Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Rock River Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Welcome to the Rock River Falls informational page!  This is the site where you can get driving directions, trail information, and other geographical details about this spectacular waterfall.  It is located in a very secluded portion of the Hiawatha National Forest.  You will need some helpful directions to get to it, because you can get lost very easily.  Some of the roads and trails are not signed like they should be, but, as long as you follow along to the directions we provide here, it should be no problem for you to find.  Enjoy!
The Rock River Falls was the last waterfall that we visited during our whirlwind tour through Alger County, as we scoped out some of the best known and littlest known falls throughout the county.  I actually have a little story behind the Rock River Falls, because I had attempted to discover this falls in the past.  My sister and I had gone to the right areas, traveled down the correct paths, but we ended up becoming mightily disappointed at what we saw.  Needless to say, what we saw wasn't the falls at all!  We had traveled down the path through a dense forest for awhile and we didn't think we could go much further than what we did.  So, naturally, when we saw this tiny little stream cutting its way into the walking trail ahead of us, right away, we thought this was the falls.  It looked like a falls, as it dropped a great distance from a high cliff above, but it wasn't.  I actually navigated through another Rock River Falls website which had the correct driving directions, but didn't detail how long the walking distance was of the trail, and it didn't offer good pictures for us to see what the falls might look like.  So, when we came across this little stream running across the trail, we naturally assumed this was it.  Well, it wasn't.  I found an even better website which had some fantastic pictures of the falls, and I knew right then and there that we had to go back and see it for ourselves.  I even got a hold of better information on how long the trail was, and we were all set.  We were ready to venture out on our second adventure to the Rock River Falls.

Directions to the Falls: The Rock River Falls are located approximately 5 miles Northeast of Chatham.  To get to the Rock River Falls, you must drive, from Chatham, a short distance on County Road H-01 (or Rock River Road).  This road heads north, and the first part of it is paved, but the remainder is gravel.  Once you cross the Rock River Bridge, watch out for the Johnson Lake Tower Road on the left, which is numbered FR 2276.  From Chatham to FR 2276, you will have traveled about 3.3 miles.  Once you come up FR 2276, take a left. You will follow FR 2276 for about 3.7 miles. FR 2276 is a gravel roadway, and is mainly a one-lane road, although if you come upon another car, you can easily squeeze by.  The road is kept up fairly well, considering its out in the middle of no where.  You will have to watch for a fork in the road, and when you come upon it, you must take a left.  This is FR 2293. If you take a right at the fork, you are going the wrong way. FR 2293 isn't in as good of shape as 2276, so you may have to slow down, and watch out for mud puddles!  It is mainly a two-track road.  You will be on this road for about 0.7 miles, and then you will come upon a small parking area on the left side of the road.  You will notice large logs and boulders which outline the parking lot and trail, and a small wilderness marker will be located at the trail head.  This is where you will stop your vehicle and begin the descent down to the falls. 

The Trail: The shape of the trail varies throughout during the walk down to the falls.  When you first begin, it is in pretty good shape and fairly wide.  However, as you get closer to the falls, it grows smaller and at times, isn't very easy to distinguish.  You wind through many different parts of the forest, going up hills, traveling through mucky swamps, and even tripping over roots or rocks sticking out.  It is good to wear a good pair of hiking boots, especially during the last half of the trail, where you will come upon a few different swampy areas that you can sink into.  There is one area that is especially swampy, and no matter where you try to walk, you sink in.  We tried to shore up the area a little bit by putting in a few stepping stones, but even those sunk right in.  So, just be weary as you walk along, and as you get closer to the falls.  We even encountered a flock of partridges along the walk, so don't be surprised to see some kind of wildlife roaming through the woods.  It is very important that you wear pants and a long sleeved shirt, or at least bring along some bug spray!  The mosquitoes get really bad as you get closer to the falls, and if you don't have any bug spray, they are vicious and will bite.  Your hiking experience to the falls will not be pleasant if you do not protect yourself from the pests.  The walk into the falls is anywhere from a mile to 1.5 miles, which is generally about a 25-30 minute walk.  So, be prepared to walk a long while, and wear a comfortable pair of shoes or hiking boots!

The Rock River Falls: Despite all of the troubles you may encounter as you walk through some of the thickest of forests within the Hiawatha National Forest, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is well worth it.  For the size and magnitude of the Rock River Falls, its just unbelievable how little known these falls are.  You often hear about the falls near the Munising Area and how spectacular those are, but you never hear about the Rock River Falls.  And I think because it is in such a secluded area is why people just never get out there to see it. I think many times, people have attempted to search for the falls, but may have turned around because of a variety of reasons, either because it was too buggy, or from pure frustration of not finding the falls.  You have to have a sense of adventure in order to search out this amazing land form, and not wimp out when you come upon an unpleasant obstacle.  There were many opportunities for our group to turn around if we wanted, but it was our determination of finding the falls that really helped us to keep going, no matter how buggy or how mucky the trail was.  What you will find at the end of the trail will be worth all of those troubles in the past.  I must admit, I was somewhat hesitant whether or not I should even create a separate page on the Rock River Falls, because I can tell you that it is not one of the most visited falls within Alger County.  It is so secluded and it is way out in the middle of no where.  Now that I have had the privilege of finding the falls, I am somewhat partial to it.  It is the most beautiful falls that I have had the honor of finding for the first time.  I am sure there are others who have made the same discovery as I had, and who have also felt as similar as I feel, but I honestly believe the area close to the falls would be a wonderful camping spot, as long as the bugs don't bother you.  I am not much of a camping person, and I never have been, but the sight of these falls within the deep forest of the Hiawatha makes me yearn to go camping, and just watch the gentle beauty as the water tumbles to the rocks below.  It is a fascinating find, and it just blows me away about it being one of Alger County's best kept secrets.  Despite there being a part of me that wants to keep this information about the falls all to myself, there is another part of me, the one that is winning the battle, that wants people to know more about the Rock River Falls, and to make people aware of its existence.  People shouldn't be afraid to go out there just because it is so secluded.  It's one of nature's wonders, and it's a fabulous place to think and even reflect on life.  I just can't stop saying how wonderful it is, because it really is a nice place.  There's not much more I can say about it, either. 

The Rock River Falls is part of the Rock River (remember that bridge you cross along H-01?).  The Rock River feeds Ginpole Lake, and which then exits the lake and enters more open territory near H-01.  The Rock River Falls is also part of the Rock River Canyon, which is one of two different canyons within the Rock River Canyon Wilderness area.  The canyons are as deep as 150 feet, and its in an area where very few people have walked.  It's in a deeply forested area of the Hiawatha, where many interesting species of wildflower grow, where they remain untouched after years of existence.  The Rock River Falls is just as spectacular in the winter as it is in the summer. Ice hangs over the thick sandstone ledges in the winter, often creating an ice cave.  But, both FR 2276 and FR 2293 are not plowed in the winter season, so your best means of travel to the falls will likely be by snowmobile.  And once you get to the trail head, you must snowshoe or ski in, because motor vehicles are not allowed past the trail head.  Just handy tips to keep in mind if you ever wish to adventure out to the Rock River Falls during the wintertime!  It's even more secluded in the winter than it is in the summer. 

1 comment:

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