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The Falls Report: Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls (Michigan)

The tannin-tinged waters of Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Waterfalls have earned a special place in the life of me and Mrs.614orty-Niner. It was during a visit to an unnamed waterfall near California's Yosemite National Park when we "figured it out", and we performed our marriage ceremony at one of the beautiful waterfalls in Ohio's Hocking Hills.

We have made it a point on our trips together to seek out waterfalls big and small, well-known and hidden. Our recent trip to Northern Michigan proved no different, as we visited the only waterfalls on Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula on an overcast August day.

As noted on the Michigan State Department of Natural Resources webpage, the Tahquamenon River and its waterfalls are the centerpieces of the of the state park which bears the same name. The park itself encompasses nearly 50,000 acres consisting mainly of undeveloped woodlands. Before Henry Wadsworth Longfellow referenced it in his poem "The Song of Hiawatha", this land was prime hunting and camping grounds for the native Ojibwa peoples. In the late 1800s, the Tahquamenon became the prime highway by which the region's lumber barons sent their logs down to mills to be processed. The soft water of the river combined with the tannin leached by the native trees gives the river's water a distinctive foamy, amber color.

Informational sign flanked by views of the Lower Falls
Of the two, the Upper Falls is the more picturesque and dramatic, with the distinction of being the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The Lower Falls offers a pleasant sequence of five smaller cascades around a island, but does provide a more scenic option for a visitor: rental boats allow you to row out to this island to get up close and personal. In addition, a trail that wends along the river allows you to hike between the falls, a journey of approximately 8 miles (due to the damp and chilly weather, we decided not to partake in either option and stick to the main trails.)

There was a $9 daily admission fee to get into the falls areas; if you plan on visiting a number of Michigan's state parks, an annual pass or a recreation passport are options to consider (prices and availability are dependent on your state residency.)  Since we paid the $9 for entry, and with eating options limited in the general area, we decided to drop by a somewhat unexpected feature of the Upper Falls portion of the park; the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub.

Some of the sights of Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub
The interior space of this eatery, opened in 1996, is reminiscent of a large wooden lodge, accentuated with all manner of stuffed real and fake animals of differing varieties. animal skins, and wilderness-related artwork. Several large beer tanks anchor the brewery's central bar area, while the Camp 33 Gift Shop can be found near the entrance.

As expected, this visit during the middle of the week meant a smaller crowd of patrons. However, previously referenced weather conditions that day pretty much scared everyone away from the outdoor eating areas, making for a longer wait than normal for a table.

Only three beers were on tap that day, and we sampled the Falls Tannin (an American Red Ale) and Cheery Wheat Ale. These two brews were pleasant enough but overall they rank a notch or two lower when compared to other Michigan brewery offerings we've had. However, the fact that you can have a beer a notch or two better than a mass-produced lager is a bonus in my book when you consider the location's remoteness.

The menu was standard American-style food, with variations of pasta, steaks, seafood and other proteins in both dinner, lunch and kid-friendly options. Entrees range from $14 to $26, while sandwich options are more in the $7.50 to $12 area.

My spouse's Lake Trout Platter ($17.99) special proved to be the best of the two food items we ordered; the trout was nicely prepared with a flaky interior, and its taste reflected its touting by the restaurant as being fresh-caught fish. My Whitefish Sandwich ($9.59) was okay but simply didn't match up to the trout. The sides, while not spectacular, were prepared quite well (the fries and onion rings were fried up nice and crispy without greasiness.)

2019 Update: address, map, and phone number information have been updated.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub
24019 Upper Falls Drive Falls Dr. (Google Maps)
Paradise, MI 49768
(906) 492-3300
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