Last time I began to recap our adventure in Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains. This weeklong adventure was full of hiking, camping, and appreciation of nature’s beauty in Michigan’s largest state park. In case you missed it, check out the recap of a must do trail and must see scenic overlook, Lake of the Clouds and the Escarpment Trail.
Part of that appreciation for nature’s beauty I mentioned came in the form of waterfall viewing. This area has an abundance of waterfalls. In fact, the entire upper peninsula is rich with waterfalls, clocking in at 300+ falls of all sizes across the region, with the largest being the beautiful Tahquamenon Falls in the northeastern part of the peninsula. The Porcupine Mountains themselves have 50+ falls of all sizes. Today we will focus on three of them, including the largest one in the park, Manabezho Falls
Where in the world are we? This post focuses on the Presque Isle River Waterfalls, which are near the Presque Isle Campground on the western side of the park. (At the end of County Rd. 519)
One (of many) great things about these falls? There are three stunning falls in one easy to access trail, making the beauty of the area more accessible to more people. The three falls are: Manabezho Falls, Manido Falls, and Nawadaha Falls. These falls are along a 2 mile loop that circles the river and falls area. Don’t want to do the entire loop or want a less rugged experience? You can still see all three falls from one side of the trail.
Map of the Presque Isle River Area:
If you drive to the area, there is a convenient parking area. If you are staying in the Presque Isle Campground, the falls are a short walk from your campsite. Starting from the parking lot, a trail brings you towards the Presque Isle River.
Signs near the river warn you of the powerful waterfalls and river currents. Be smart, you can still see great views of the falls without getting too close. Tragically, a man lost his life after falling into the river here in 2020.
While this trail is more accessible for more people, that doesn’t make it an easy trail. As the landscape needed to have some elevation to make the falls in the first place, expect a decent number of stairs on one side of the river, and a bit more rugged elevation on the other side. Here’s an example of some of the stairs you can expect.
Unlike a lot of wooden observation areas at parks, these stairs and the wooden platforms are very dog friendly. That’s a common theme of the Porcupine Mountains in general, doggos welcome!
Near the meeting point of the Presque Isle River and Lake Superior, a suspension bridge crosses the river. As this trail is a 2 mile loop, this is where you cross the river on the north side. On the other side of the loop, the south side, the trail uses the bridge of South Boundary Road to cross the river.
From the bridge, you can see two different parts of the river by looking left and right. Looking towards Lake Superior will show you a river calming down from all the waterfalls it just fell over. (See Lake Superior in the distance?)
Look towards the river and you will see a river still in turmoil. See those round orangish brown areas in the water? Those are potholes.
Those potholes are one of the famous and most photographed things about these falls. These potholes form when a circular current of water carrying sand and small rocks swirl in one area over and over, breaking down the rock to form a circular pothole. They can be seen all along the river in a variety of depths and sizes.
From the suspension bridge you can continue on to the east side of the river to do the entire loop trail. The trail on the east side is a bit more rugged but offers different views of the falls not seen on the west side of the river. One of the falls that we will talk about in a minute can be seen much more clearly and more fully from the east side.
Sadly, we did not continue onto that side of the river. Looking back on the pictures I have, I kind of regret it. At the same time, I’m not sure present me could have successfully talked past me into doing the entire loop. The mosquitoes were so. bad. Huge, hungry, and barely respecting my multiple layers of bug spray. I wanted to see the falls, but I was also in self-preservation mode.
Instead of crossing the bridge and doing the entire loop, we walked back across the bridge to the west side and traveled south along the trail towards the waterfalls. Taking this path, you will quickly come upon the first and largest of the three falls in this area, Manabezho Falls.
Here the Presque Isle River drops 25 feet from this 150 foot wide falls.
You can see the orange and browns of the river as it tumbles over the edge of the rock.
I’m still working on getting that perfect “smooth” waterfall shot. This one sort of turned out with the water, but the lighting in this area was especially challenging; super bright and shiny water surrounded by dark and brooding forest.
Continuing up this path in this direction, next up is Manido Falls. This waterfall is the smallest of the three on this section of the river, with a drop of 15 feet. The falls is between 50 and 150 feet wide, dependent on the volume of the river.
After enjoying Manido Falls, continuing on in the same direction will bring you to Nawadaha Falls. At just over a 15 foot drop, this waterfall clocks in between the other two in size.
I referenced earlier that one of the falls was much more visible from the east side of the river, the side I didn’t go to. That is this falls. Here is the sight you can expect from observation deck on the west side of the river.
It’s a unique view, but it’s kind of hard to tell what you’re looking at. It just looks like a bunch of steps with water flowing over them. Borrowing a photo, here is what you can expect from the other side of the river. (Click on the photo for photo credit.)
A much different experience. See those steps on the right side of the photo? Those are the same ones from the previous photo. You can just make out the wooden observation deck above them.
After seeing the last waterfall, we backtracked to the car.
Overall, these waterfalls are another “must do” for any Porcupine Mountain trip. I know I said that about the Lake of the Clouds, so let me be more specific. If you can only do one thing in the park, make it Lake of the Clouds and the Escarpment Trail. If you can do two things in the park, make it the Lake of the Clouds area and the Presque Isle River area. These falls are impressive and relatively easy to see, making them a great option for a large variety of people and abilities.
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