Tahquamenon Falls & Soo Locks

Paradise to Sault Ste. Marie, MI – August, 2016 The next stop on our itinerary was the Tahquamenon Falls near Paradise, Michigan. We hadn’t made any reservations up until this point because we wanted to spend as much time as we felt like at each of our stops without being rushed to meet our next reservation and I hate paying reservation fees. When we researched the only camping options in the area we were not surprised that they were booked for the weekend so we settled on a single Thursday night reservation.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park has three campgrounds. We got the last site with electricity at the campground furthest from the actual falls, Rivermouth Campground. We paid $33 which included the dreaded $8 reservation fee. We didn’t have to pay the $8 daily use fee since we had bought Michigan’s annual park pass.

We arrived at 10 am even though checkout at Michigan State Parks is 1 pm and check-in is at 3 pm. We took a gamble that the site would be vacated before 1 because we prefer to travel before noon and we had a lot we wanted to see in the area. We discovered the site was still occupied so we parked in their large overflow parking area.

We had lunch then explored the vicinity by foot until the occupant left at noon. We then moved in, set up, and set out to visit the main attraction. It was a 16 mile drive to the lower falls.

Tahquamenon Falls consists of an upper fall and the lower falls with a 4 mile stretch of river between. There is an accompanying 4 mile trail between that is a very popular hike. They even offer a shuttle service so you can make the hike either direction then get a lift back to the start. Unfortunately we wouldn’t have time for that on this visit.

The lower falls consist of several falls on either side of an island in the river. When you get to the main viewing area this is what you see.

Your options from here are to rent a rowboat for $7 per person or $20 per family or be shuttled over for $10 per person. Then you can play in the falls and walk around the island. We chose instead to walk the less than half mile trail to the right hand falls viewing platform you see in this photo.

There is no access to the water from there as far as I could tell but you do get a view upriver that includes a third fall.

There were a lot of people who had made the trip to the island and were enjoying playing in the falls. Without traveling to the island the best view you can get of the left-hand falls is by zooming in.

We then made the 5 mile drive to the upper fall. This is a single large fall and they have extensive trails built along the gorge so you can view it from every possible angle. The best view was from the lower trail below the fall down 200 steps and then a short walk back up river.

We chose to visit Whitefish Point, 17 miles north of our camp, early the next morning. It is a prominent point of land sticking out into Lake Superior that every ship entering or leaving the lake must pass. For this reason the Whitefish Point Lighthouse is considered one of the most important lights on Lake Superior.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located there and even though it was closed we enjoyed walking around the grounds. We would have liked to visit it but they didn’t open until 10 am and we were anxious to be on the road by then. We were excited to get to our next stop.

Sault Ste. Marie is home of the Soo Locks that make it possible for ships to traverse between Lake Huron and Lake Superior which is 21 feet higher. The Soo Locks visitor center is enlightening, entertaining, and free. There is a viewing platform where you can watch ships enter the locks, be raised or lowered depending on which direction they are heading, and then sail away. There is also a small but very informative shipwreck museum.

We seriously enjoyed our time in this community which was colorful and entertaining. I loved how they painted many of their crosswalks.

They have so many incredible old buildings like their gorgeous courthouse.

I was fascinated with this huge building that turned out to be the Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant which opened in 1902 and straddles the St. Mary’s River.

I was determined to get some good pictures of it but it was so massive and there was so much crap in the way, powerlines, buildings, etc. I was mostly just successful at getting odd looks from the scores of fishermen that surrounded it.

We were lucky to have arrived in town during their Downtown Days festival. They had lots of street vendors, a petting zoo, and a good car show. Both sides of the street were lined with a great selection of classic cars for several blocks.

We camped at Soo Locks Campground and paid $31 per night for a water and electric site just one mile from downtown. Our site was not waterfront but was just one row back so Jim could see the ships passing from his recliner. It was very entertaining to pull our lawn chairs out to the waterfront and watch the big ships float by.

Across the water was Canada and upstream the Soo Locks, and the international bridge to Canada.

On Saturday there was a speed boat race downstream and the competitors roared past several times.

We loved our stay here and would be happy to return some day.

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