Pothole Falls, Michigan

Pothole Falls in June 2006

I used to call this an unnamed waterfall, only to discover that people have given it some type of designation. I’ve decided to refer to it as Pothole Falls, though some refer to it as The Potholes. This is one of the more widely photographed waterfalls/features in the park, even though it isn’t a very tall waterfall.

Pothole Falls is found downstream from the much larger Manabezho Falls (which is downstream from Manido and Nawadaha Falls). While those falls are larger, they are “normal” waterfalls. Pothole Falls is really more of a collection of potholes, formed as rocks caused deeper erosion in the river bed. And while the potholes are not particularly large, they are very photogenic. I visited in early June 2006, and there was still enough water flowing down the river to obscure some of the potholes. If you visit later in the summer, less water flowing down the river will likely be a good thing, as the potholes will become more prominent.

These should be very easy to visit. There is a nice trail system to the waterfalls along the Presque Isle River, and if you follow the trail downstream, there should be a bridge over the river where the falls can be viewed easily. When I visited in September 2010, I believe the bridge over the Presque Isle that would have provided the view was closed, so I’m not sure if that has been fixed. I would think so, but follow any posted signs. (In September 2010, I’m not sure I would have been able to see the potholes or the falls because the water level was extremely high…some of the highest levels anybody had seen, especially considering it was not spring.)

Directions:

  1. From US-2 in Wakefield, head north of M-28 for a short ways.
  2. Turn left onto Thomaston Road (which may be numbered County Road 519).
  3. If it is not numbered Co. Road 519, you will soon end up connecting into Co. Road 519. From there, just keep driving north for a ways. You will end up entering the West Entrance to the park.
  4. The parking area for the short trail to the Manabezho Falls is clearly marked. From that viewpoint, head downstream toward the bridge, if it’s in use.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 3′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Pothole Falls?

Bonanza Falls, Michigan

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.

Directions:

  1. From Ontonagon, head southwest along MI-64.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
Height: 14′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Bonanza Falls (at high flow) in late September 2010

Where in the World is Bonanza Falls?

Nawadaha Falls, Michigan

Nawadaha Falls in October 2010

I saw Nawadaha Falls, but I didn’t see it very well. It’s just that the warnings made the short hike to the falls sound more dangerous than I’m guessing it actually was. The falls are on the Presque Isle River in Porcupine Mountains State Park. There are two larger waterfalls downsteream: Manido Falls and Manabezho Falls. Those falls are extremely easy to view as there is a stairway that leads directly to them. To view Nawadaha Falls, you have to get off of the trail and do a little bit more strenuous hiking. I think it’s probably very doable, though. I’m just disappointed that I didn’t try, though it gives me an excuse to go back and visit one of the best state parks in Michigan.

Update: A comment from a reader reminded me that I hadn’t updated this post. When I visited the Porcupine Mountains again in 2010, I found that getting to Nawadaha Falls was much easier than expected. First option, there is a short trail that leads to Nawadaha Falls now, and it starts near the pay station. Second option: even if you’re at Manido Falls, it’s easier to climb up and head upstream to Nawadaha Falls than expected, so you can even try that option. The view of the falls was very odd. In one way, it was impressive because very high levels of rainfall had led to roaring rivers. At the same time, the drops of Nawadaha Falls essentially disappeared due to so much water!

Directions:

  1. From US-2 in Wakefield, head north of M-28 for a short ways.
  2. Turn left onto Thomaston Road (whcih may be numbered County Road 519).
  3. If it is not numbered Co. Road 519, you will soon end up connecting into Co. Road 519. From there, just keep driving north for a ways. You will end up entering the West Entrance to the park.
  4. Very close to the entrance, there will be a smaller parking area before the main parking area. (The main parking area leads to Manido/Manabezho Falls). Park at this smaller spot, and there is a boardwalk leading directly to Nawadaha Falls.  You can still reach the falls from a trail starting at Manido Falls, but it requires more effort and some uphill climbing.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Nawadaha Falls in June 2006

Where in the World is Nawadaha Falls?

Manido Falls, Michigan

Manido Falls did not impress me at first, at least not as much as the downstream Manabezho Falls. After seeing the pictures I had taken, though, I discovered what an amazingly beautiful waterfall Manido Falls is. It’s beauty comes from its complexity. The waterfall itself is not very tall at all. It is wide, though. As the Presque Isle River tumbles down toward Lake Superior, it comes to this set of rocks that create a beautifully cascading waterfall. I think what makes me like Manido Falls so much is that the water has taken such an interesting course here, erosion taking its effect in an oddly unique way.

Add to it that the just as spectacular Manabezho Falls is only hundreds of yards away, and Lake Superior not much more distant, this makes for one of the most beautiful waterfall stretches in the Upper Peninsula.

Visit #2:  When my father and I visited Manido Falls in late September 2010, the falls looked completely different due to the significant amounts of rainfall in the weeks previous.

Directions:

  1. From US-2 in Wakefield, head north of M-28 for a short ways.
  2. Turn left onto Thomaston Road (which may be numbered County Road 519).
  3. If it is not numbered Co. Road 519, you will soon end up connecting into Co. Road 519. From there, just keep driving north for a ways. You will end up entering the West Entrance to the park.
  4. The parking area for the short trail to the falls is clearly marked, as are signs pointing the way to the trails.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 8′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Manido Falls in June 2006

Manido Falls in September 2010 (after torrential rainfalls)

Where in the World is Manido Falls?

Manabezho Falls, Michigan

Manabezho Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls in Michigan. First off, it’s located in a beautiful state park, the Porcupine Mountains State Park. Second, it is very easy to access. Third, it’s just a beautiful waterfall. As with many other waterfalls in Michigan, Manabezho Falls is very wide but not very tall. Because it is wide, this means that the waterfall can separate into multiple little waterfalls, which I think adds to the beauty. Depending on the time of year and amount of water flowing, the falls can also take on different personalities.

Manabezho Falls is one of three major waterfalls on the Presque Isle River as the river makes its final approach to Lake Superior. The others, only a few hundreds of yards upstream, are Manido Falls and Nawadaha Falls. Manido Falls is also only a few hundred yards from Lake Superior, and the stairs that lead to the falls also lead to the short trail to the lake. When I visited, the view of the lake was just as beautiful.

There are other great things to do in the Porkies. Right near the west entrance, you can take a right onto South Boundary Road. This is an extremely beautiful scenic drive that connects you to other trails, waterfalls, and the beautiful Lake of the Clouds.

Visit #2: My father and I visited Manabezho Falls (and the other falls along the Presque Isle River) in late September 2010 after a significant amount of rainfall. The falls were at extremely high volume, especially for so late in the fall. Somebody had mentioned this was possibly the most water they had seen flowing over the falls in quite some time.

Directions:

  1. From US-2 in Wakefield, head north of M-28 for a short ways.
  2. Turn left onto Thomaston Road (which may be numbered County Road 519).
  3. If it is not numbered Co. Road 519, you will soon end up connecting into Co. Road 519. From there, just keep driving north for a ways. You will end up entering the West Entrance to the park.
  4. The parking area for the short trail to the falls is clearly marked, as are signs pointing the way to the trails.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 22′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Manabezho Falls in June 2006

Manabezho Falls at very high volume in late September 2010

Where in the World is Manabezho Falls?