Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Laughing Whitefish Falls Information Page

Welcome to the Laughing Whitefish Falls Information Page.  This page has been set up to inform you about one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula, Laughing Whitefish Falls.  This page will give you a little background of the falls, along with driving directions to the falls, as well as give you a view of the many different areas where you can view the falls.  This is not only one of Upper Michigan's most beautiful waterfalls, but also one of the best kept falls. Enjoy! 
The Laughing Whitefish falls sits in western Alger County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  These falls are often called one of the prettiest in Michigan, and I can't disagree with that claim.   The falls are located about 22 miles Southeast of Marquette or three miles west of the small town of Rumely.  To access the falls,  watch for the brown signs along M-94 that say "Laughing Whitefish Falls" on them.  Follow the signs, which take you on Sundell Road.  This is a newly paved county road, so it'll provide for smooth travels.  You will come upon a hill and come to a junction.  The pavement will end, and you will continue to travel north on a gravel road.  The gravel road can be very muddy in wet conditions, so be aware of that.  You will continue to travel on the gravel road for a short distance until you see the park sign directing you to the right direction of the falls (turn right at the sign).  You will follow this road which is slightly curvy until you come upon the small parking area for the falls.  The parking area is mowed somewhat, and you will be able to see the trail leading down to
the falls.  The Laughing Whitefish falls is in a very wilderness area.  There aren't any homes for a few miles, so you will be in a secluded area.  This is great picture taking territory, so remember to bring along your camera!  The walking trail is gravel, but is a very well-kept trail.  At the beginning of the trail, there is a small bathroom facility along with a sign that shares information about the falls and the Laughing Whitefish River.  There are charcoal grills at the entrance to the park but no trash barrels on site, so please pick up your trash!  If the area is to your liking, you may stay there for a few hours and explore the forests around the falls, but the location does not support camping.  The trail leading to the falls is a long one.  It's roughly a one mile walk to the falls, so it would be a good idea to bring along the appropriate walking shoes.  The terrain is pretty level, but there are a few hills to walk up and down.  And for the elderly or for those who are tired out from the long walk, there are benches placed sporadically along the trail.  Most of the trail runs right underneath a deep layer of Maple and Birch trees, so it's quite difficult to come upon any sun
while you're walking.  At one point along the trail, you will see the Laughing Whitefish River and it will sound as if you are approaching the falls, but do not be mistaken.  This is not the falls.  This is simply the river running parallel to the trail.  It's a beautiful scene of the river and a park bench is conveniently placed right near the trail overlooking the river.  The trail continues to wind through the forests north of Sundell.  It won't be long until you will hear the final roar of the falls, and walk past the final bends in the trail.  The Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic area has three different observation decks to view the falls.  There is an observation deck at the very top of the falls, while the other two are at the middle and bottom of the falls.  Most people view the top of the falls first, before taking the long treck down the steps to the other observation decks, but it is up to you, especially if you want to get the stairs out of the way first.  At the top of the falls, the observation deck overlooks the Laughing Whitefish river as it descends below a ledge 15 feet, and then making a gradual fall along several cascades to the bottom of the falls.  The view of the water falling over the ledge and down the steps to the other observation decks, but it is up
to you, especially if you want to get the stairs out of the way first.  At the top of the falls, the observation deck overlooks the Laughing Whitefish river as it descends below a ledge 15 feet, and then making a gradual fall along several cascades to the bottom of the falls.  The view of the water falling over the ledge and down the gorge is absolutely fantastic and like I mentioned before, you must remember to bring along your camera!  On the observation deck at the top of the falls, not only can you look downward from the falls but you can also look outward and up through the opening in the sky.  This really is a wonderful place to take photos of the fall colors in the Autumn Season.  Once you have had a long look of the surroundings from the top of the falls, it is now time to descend towards the very bottom of the falls.  You probably will notice the long staircase leading to the bottom of the falls when you first enter the area from the trail and it is a rather long ways down.  It really is a marvel with how they constructed the stairways.  You will walk down the stairs a short distance when you come upon the second observation deck of the falls.  Not only will you see the 15 foot water falling down to the gradual cascades of the valley, but you will also notice the large limestone ledges that form the canon around the falls, created by massive glaciers from millions of years ago.  Some people have even climbed over the railings of the stairways and even carved their names within some of the rock canons.  Please do not do this.  It's important to keep everything as natural as possible.  It's not uncommon to come upon some
wild species within the falls area.  During one of my visits, a large porcupine was making his decent back up to the top of the canon via the steps of the trail leading down to the falls!  Now, I am sure this doesn't happen very often, but it can.  Deer, skunks, and a few other wildlife also traverse around the falls area.  Once you have seen the spectacular view of the second observation deck, it's time to make the final descent down to the bottom of the falls.  This is the longest section of the stairway you will have to walk down and up to.  But, the engineers of the stairway also constructed benches along the stairway route, for those that need to rest going up the long staircase.  You will notice a small stream running underneath the stairways as you make your way down to the falls.  Several of the concrete footings that supported the stair-structure were slowly eroding away at the bottom of the falls from the river.  Those that keep up the falls secured the footings one year, so people will be able to enjoy the falls for years to come. Eventually, you will now see the 
very bottom of the falls, and the last few steps of the staircase.  In my opinion, the final observation deck at the bottom of the falls is not big enough for a large group of people to simultaneously view the falls, but it was probably made small so it wouldn't disturb the river.  I have been told that it's very easy to see fish making the trek down the falls and back into the river at the bottom, but I've never seen any fish make it down.  And strangely enough, it doesn't hurt the fish as they glide down the rocky cascade to the river bottom.  But the view of the falls at the bottom is just as spectacular as it is at the top.  If you are able to see any people from the top observation deck above, they look as small as ants.  It's really amazing how steep of an incline the falls really is , and you are able to notice this when looking back up at the top of the falls.  When the river is low enough, people can actually walk along naturally implanted rocks within the river at the bottom of the falls and get a better view of the falls while taking pictures but it is not recommended climbing over the rails of the observation deck below to the water's edge.  It's better to be safe than sorry. Here is some additional information about the Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park:  
The area includes 960 minimally developed acres with no on-site management.  The 20 foot wide falls have a total height of about 100 feet made up of a vertical drop of about 15 feet at the top and then breaking into cascades over a stratified rock apron eight feet to the bottom.  The area boasts a variety of forest cover from virgin pine, cedar, balsam, fir, hemlock, to rare firs and wildflowers.  Major hardwoods are secondary growth and occupy upland area.  The gorge North of the falls is over a quarter mile wide, up to 160 feet deep, and runs about two miles before forming the basin of the Laughing Whitefish Lake.  The gorge walls are composed of exposed rock strata which has formed ledges of up to 30 feet in height.

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