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Tahquamenon Falls: See Michigan’s Largest Waterfall

If you’re exploring waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula, visiting Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a MUST! It’s a mouthful to say, but a jaw-dropping site to see in all four seasons.

Hours and Costs at Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is between Newberry and Paradise and home to both the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls. It is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, all year round. To access the park, you will need a current Michigan Recreation Passport for residents or non-residents. Details here.

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Tahquamenon Falls Facts

Tahquamenon (Tah-kwa-me-non) Falls State Park is located at 41382 W. M-123, Paradise. There is also an entrance to the park on M-123 in Newberry. 

Plan to spend one to three hours at Tahquamenon Falls — although you can easily fill a couple of days with activities, so consider staying over one or two nights. Besides the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls, this 48,000-acre park has many other places for you to go outside and play. The park has 13 inland lakes, 24 miles of the Tahquamenon River, approximately 20,000 acres of natural area and over 35 miles of trails to hike and, in winter, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski too. People often refer to the falls as one, when in fact, several falls make up these popular landmarks. Here’s what you need to know about the destination you’re visiting! 

The Tahquamenon River 

First, it isn’t just about the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls. The Tahquamenon River plays an important role, too. Both the Upper and Lower Falls are on the Tahquamenon River. It starts from a spring near Newberry in Luce County and flows 89.1 miles to Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior. The miles of forest lands and waters surrounding the river are home to white-tail deer, moose, bear, wolves, porcupine, otters, mink, fox, coyote, beaver and dozens of bird species.   

The history of Tahquamenon Falls

The area around the Tahquamenon River and Falls had a rich history with the Ojibwe families who hunted and lived in the region. When European explorers, missionaries and settlers arrived, fur trading was an important business, followed by logging. 

There are several meanings for the word Tahquamenon. One theory attributes it to an Ojibwe word for the water’s amber brown color, another to the Ojibwe word for dark berry or place of the blueberry swamps and still another to the word “Outakouaminan” which was written on a Jesuit map (circa 1671). It marks Tahquamenon Island, a rocky hump in Whitefish Bay, a few miles from the Tahquamenon River mouth.

Perhaps what made the Tahquamenon River the most famous is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Song of Hiawatha” (1856). The main character builds his canoe “by the rushing Tahquamenaw.”

In 1936, the State of Michigan acquired 2,200 acres surrounding and including the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls from the U.S. Forest Service. After acquiring other lands through gifts, tax delinquency and exchanges, the Michigan State Parks Commission officially dedicated 17,000 acres in January 1947 and named it Tahquamenon Falls State Park. It is now one of the most-visited and photographed state parks in Michigan.

The Upper Tahquamenon Falls 

 

Height of the Upper Tahquamenon Falls 

Not only is the Upper Tahquamenon Falls Michigan’s largest waterfall, but it is also one of the largest waterfalls in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The Upper Falls are nearly 200 feet across and 50 feet high. Each second you spend at the viewing platform, up to 50,000 gallons of water flow down the falls right before your eyes! 

Why is Tahquamenon Falls that color?

The falls’ nickname is “Root Beer Falls.” Pollution does not cause the brown, rusty coloring and white foam. It’s all natural. As the river flows through cedar and hemlock swamps upriver, the tannins from plants and bark leach into the water giving it its coloring.

Directions to Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Follow these directions to get to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, Michigan in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. 

Viewing the Upper Tahquamenon Falls

To reach the Upper Falls, walk a short distance from the parking lot and follow the ⅓-mile ADA-accessible paved path and boardwalk to the viewing area. For a closer look at the brink, you will need to descend 94 steps. From the paved path, you also can take a right at the fork and descend 116 steps to the base of the gorge. A long boardwalk path takes you to a viewing area that gives you the most direct view of the falls.

Visit the Fact Shack near the parking lot to learn about the falls. At the Fact Shack, you can borrow the track chair which lets people with mobility challenges access areas of the park that a wheelchair cannot reach. The off-road, electronic track chair handles trails, snow, sand and up to six inches of water. It is free to use on a first-come or reservation basis. You also can borrow, at no cost, wheelchairs from the Fact Shack.  

There are also ADA-accessible, non-gender restrooms, a brewery/pub (more details below) and a gift shop at the Upper Falls.

The Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Four miles downstream from the Upper Tahquamenon Falls is the Lower Tahquamenon Falls. It is a series of five small waterfalls cascading around an island. You can reach the falls on a trail or with your vehicle, both from the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. 

Directions to Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Follow these directions to get to the Lower Tahquamenon Falls at 41382 W. M-123, Paradise. 

Getting to the island at the Lower Tahquamenon Falls

There is now a footbridge to the island! A 0.4-mile, ADA-accessible path from the parking lot takes you to viewing areas along the river bank. A 143-foot, universally accessible pedestrian bridge offers beautiful views of the falls and Tahquamenon River. Once on the island, you can take an ADA-accessible boardwalk around the island for close-up views of the falls. There are also ADA-accessible restrooms and a concession store are also at this site. 
 

Things to Do at Tahquamenon Falls

 

Bring your four-legged friends!

You are welcome to bring your dogs to this state park. Always keep your pet of any size on a leash up to six-feet long. Your dog must be current on its vaccinations and rabies shots. Please clean up after them. For your dog's safety and comfort, never leave your pet unattended. 

Fido Tip: You will have to climb and descend many stairs to reach some of the observation areas. The steps have open grates that make some dogs anxious. Also, as you explore the park, please honor any “no pets allowed” signs. 

Well-behaved dogs are welcome in the outdoor seating area at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub at Camp 33 near the Upper Falls. 

Tour the Upper Falls 

Upper Tahquamenon Falls Naturalist Guided Tour: Join an interpretive ranger on a 45-minute walk to learn more about Michigan’s largest waterfall. Meet at the black bear display in the Fact Shack. June 27, 2022, to August 26, 2022; 2 p.m. daily.

Brewery and food

Enjoy hand-crafted micro-brews and hearty pub food at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub at Camp 33 while at the Upper Falls. Privately owned, it is open in the spring, summer and fall, daily from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Browse through the Camp 33 Gift Shop from a wide selection of shoes, clothing, jewelry, toys, stuffed animals and more. 

Play in the water

On hot summer days, wade or play in the cascading water and the river surrounding the Lower Falls. The riverbed is rocky, so wear your water shoes.

Paddling to the island and along the river below the falls is also fun for the whole family! Rent a rowboat or canoe and life jackets from the concession stand for a reasonable rate. Rentals are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You also can rent canoes and kayaks and arrange one of two trips on the river from The Woods

If you bring your kayak or canoe, you can paddle up to 17 miles on the Tahquamenon River from the Lower Falls to the river’s mouth at Whitefish Bay. Look for wildlife along this scenic trip.

Explore the History

Want to see original buildings and memorabilia of Northern Michigan’s lumberjack days? Take M-123 to the Tahquamenon Logging Museum to learn the colorful history of timber in this region. A Paul Bunyan statue will remind you why he was such a tall tale in these parts!

Tour by riverboat

Take a tour to Tahquamenon Falls on the Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat and the Famous Toonerville Trolley Wilderness Train Ride! Located at 7195 County Road 281, Soo Junction, these tours last 6.5 hours from July to the beginning of October. This is the only tour to the Tahquamenon Falls via boat and train. 

Ride 35 minutes aboard the longest 24-inch gauge railroad train in the U.S. through the remote wilderness. It stops at the dock on the Tahquamenon River, where you will board a spacious riverboat for a 2-hour narrated cruise along the pristine river to the rapids a half-mile above the Upper Falls. There you can walk to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls (not ADA-accessible) to see this magnificent water wonder. The riverboat will return you to the train and a return trip back to Soo Junction. There are restrooms and a cafeteria on board the riverboat with food and beverages. The tour departs at 10:30 a.m. and returns at 5 p.m. See days and costs on the tour’s website. Group rates and private charters are available with reservations.

Hike at Tahquamenon Falls

For hikers or those on Upper Peninsula road trips, get your legs moving! There are hiking trails along the four-mile trek between the Upper and Lower Falls. Beyond that, the state park has over 35 miles of trails, which enable people to see beautiful portions of the park that are less visited. The longest hike is along the North Country National Scenic Trail. It travels 16 miles within the park, including the trail between the Upper and Lower Falls. 

