The snow will melt, even if five months of Upper Peninsula winter storm systems has convinced you otherwise.
And when it does, there’s no better place to be in Michigan than in Munising, where it’s possible to witness the natural beauty of 17 waterfalls come alive during the transition from frozen masses to the ferocity and splendor of running water.
“Early spring is a great time to visit because it’s a little bit quieter and the melting snow has the waterfalls absolutely gushing,” said Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s so much power in the sound of the water, and there’s no better time to enjoy it all to yourself.
“Our guests are blown away by it.”
The geological features that created Michigan’s natural beauty and attracts thousands of visitors every year also formed the lesser-known waterfalls that are an equally stunning physical phenomenon that many don’t realize exist.
The state recognizes more than 300 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula and at the epicenter of Michigan’s waterfall popularity is Munising, home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where falls can be found with access ranging from roadside stops to challenging hikes. They vary from small, stream-like drops to cascading cliff falls.
“It’s amazing because people have no idea how many waterfalls there are,” Phil Stagg, a photographer who has published five guidebooks on Michigan’s waterfalls, said in a 2019 interview. “You can find them all across the U.P., but in Alger County, and Munising specifically, there are really remarkable falls that are some of the most spectacular you’ll see anywhere.
“The variety makes a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy them at any time of the year.”
The changing seasons give waterfalls a unique look whenever visitors travel north to explore, Stagg said.
In the spring, water volumes are at a peak with the snow melt. Come summer, lush green growth of trees and other plants present a colorful and vibrant scene. Fall, Stagg said, is mesmerizing from the contrasting colors of the changing leaves. Winter offers a chance to see water seemingly frozen in midair.
“There’s always something new,” said Stagg.
Cearley said she frequently recommends self-guided waterfall tours or Pictured Rocks boat trips that offer waterfall views to prospective tourists or guests who stop in for information. She’s usually greeted with words and looks of disbelief.
“I have to convince them that there are actually waterfalls all around us,” she said. “Once I show them pictures and describe what they’ll find, there is a lot of excitement and interest. They come back and are thrilled to have seen something they never had before.”
Cearley said waterfall enthusiasts and first-time visitors can tailor their tour to their level of adventure. The most popular falls are usually the most accessible and the more secluded the fall, the more you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Here are some of Cearley’s recommendations:
Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and it has a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in every season.
Miners Falls: The impressive 50-foot fall is a 20-minute walk from a parking lot of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are two platforms for viewing and the park service advises to take the time to enjoy the views of the Miners Basin.
Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.