The Root Beer Falls
Posted on August 30, 2019
I love waterfalls. Water starts off calmly flowing down the river, then suddenly throws itself of the edge. Sometimes just a trickle, sometimes a roaring, thunderous, gushing cascade. Being near water makes us happier (science says so! check out the article by the Conde Nast Traveler that explains it, here) and I find that watching and listening to moving water – like waterfalls, or waves – to be especially calming and soothing. It’s one of the reasons why I love Michigan so much. Water is everywhere! No more than 6 miles away, no matter where you are.
According to gowaterfalling.com, Michigan has over 200 named waterfalls (I wonder how many there are that have never been named?). Of those 200, Ocqueoc Falls (pronounced ah-kee-ock) are the only ones in the Lower Peninsula. The rest are in the U.P.! I’ve already shared a bit with you about Sable Falls, near my hometown of Grand Marais. Although the water falls an impressive 75 feet from top to bottom, it is over the course of a series of drops, and so, Sable Falls are not considered to be the largest falls in Michigan. That title goes to Tahquamenon Falls (pronounced tah-qua-men-on). There, at the upper falls, you’ll see water dropping about 48 feet in one fell swoop. And it’s no little trickle. The US Geological Survey measures the flow of the water going over Tahquamenon falls every 15 minutes, and posts the info on their website. According to their data, today, August 28 2019, the water flow over the falls was about 350 cubic feet per second. So, if I did my math right (I did. Don’t get me started how I love math. Math IS important, boys and girls, don’t let anyone tell you different) that equals about 2,618 gallons per second. Seems like a lot, right? But wait, there’s more!! We were there in May. The falls always run higher in the spring due to runoff from snow melting. The U.P. got a ton of snow last year. Also, it was a really long, really rainy spring, which also feeds the falls. This year’s water flow over Tahquamenon Falls was an incredible sight to see. On the day we were there, according to the USGS, the flow rate was about 2390 cubic feet per second which equals (yep, again with the math – deal with it) about 17,878 gallons per second. PER SECOND!! As they say in the U.P., Holy Wah!
OK, enough of science class…..wait, one more thing. Tahquamenon Falls are nicknamed “Root Beer Falls.” Why? Because of the frothy foam churning at the bottom of the falls, and warm brown and gold tones of the water, as you can see in the photos. The water gets these brown and gold tones from tannins it picks up from cedar trees as it flows thru a cedar swamp. OK, now science class is done.
How about a little info on the park? It’s a state park. You’ll need a Michigan state park pass to get in (one pass per vehicle). If you’re a Michigan resident, and didn’t already purchase your park passport when you renewed your plates, have no fear, you can purchase your passport at the park, during the summer. Not a Michigan resident? I’m sorry…….Just kidding, I’m sure your state is pretty too – tell me your favorite thing about your state in the comments! You can get a day pass for less than $10 or a season pass for about $30. There’s lots of parking. Getting to the falls from the parking requires a short walk on a paved path – only about a quarter of a mile, including 94 steps down to the viewing platform. I find it ironic that there’s a “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” sign next to the paved footpath. If you’re looking for a longer walk, and maybe a dip in the water, you can take a four mile
hike to the lower falls. This section of river is much tamer, and appropriate for kayaking and swimming. After you’ve had your fill of gorgeous water views, and fun water activities, you can head back to the parking area, and chill out on the giant deck, in a rocking chair, by the fireplace OR check out the gift shop and brewery/restaurant on site……or all of the above! The park is open all year round. It’s much more crowded during the summer, but I hear it’s totally worth a visit in the fall and winter too. I personally haven’t been there in the winter, but I’ve seen pictures. The ice structures that form are unique, constantly changing due to the flow of the water, and quite beautiful. For now, enjoy the photos I have of Tahquamenon Falls in the spring and summer months.
In the comments, tell me about your visit to Tahquamenon. Or, tell me about your favorite waterfalls to visit. I’ll be excited to put some others on my bucket list. In the meantime, as always: like, share, and follow me! Follow me here on WordPress or any of the social media listed at the top of the page! See you next week!
All photos on this page are mine, unless otherwise noted. Use of any of these images, without my express consent, is prohibited. You can, however, purchase prints and digital copies of your favorites by visiting Rachel Gage Photography.