least five waterfalls of considerable size, and each of these waterfalls is very unique and distinct.

Gorge Falls clearly indicates that this waterfall is found in a gorge, and the gorge is extremely interesting. To view this waterfall, you have entered into the gorge. When I say that these waterfalls are uniquely distinct, here’s why… Gorge Falls is only about 5′ wide at most and about 35′ tall. The waterfall just upstream of it, Potawatomi Falls, is 30-35′ tall, and anywhere from 150-200′ wide, I’m guessing. In less than a quarter of a mile, the river has narrowed from about 175′ to just 5′. It’s just amazing!

There are two different ways to view the falls: park at one of the beginning or ending falls (Great Conglomerate Falls or Rainbow Falls) and take the hike past all of the falls. Round-trip, I’m guessing that’s at least 6 miles? Or you can drive and walk to each of the falls separately (Potowatomi and Gorge are at the same parking area). This may be just as long, as some of the hikes to each separate falls are 3/4+ miles one-way.

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. You can also pass that parking lot and head to the next parking area, which will be for both Gorge Falls and Potowatomi Falls.
  4. From the parking area, it can get a little confusing, at least it was for me. Gorge Falls is further downstream, so you should head to the left. It’s actually a rather short walk to this falls if you find the right trail quickly. You may also end up at Potowatomi Falls, like I did, which you can distinguish since it is MUCH, MUCH larger!

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 34′
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip

Gorge Falls in August 2011

Where in the World is Gorge Falls?

Potato Patch Falls, Michigan

Potato Patch Falls in May 2009

Potato Patch Falls is a waterfall that isn’t advertised on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore map, but it’s a very beautiful waterfall, and it’s relatively easy to access. It may be difficult to get a view of the whole waterfall, as the rock is very slippery and not very firm in places (at least it wasn’t when I visited this May).

Directions:

  1. Go down Miner’s Castle Road (Alger County Road H-13) passing over Miners River.
  2. You’ll reach a point where you can turn left toward Miner’s Castle or turn right toward the Lakeshore trail head. Head toward the Lakeshore trail head.
  3. At the parking lot, head up the Lakeshore trail, which starts near the information board.
  4. It’s a moderate climb up the trail. If you hit the sign for Potato Patch Falls, you are at the top of the falls, though it’s not the best view. Walk back down the trail a ways and look for an unmarked trail that has been clearly traversed. It will go downhill a little and hug huge rocks. You will know when you have reached Potato Patch Falls (assuming there is flow).

Accessiblity: 7/10 (easy/moderate, moderately steep but short climb)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Blue ice near the falls

Where in the World is Potato Patch Falls?