Other reasons to lace up your boots in this gorgeous wilderness are:

Tahquamenon Falls-Clark Lake Loop

Trail Length: 5.20 (Miles)

Tahquamenon Falls-Emerson Trail

Trail Length: 1.00 (Miles)

Tahquamenon Falls-Giant Pines Trail

Trail Length: 3.80 (Miles)

Tahquamenon Falls-Nature Trail

Trail Length: 0.50 (Miles)

Tahquamenon Falls-River Trail

Trail Length: 4.00 (Miles)

Tahquamenon Falls-Wilderness Loop

Trail Length: 7.00 (Miles)

Fish at Tahquamenon Falls

You can wet your line below the Lower Falls and for 17 miles along the river to its mouth at Whitefish Bay. Expect to catch northern pike, muskellunge, walleye, yellow perch, brown trout or smallmouth bass.

Within the state park are 13 inland lakes. Three popular places to fish are Betsy Lake, Clark Lake and Sheephead Lake where you can reel in northern pike and yellow perch. These are good ice fishing sites, too. Learn where to find other fishing holes in Tahquamenon Country.

Wherever you fish in the park, anyone 16 years or older will need a current Michigan fishing license. Learn more about regulations, free fishing weekends and where to get a license, here

Learn more about the wildlife, eco-systems and more

Attend one of the naturalist-taught Explorer Programs held at the park between Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekends. There are classes and workshops for young children and adults. Check out this summer’s calendar of enriching nature programs here.

Birdwatch

The Tahquamenon Falls area is on the ancient migration corridor for hundreds of bird species in the spring and fall. It is also a nesting habitat for approximately 125 species. As you hike the trails or walk the beach at the river’s mouth, look for a variety of shorebirds, songbirds, bald eagles, sand cranes, winter wrens, black-throated blue warblers, pileated woodpeckers, black-throated green warblers, blackburnian warblers, least flycatchers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, red-eyed vireos and wood thrushes. Use this checklist to record your sightings and share your photos on social media with the hashtag #uptravel. Learn more about Upper Peninsula birding.

Hunt

You may hunt, in season, throughout the state park except where it is posted not to hunt around the visitor centers and campgrounds. Michigan hunting licenses are required. Call the park office for special rules and more information: 906-492-3415.

Winter Sports

Winter brings snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the miles of marked trails. The pristine snow (averaging 106 inches annually in the Tahquamenon area) and temperatures that are rarely bitter cold get high marks from winter sports enthusiasts. 

Snowmobilers especially like riding their sleds along the Tahquamenon Scenic Byway that runs between Newberry and Paradise. You can get on and off the trail at comfortable lodgings and restaurants in both communities. A favorite ride is on Trail 8 which passes two miles south of Crisp Point Lighthouse on CR-412. Occasionally they can groom the trail that takes you to the lighthouse and Lake Superior shoreline. You’ll never forget this ride! Chippewa County snowmobile trail report

Prohibited at Tahquamenon Falls

While the opportunities are nearly limitless for a day exploring Tahquamenon Falls State Park, here are a few things we ask that you don’t do to preserve the park:

  • Drone use is prohibited on or above the viewing areas.

  • No swimming, wading or paddling near the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. 

  • Possession of alcohol is strictly prohibited for anyone under 21 years old. Marijuana use is prohibited and not allowed anywhere in the park. 

  • Do not transport firewood into the park. Purchase only certified, heat-treated firewood at the park or from nearby vendors.

Places to Stay Near Tahquamenon Falls

 

Hotels

People have been traveling to the Upper Peninsula for centuries, so expect warm hospitality wherever you stay. Whether you travel alone, as a couple, with your family, pet or friends, you will feel right at home. Our motels happily accommodate your motorcycle or snowmobile, too, if you are coming to ride through our beautiful four-season paradise. Learn more about lodgings and resorts near Tahquamenon Falls. Or stay a short drive away near other popular attractions in the Central U.P. The falls may not be made of root beer, but you are guaranteed to have a sweet time!

Camping

Make some of your happiest memories in the campgrounds near Tahquamenon Falls. Cooking over an open flame, singing and sharing family stories and ghostly tales around the fire pit, playing games and burning off energy at the playgrounds and looking up at a night sky filled with stars and planets. Be ready to make a wish on the first star you see each night!

Other nearby camping options