Travel Dispatch: The Tahquamenon Phenomenon

Walking out to Superior atop the Grand Sable Dunes.

Ok, I’ll be honest—there really is no such thing as a Tahquamenon Phenomenon. But it’s a handy way to remember the pronunciation of the baffling name of these falls located about an hour west of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Preserved within a state park of the same name, Tahquamenon Falls includes five chutes in its Lower portion, and one huge waterfall (fifty feet high and two hundred feet across, the second biggest east of the Mississippi) on its Upper side. Little legs will appreciate the solid, smooth boardwalks (devoid of pesky tree roots and slippery rocks) that transport visitors toward great views of the falls, and there’s also a 93-step staircase that will take those seeking a closer view of the Upper Falls very close to the action. And if your family is up for something a bit more ambitious, embark on the four-mile hike that runs from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls and, quite conveniently, terminates at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub, a family-friendly restaurant and brewpub that serves a mean buffalo burger. A free shuttle is available to take you back to your car at the other end of the trail.

Further west on the peninsula, you’ll find the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Split into three distinct geographic areas, the Lakeshore includes 200 foot cliffs that plunge straight into Lake Superior, 12 miles of beach and, most interestingly, 300-foot-high Grand Sable Dunes. Head to the area around the Log Slide overlook, where you’ll find majestic views out over the dark, crashing waves of Superior and back to the towering line of dunes that border the lake. Sable Falls Trail delivers the best of all worlds. Running past the 3-layer cake of Sable Falls en route to the shore, the trail’s end puts you in two different worlds. To the east you have wild lakeshore that resembles the coast of Vancouver Island, and to the west are the dunes (reminiscent of Cape Cod or North Carolina’s Outer Banks). Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at one of the park’s visitor centres—filled with questions and activities for a variety of grade levels, kids can complete their section in the park and then proudly redeem it for a Junior Ranger badge.

And after a day in the wilds, you’ll probably welcome the comforts of civilization back in the Soo. Enjoy a hardy meal at the Goetz Lockview Restaurant (no website, but you can call 906-632-2772) or Freighters Restaurant before retiring to the soft beds and fluffy towels at the Hampton Inn (which also features a very nice indoor pool and whirlpool).

—Tim Johnson, CF‘s contributing editor

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