West of Newberry, the headwaters of the Tahquamenon River bubble up from underground and begin a gentle roll through stands of pine and vast wetlands. Rambling and twisting northeast through Luce County, the river grows wider and more majestic by the time it enters Tahquamenon Falls State Park (41382 W. Hwy. 123, 906/492-3415). Then, with the roar of a freight train and the power of a fire hose, it suddenly plummets over a 50-foot drop, creating a golden fountain of water 200 feet wide.

The deck offers a stunning view of both the placid waters above and the furious frothing below.As many as 50,000 gallons of water per second gush over the Upper Tahquamenon, making it the second-largest waterfall by volume east of the Mississippi, exceeded only by Niagara. Adding to Tahquamenon’s majesty are its distinctive colors: bronze headwaters from the tannic acid of decaying cedars and hemlocks that line its banks, and bright white foam from the water’s high salt content.

Fall foliage highlights water cascading over Upper Tahquamenon Falls.

The bronze colors of Upper Tahquamenon Falls are caused by decaying vegetation and the white foam is due to the water’s high salt content. Photo © snehit/123rf.

Accessing Tahquamenon Falls is easy, since both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls lie within Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which provides short well-marked paths to prime viewing sites. At the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, follow the trail to the right and down the 74 steps to an observation deck, which will bring you so close you’ll feel the fall’s thundering power and its cool mist on your face, which on a hot summer day is exquisitely refreshing. The deck offers a stunning view of both the placid waters above and the furious frothing below.

Four miles downstream, the Lower Tahquamenon Falls plunge over a series of cascades. The best vantage point is from a small island in mid-river. A state park concessionaire rents out canoes and rowboats to make the short crossing.

Travel map of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (East)

The Eastern Upper Peninsula

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.