Tahquamenon Falls is a state park about four and a half hours north of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
You can hear Tahquamenon Falls before you see it. From inside the dense forest, it sounds at first like a distant rushing noise. Then like a roar.
Located way up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the falls — which are actually two separate waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River — feel remote. They make up part of a state park that is crisscrossed by roads and paths, but that even during my visit in the summer felt mostly empty.
A long time ago, the river was used as a conveyance for newly cut logs, and logging companies sent thousands of tree trunks hurdling over the falls. The river is also famous for being a setting of Longfellow’s lengthy poem The Song of Hiawatha, and for lending their name to a Sufjan Stevens song.
The history and cultural significance of Tahquamenon Falls is great, but here’s what I really liked about it: The falls are a great place to see an incredible waterfall without many crowds and in a setting that takes some (worthwhile) effort to reach. During our drive up there, for example, we stopped at a roadside bakery and bought a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. We saw a “mystery spot” on the side of the road. And we felt like explorers in the dappled light of endless forests.
Many other big waterfalls are highly developed and crowded. My first visit to Niagara earlier this year, was rather unsatisfying, and I’ve had similar experiences at other falls that feel more like tourist attractions than natural wonders. But Tahquamenon Falls — the upper part of which is at times the third most voluminous falls in the US east of the Mississippi — is peaceful, serene, and everything a great waterfall should be.
If you go:
Tahquamenon Falls State Park includes hiking trails and campsites. Entrance into the park costs $9 per vehicle per day for non-residents, as of this writing. For more information, visit the park’s website.
— Jim Dalrymple II