Hiking and Waterfalls of the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, Upper Peninsula, Michigan
The Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness exemplifies everything that I love about the Northwoods. Secluded, rugged and photogenic! Like standing next to a tsunami This is a classic example of a magnificent place that I would not have known about had I not been in the area. Often when I travel, I have a faint scaffolding of...
The Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness exemplifies everything that I love about the Northwoods. Secluded, rugged and photogenic!
Like standing next to a tsunami
This is a classic example of a magnificent place that I would not have known about had I not been in the area. Often when I travel, I have a faint scaffolding of where I want to go and make sure that I allow plenty of time for stumbling upon new places. In this case, I must thank the kind folks at Baraga County Tourism who illuminated this vast wilderness to me.
The interior of the Upper Peninsula is as unspoiled and untraveled as it gets. If you understand how difficult it is for an area to attain "Wilderness" status in the US, you would know that this is no exaggeration. The exact wording of the law states that it is "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" (Wilderness Act of 1964). I had a keen sense of this while wandering through these wilds.
View from the top of the gorge
Getting to this are requires comfort in navigating unmarked logging roads although I had no trouble with clearance in a two wheel drive sedan (even following a rainstorm). The roads are fairly well graded and though I wouldn't go careening 40 miles an hour down them, I didn't feel too slow either.
The entrance to the wilderness area is deliberately vague. There's a parking area that is marked and then the trail leaves right across the street. Directions and maps can be found here and several other websites though I would strongly suggest that the traveler visit the Baraga CVB for a free, very detailed map of the area and any updates on road closures. With those directions, I had absolutely no trouble with navigation
Fairly typical roads of the area- not too shabby for a two wheel drive vehicle
The classic pentagonal sign marking a wilderness area in the US
The hike that nearly ever visitor to the area completes is the hike to the Sturgeon River Falls. There's so much to enjoy about this hike. First, it immediately dips well below the rim of the canyon and into the wild. The waterfall is visible within the first mile and the trail skits the side of the lower gorge all the way along the river's edge. It is not unusual to see bald eagles and bears and this would be one of the better opportunities to see a moose in Michigan. Even if no large wildlife is seen, birding opportunities are abundant. For a complete list of wildlife that can be spotted in the gorge, visit here.
I have been ever so lucky to visit this place after a thunderstorm. Sure the trail was a bit muddy but were the falls ever thunderous!
Here's another one of the lower falls-
The trail essentially fades into the woods along the river though there appear to be many informal herd paths that lead up the ledges. Towards the top of the ledges, I caught a great view of the river as it makes a large U - shaped bend. Nice spot for lunch!
The whole hike took less than two hours. It could be considered a bit strenuous coming back up the to the canyon rim but overall I think it's fairly do-able even for a less experienced hiker.
Just south of the trailhead for the falls is a pullout for one of the overlooks above the rim and it's a fine place to get some perspective on how deep it is. Bet you weren't expecting such a sight in the midwest!
Adventure is out there! The Pursuit of Life is an outdoor adventure blog that’s dedicated towards providing guides on a variety of outdoor activities and wild places in the United States and Canada. This is a blog for people of all levels and experience and is not limited to any state, province or sport. Activities that are covered in this blog include hiking, mountain biking, climbing, kayaking, mountaineering, thru-hiking, caving, trail running, trekking, canoeing, ice climbing and general exploring.