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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

A Rootbeer Waterfall?

~Saturday, July 10, 2021~

Day 391

The great thing about our campground is that it’s very close to Mackinac Island. But on the flip side, it is quite a distance to anything else. Today’s adventure was to Tahquamenon Falls State Park about an hour-and 20 minute drive to Paradise, MI, but apparently well worth it as it is listed in the top 5 things to see when in the U.P. Tahquamenon Falls State Park has a total of 46,000+ acres which makes it Michigan’s second largest state park.

When the 4 of us finally arrived (yes Sadie joined us on this little jaunt), we parked at the Lower Falls parking lot where the effort you have to put in to see them is minimal (maybe a ¼ mile walk). It was pretty crowded but knew as soon as we got on the main trail to the Upper Falls, the numbers would start to dwindle.

The first thing you notice is the water’s amber color, resembling rootbeer, thus its nickname “Rootbeer Falls”, which we found out comes from the tannins that leach from the cedar swamp at the start of the 89-mile Tahquamenon River. There is a series of 5 smaller falls (smaller than the Upper Falls), that cascade around a good-sized island. There were a few people enjoying the Lower Falls from the river itself, but most people view from the several overlooks directly across from them.

Next, the Upper Falls. For those seeking the easier route, you can drive 4 miles to the Upper Falls. But for those seeking a little more adventure, there is the 5.1 hike. Which one do you think we preferred? Why of course, the hike to get that heart a-pumpin’. Tim was using one of his phone apps to get us to the falls, which showed the route basically following the river. Early on, we came to a fork where one way appeared to route us closer to the river and the other steering us away. But the one that seemingly was steering us off course, was the marked trail (the trees have blue x’s on them which usually denotes a trail). So the boys thought we should use the one closest to the river. After about 10 minutes of bushwhacking, we all decided that this was clearly the wrong decision. Jeff cut across from the wrong trail to what he thought was the right one, and there it was. We were back on track. Eventually, that trail led us back down to the river, so it appears we originally just didn’t give it enough of a chance.

The forest scenery was quite nice, when you could pause to look at it. It was hard to take in all the scenery since you had to constantly observe your footing with all the tree root obstacles in the path (and they were everywhere). The trail itself didn’t appear to be in the best shape which is why we’d give it a 6 out of 10. But what waits at the end quickly escalates the review to a 10. As you get closer to the Falls, there are small observation booths, if you will, that give you a distant glimpse of the Falls.

But to really get the spectacular view, you have to walk down the 94 steps, to hear and see the most voluminous waterfall east of the Mississippi (behind Niagara Falls). With a 200-foot span across, and a 50-foot drop, there are 50,000 gallons of water rushing over the brink, every second.

But what makes this waterfall even more spectacular is what awaits you at the end… and beer! Oh and there’s a shuttle service if you don’t want to hike the 5.1 miles back to your car. While we pondered over whether to hike or shuttle back, we each had a refreshing beer. I’d never tried a blueberry beer before, so it sounded intriguing. It was delicious! Tim ordered a quesadilla, while Jeff and I had snacks we had brought. It was nice to just sit and relax. Unfortunately, my right heel has really been bothering me, so it didn’t take long to come to a decision in taking the shuttle back. $13.00 for the first person, $3 for each additional group member. Yes, we had just the right amount of cash! Our driver was a school teacher from Michigan who, with his summer’s off, brings in a little extra cash by shuttling people back and forth between the Upper and Lower Falls.

On the way back, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things for our taco dinner. The last few days have been quite adventure packed, so we were all ready to call it an early night. Time to ice the heel, and get some shut-eye.

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