When I visited the Upper Peninsula in September 2010, there had been significant rainfall in the area for days. This had lead to waterfalls flowing at their best, and Bonanza Falls happened to be one of the stops along the way. It really goes to show how much waterfalls can “change.”
When my father and I arrived at Bonanza Falls, for a moment I wasn’t even sure I was at the right waterfall. In the book, it showed trickles of water flowing over maybe 5% of the available river. Instead, we saw most of the river covered in water, and we could tell that what had once been mostly dry land with plants had been covered with water. The river was definitely at full force. From the photos, you might be able to tell a significant amount of mud and tannins were being carried along with the water, making the water “root beer” colored.
There are three or four drops along the river (which are often more noticeable), and the total drop is at most 10′ tall. You might wonder why you should visit the falls. Well, after a heavy rain or during the spring snowmelt, the falls are pretty impressive. And when we visited in late September, the trees were starting to change, adding even more color to the view. In the depths of summer, it might not be as exciting. I might not go out of my way to visit Bonanza Falls, though it is very easy to visit and is near a number of other waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains.
- From Ontonagon, head southwest along MI-64.
- You will come to an intersection. You can either turn left and continue south on MI-64 or you can head west, entering the boundary of Porcupine Mountains State Park (heading to Lake of the Clouds). TURN LEFT and continue on MI-64.
- About a mile after turning, you’ll see a sign for Bonanza Falls on your right. Turn right onto this gravel road and drive the very short distance to the parking area near the river. You shouldn’t need to search for the falls. If you don’t see them after seeing the river, you’re at the wrong place!
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip
Bonanza Falls (at high flow) in late September 2010
Where in the World is Bonanza Falls?
I first visited Bond Falls in August 2008, and I believe at that time I was by myself. While there are numerous waterfalls in the vicinity, Bond Falls seems slightly isolated. Agate Falls is further downstream, but there is still some distance between the two, and it does require some out-of-the way driving to get to Bond Falls. It’s definitely worth it, though. First of all, the Upper Peninsula is absolutely beautiful, so the drive off of the main roads is no problem. Second, Bond Falls is what I would consider one of the top ten waterfalls in Michigan.
At 50′, Bond Falls is nowhere near the tallest falls in the Upper Peninsula. I’m a firm believer, though, that just because a waterfall is tall does not necessarily mean that it is interesting or beautiful. Bond Falls more than makes up for its still impressive height by being very wide, at least 100′ as it spreads out at its base. Because of its width, the location of the walkway, and the trees in the middle of the falls, it can actually be rather difficult to photograph the whole falls. There are a number of different places to experiment getting great shots, so it’s likely you’ll end up with at least one great all-encompassing shot.
When I revisited Bond Falls with my father in late September 2010, the falls were at their peak beauty. The day was beautiful (which can be difficult to find in Michigan in fall), the trees were just beginning to change colors, and Bond Falls did not disappoint. If you have the chance, visit the Upper Peninsula during the fall color change.
- Bond Falls can be accessed from either US-45 (which runs N/S) or MI-28 (running E/W). In both cases you’ll be looking for Bond Falls Road.
- Bond Falls road is easily accessed from US-45. It will be on your right if you are heading north on US-45. To access Bond Falls Road from MI-28, there are a number of other roads (Agate and Calderwood Road) that come before, making the directions seem more complicated. In either case, signs along the main roads will pretty clearly guide you to the park.
- At the park, the main parking area goes down a handicapped-accessible boardwalk to a view in front of the falls.
- If you head uphill along one of the trails to the crest of the falls, you will see that there are more drops hidden from view.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
Bond Falls in August 2008
Bond Falls in late September 2010
Where in the World is Bond Falls?
I was somewhat disappointed when I visited Agate Falls. I expected more and got less. Agate Falls is very close to M-28 in the Upper Peninsula, so it is not difficult to get to. When you get to the falls, though, you will end up at a platform that leads to a view above the falls. The problem is that this is not the most ideal viewpoint.
I have read elsewhere that people have walked down to view the falls from the base, but when I visited, that seemed very improbable. The platform essentially blocked that chance and there was also metal fencing. I surveyed around to see if there was any feasible way to get around this, but the area around the falls is surprisingly steep. There may be a way to do this, but it might not be extremely safe. I think the falls would be much more exciting if one could get a view from the base.
- Parking for Agate Falls is found off of M-28 at Agate Falls Scenic Site. Heading west, the parking lot is on the left. You can also park at the ice cream shop on the right to get to the falls.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip
Agate Falls in August 2008
Where in the World is Agate Falls?