The Mackinac Bridge is one of the largest suspension bridges in the world and is the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. Every Labor Day the northbound side of the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic for the Mackinac Bridge Walk, led by the Governor. It was a pleasure to get to Tahquamenon Falls – for the beauty of the area and for relief for the high temperatures. Lansing was reporting temperatures of 100 degrees, and we had temperatures in the 90’s while we were at the cottage and in Bad Axe. What a relief to be in the high 70’s and 80’s!
We stayed at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the Overlook Campground at the Lower Falls. It’s a nice campground with good sized sites and quite a few pull-through sites. There is a hiking trail that will take you directly to the Lower Falls. However, if we were to camp here again, we would probably stay at the Riverbend Campground. It also has large sites and pull-throughs, but is closer to the river and some of the sites are on a bluff overlooking the river. As soon as we were set up we rode our bikes to the Lower Falls. It was certainly easier going down to the falls than riding uphill back to the campsite!
The weather was great for our entire stay and we biked and hiked all over. We hiked about five miles going halfway to the Upper Falls and back. We rode our bikes to the Upper Falls for a Ranger-led tour. There are observation decks right at the falls and in the gorge downstream that give you an up close view. It was interesting to find out how much the Ford Motor Company did in the area in logging and iron ore mining. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison would often camp in the area of the falls to relax and discuss their next great opportunity. The largest use of the area was the logging of white pine, and the Tahquamenon River was the primary route to float the logs down to Lake Superior after the winter logging operation. You could just imagine the log jams at the Upper Falls and the loggers climbing on them to break them apart so they could continue to Lake Superior. By the way, for any ice cream lovers, the Camp 33 concession at the Upper Falls has the best ice cream cones!
One day Bob drove to the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. Whitefish Point is the site of several famous Lake Superior wrecks, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Bob considers this a “must see” stop in the Upper Peninsula. They have done a great job in describing what life was like on the Great Lakes for the sailors on the ore carriers and the lighthouse keepers and lifesaving crews on the shore. The lighthouse keepers’ residence and the lifesaving station have been completely restored, and interpretive guides do an excellent job of putting you into the history of the period with their stories and descriptions.
One of the reasons we wanted to visit Tahquamenon Falls was so Bob could “play in the falls.” We remember at some time in the past the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) prohibited swimming in the Lower Falls, but people did it anyway. They have obviously decided they couldn’t enforce this policy so now they just warn everyone of the hazards and let them swim. The Lower Falls has several spots where you can get right under the falls, behind the flow of the river. One nice thing about the heat wave this summer is that the river was pleasant to swim in and you weren’t freezing.
The day before we left, we biked to the Upper Falls and exercised by walking and running the Giant Pine Loop of 3.8 miles through the woods. Between the running and walking and the 8 1/2 mile round trip ride to the Upper Falls we got quite a workout!
Monday, July 23rd, we left for a short drive to our next stop – Munising and the Pictured Rocks.