Photo(s) by Dave Weidner
We asked Kevin Dennis, Park Supervisor at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, what he’d tell a friend to do when visiting the place he’s worked for 15 years.
“I would tell my friend to …”
- Walk to the brink of the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. They’re 200 feet wide and have a 50-foot drop and are the second largest falls east of the Mississippi. The max flow ever recorded was 50,000 gallons/second, but an average day in summer would be like 5,000 gallons/second. You can hear how loud it is, feel the mist, smell its mix of fresh and musty water.
- Hike the River Trail. It traces the 5 miles between the upper and lower falls. Sometimes you are walking along the river. Sometimes you are in big hardwood stands. It’s 10 miles round trip, but a shuttle bus in peak times can take you back to the trailhead.
- Rent a rowboat at the lower falls to go to Lower Falls Island—it’s fun to row the boat across the river. Then hike the half-mile trail around the island.
- The river mouth campground is the best place to camp in Michigan. Lake Superior is right there. Site #19 is the most popular—it’s right on the river, on the outside loop, so it’s kind of private. But there is a pile of great campsites. If you’re not a camper, rent the Tahquamenon Lodge, it’s the former park manager’s residence. Reserve a campsite.
- Hike the half-mile trail into Clark Lake. There are no motors so it’s peaceful and beautiful. You can carry or wheel-cart a canoe out there. It doesn’t get much fishing pressure—fish for perch, pike and bullheads. Look for the osprey nest on the lake.
- Hike the Giant Pines Trail. It’s a 4-mile hiking loop that starts and ends at the Upper Falls. The trail passes through mature hardwoods, some beautiful stands of hemlock and two enormous white pine trees that the trail is named for.
- Attend a nature program here. The interpretive staff does daily programs in the summer and does a great job of changing the topics to keep it fresh and fun.
- Look for remnants of the sawmill town of Emerson, on Emerson Island. From the Lake Superior shore, look for pilings from the shipping dock that was once there.
- Rent a kayak at the river mouth and paddle all around. The river is wide and slow in this stretch. Also, know this: unless you are experienced, don’t paddle out into Lake Superior. Conditions can change in an instant and become dangerous.
- Canoe the 17 river miles from the lower falls to Lake Superior. Woods Canoe Rental (906.203.7624) will help you spot a car.