Tahquamenon Falls & Pictured Rocks, August 2000

Day 2

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Click here for map, mileage and trail elevation information - Tahquamenon Falls
Click here for map, mileage and trail elevation information - Pictured Rocks

When we got out of the tent on Tuesday morning we discovered a gentle breeze and a gloomy, overcast sky. It obviously had rained at some time during the night because the ground and the outside of the tent were soaked. We ate a quick breakfast, loaded a few things into a backpack and drove a short distance to the Tahquamenon River trailhead. I had never taken photos with black and white film so I decided to try out a roll on this trip. I actually got a few pictures that looked pretty good in black and white so I put a couple in this trip journal.

The Tahquamenon River Trail begins about 1/4 mile away from the lower falls and then winds its way, in a southwest direction, through the forest until it arrives at the upper falls four miles away. The trail itself is generally level and easy-going with a few hilly areas thrown in for a change of pace, and it closely parallels the course of the Tahquamenon River so we usually had a good view of the river during the hike. While we only hiked along a short four mile section of the Tahquamenon River, the river itself it is actually quite long. The river flows for a total length of 94 miles from its source to the point where it enters the cold waters of Lake Superior at Whitefish Bay.

The lower falls, near the northeast end of the trail, consist of five small waterfalls and a small island in the middle of the river. While not quite as impressive as the upper falls, they have their own unique qualities which make them interesting and peaceful. The water in the Tahquamenon River has a brownish color making it look like a river of root beer flowing through the wilderness, complete with the white foam. The first thought you may have is that the river is very dirty, however, the river is clean and acquires its brown color from tannin. The tannin comes from dead trees, like Spruce and Cedar, which are in swamps along the path of the river. As the water flows downstream it picks up the tannin from ground water and smaller streams that empty into the larger river.

Even though the sky was overcast the hike was pleasant and we had the opportunity to get some nice photos of the falls and the landscape. The upper falls are quite impressive, especially since it is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. We began to hear the thundering noise of the waterfall a short distance from the falls themselves. And it's no wonder. The upper falls is about 200 feet wide and has a drop of 50 feet to the river below. It is estimated that 50,000 gallons of water cascade over the falls every second.

By far, the most "exciting" part of the hike took place at the upper falls. Shortly after we walked up the stairs to the observation area we saw several people pointing out toward the river a short way back from the edge of the falls. When I looked up I discovered what everyone was so amazed about. In the middle of the river, stumbling over slippery, jagged rocks, was a medium-size dog that wandered to explore his surroundings. I could see a man on the opposite side of the river walking along a path in the woods. I don't know if he was the dog's owner, but he was definitely oblivious to what was taking place in the middle of the river. As everyone's eyes were fixated on the dog, the next obvious thing took place. While the dog was wading in the river it lost its footing and was swept downstream by the current. Several people let out a gasp as the dog helplessly moved downstream toward the edge of the falls. The dog didn't know what was coming because its head was facing upstream away from the falls, but it was more than apparent that it was struggling to put its feet back on solid ground. Then, at the last possible moment, just before the dog's back feet went over the edge of the 50 foot drop to the pounding water and large rocks below, it managed to latch onto something, but it was not safe yet! Everyone watched as the dog struggled against the current and slowly made it away from the edge of the falls, and a certain death, to the shore on the opposite side of the river. I could hear several people give a sigh of relief assuming that the dog was now safe, but everyone knows what they say about assuming something. I was thinking this was one very lucky dog, but I had to change my thought to, "this is one very stupid dog!" because it no sooner got to the shore and walked upstream a short way before it ventured back into the fast moving river. The entire drama replayed again as everyone watched, almost as if the dog was rehearsing for a part in a suspense movie. The dog was again swept off its feet and again came within, literally only inches, of being washed over the edge of the upper falls. Once again, the dog struggled for its life at the edge of the upper falls until it managed to pull away from the edge and make its way to the shoreline where it finally wandered off into the woods. It was an amazing ordeal that I still find hard to believe, even though I witnessed it with my own two eyes.

We ate lunch near the upper falls and then hiked back down the trail to the car. The forecast was for periods of rain during the day, but we never had to pull out the rain gear. Even though it was overcast all day, the temperature was perfect for hiking. We made it back to the campsite, got a campfire going, ate dinner and played cards for a few hours before going to sleep.

Miles covered today: 8
Total trip miles: 9.5

Day 3

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:22 AM