OTHER THINGS TO DO

Bond Falls Scenic Site

Many attractions, including one of Michigan’s most complex and spectacular waterfalls, come together here where the Upper Peninsula Power Company dam creates the Bond Falls Flowage, over three miles across. The Bond Falls Outpost (906-827-3753) is a little ice cream-souvenir stand and camp store just below the dam, next to a grassy play area with benches. Across the road, a trail, steep and root-laced in places, winds for a quarter mile through cedars and other conifers along the Ontonagon River’s Middle Branch as it cascades over a dark, wide rim of ancient volcanic rock, fractured into boulders. Picnic tables take advantage of the picturesque setting. The river forms several pools — magnets for splashing and wading on hot summer days. It then curves and disappears, to be contained in a concrete channel that minimizes erosion and spreads out the water for dramatic effect when it emerges.

The widely photographed main falls is seen from below. Here the river drops almost 50 feel in a wide series of stair-like boulders that make complicated, curvy spray patterns in many directions. The river creates a wide pool and then divides, forming an island. A bridge lets you cross onto the island, which provides a grand photo opportunity for capturing the falls’ complex panorama against the sky, as if the photographer were standing in the river.

At the main falls, visitors can cross a footbridge to reach another, steeper trail along the east bank, returning back to the Outpost.

Bond Falls is one of the western Upper Peninsula’s most visited attractions, but until recently it was off-limits to anyone not sure of foot, let alone disabled. Now it’s fully accessible via a second entrance. A 600′ boardwalk from a new 35-space parking lot near the falls, reached by a steep new asphalt drive. Viewing platforms with artistic grillwork frame some views. People can still walk down to the water. To finally make the falls accessible, Michigan Department of Natural Resources has parlayed power site grants and funds from gas and oil drilling—despite the state’s straitened finances.

On Bond Falls Flowage, there’s a swimming beach and a long, 36-site campground along the north shore.
In Fish Michigan: 50 Rivers, fishing authority Tom Huggler says the five-mile stretch of the Middle Branch north from Bond Falls to Agate Falls is an excellent spot to fly-fish for brook trout. It’s “shallow, fast water that stays cold, . . . with some deep pools and substrate of mostly cobble and gravel.”

“Slow: congested area,” warns a road sign near the waterfall. Many attractions come together here where the road curves around the dam: the falls; the dam and nearby fishing; Falls Outpost, a little ice cream-souvenir stand and camp store; and then just north of it, a 36-site rustic campground plus picnic area and beach on the flowage.

The main trail to the falls leads down from the road along the river’s west bank into woods of cedars and other conifers. Picnic tables take advantage of the picturesque setting among boulders. The river then curves and disappears, to be contained in a concrete channel that minimizes erosion and spreads out the water for dramatic effect. The concrete terminates in a viewing platform that permits a close-up view of the main falls. A steep road – perhaps needlessly steep – now affords handicap access to the falls here.

The river drops almost 50 feel in a wide series of stair-like boulders that make complicated, curvy spray patterns in many places. It creates a wide pool and then divides, forming an island. A bridge lets you cross onto the island, which provides a grand photo opportunity for capturing the falls’ complex panorama against the sky, as if the photographer were standing in the river. Recent improvements haven’t all been to the good aesthetically: the little bridge has been replaced by a very large one. Another bridge leads to the steeper east bank trail.

 

DIRECTIONS:

From U.S. 45 in Paulding, go east on Bond Falls Road a little over 3 miles. The new parking area comes first. The Outpost is past it. From M-28 a mile west of Trout Creek, follow One Mile Road to falls.

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