Waterfall Hunting in Munising Michigan

Munising, Michigan is an unassuming town with a population of less than three thousand people.  It’s set along Lake Superior’s southern shore and parked at the base of towering hills.  Yet, despite its remote location, tourists invade this north woods town to witness the uplifting, and sometimes invigorating, endowment’s nature has lent the land nearby.

The premiere attraction, near Munising, is Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, with its compelling sandstone cliffs that hold the lake and roaring waterfalls that will make your heart flutter, not to mention A-class woodlands and river scenery.   The hiking inside Pictured Rocks is second to none, as we found difficult trails and easier ones for those looking for a stroll in the forest.

However, even if I did hike in Pictured Rocks to find water plummeting over tiers of rock, one does not have to venture very far out of Munising to find such a sight.  So, I decided, even if my adventurous side fell in love with the treks in the National Lakeshore, to blog about the waterfalls closer to town. After all, some just can’t make those mile long hikes.

Chances, which are abundant,  cascade within a short drive from the central downtown area.  Some of these rather steep falls have impressive sandstone canyons, worth a glance and brief exploration.  There is one location that calls for daring, as the trail rides a ridge line along a ravine.  However, most paths in the Munising area are well maintained and require little effort as they lead towards the falls.

I steer through the turns of the highway leading into Munising, having short drive to go.   As I do, I spot a foreshadowing sight, being something that I’m not accustomed in witnessing.  It’s a roadside falls and the small river that flows is riding rock, seemingly cut as a staircase created by nature.  The name of the anomaly is known as Alger Falls, and it would seem impressive in my homeland of North Eastern Wisconsin.  However, this is just a taste of Munising’s platter.

The wind is howling today and I have a canoe tightly strapped to the car.  Despite my care, the canoe is submitting to the blustery weather.  I need to find a place to leave it. Before I do, I drive to Munising Falls, being sheltered by the trees at the western border of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Munising falls is absolutely easy to find and lies near two less accessible curtains, known as Memorial Falls.  Oblivious to the two others at this point, we walk towards the fifty foot drop.  I’ve been here before and am anxious to share my experience with Heidi.   Examining the falls from different viewing platforms, we sometimes turn towards the moss covered slopes of the river valley.  Any place you happen to glance, from the sandstone canyon to the river battling rocks and branches, offers a chance for a stunning photo, worthy of one of those inspirational quotes that you find in many offices.

Here we share the easy walk and people friendly platforms with canines.  We will visit this falls twice and each time discover man’s best friend wagging his tail at the beautiful scenery.  These well behaved pets even pose for pictures as the showering water serves as a background.  I’m anticipating cleverly labeled frames highlighting their owners dens or living rooms, as this moment is featured.

We enjoy the falls and Heidi seems delighted.  I’m excited to show Heidi the third and final waterfall I know of, after that we’re both searching.  So, we lose the canoe, almost literally.   We drop it off after nearly losing it on the way to the campsite.   I feel a ton of relief.  Now we’re on our way,

It’s a short drive from our location.  All you have to do is head southeast out of town and take the first right once you’ve left Munising, turning at about the same location as Alger Falls.  We do exactly that and find Wagner Falls.  This is another tiered falls set along some scenic terrain.  It’s nowhere near the height of Munising, but the river is fuller and tumbles down the tiers of this fairy tale worthy landmark.  It’s a mixture of a rugged woodland imagery combined with the turbulent elegance of the foaming water.

This one I like. It’s a very short hike to the falls and the path is as nice as the trail to Munising Falls, which is cared for by the National Parks Service.  The stroll to Wagner  is not as impressive , as with Munising’s short trek includes a steep, forested and moss covered valley.

We jump back in the car and we’re off to search.  So we head back toward Munising and google more waterfalls.  As we do, enjoying the signal from the tower high atop a hill near Munising which, despite that fact, does not have a very long reach, we come across a billboard.  It’s advertising a waterfall and its right in a residential area.

The name of this one is Horseshoe falls and we follow the signs and find a parking lot.  After we do, I’m dismayed to see a crude cardboard sign, with the ink of a sharpie scrawled on it.  “Adults $8 and children $4”.  I’m not paying to see a waterfall when we  just witnessed two other,probably more impressive, sights for free.

We finish the day at Miners castle in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, enjoying the sight of the very impressive Miners falls.(Which I’m saving for my blog of Waterfall Hikes in Pictured Rocks).  We call it a night and enjoy the very limited nightlife of Munising and the neighboring town of Christmas.

Two days later, We discover Memorial falls.  At the trailhead, if you’re making you’re way from Munising falls, you’ll discover the grave marker of Rudolph Olson.  Hence, the name of the twin falls- Memorial falls.

This  is the most difficult hike in town, as it is certainly dangerous.  We make it safely, even if Heidi caused me alarm on more than one occasion, and enjoy the sights.  At one waterfall, there is an observation that blocks of your hike into the gorge, but the post of the fence is conveniently far enough from the sandstone to allow an average adult easy passage.  We ignore the warnings to not proceed past that point and find a cave.  I also touch this falls from behind, kind of a cool moment.  the other falls, known as Tannery Falls, is  in and adjacent ravine, both a very short walk from the other.  The parking for this falls is smack dab in a residential area, or you could trek across the highway from Munising Falls.

All of these waterfalls are very close to Munising.  As I mentioned some are next to residential areas.  You can google to find most of these.  However, we found a guide at the visitor’s center which is next to the Hardee’s coming into town from the southeast.   That made the waterfall hunting much easier, as there is a map(which is not to scale and sometimes misleading) and very good directions inside the guide.

There are a few more waterfalls west of Christmas.  We only found one named Scott Falls along the side of the Highway and, truthfully, we could have missed it and been no worse off.

There you have it.  If you’re looking for a fun and exciting day, you could visit all of these falls I named within a handful of hours.

Safe Travels!

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