Falls of the Black River
By Mikel B. Classen
There is much to be said about the many magnificent and wonderful waterfalls throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Black River in Gogebic County is no exception. Showcasing seven falls in a six mile stretch, there are no other falls like them in character, makeup or abundance. It is an extraordinary place any time of the year and is well worth a journey to see them.
The Black River is located 15 miles north of Bessemer off U.S. 2 on County Road 513. This is your gateway to the Black River.
County Road 513 parallels the river for six miles before entering the Black River Park. Trails leading to the various falls can be accessed from this road. In addition, the North Country Trail has incorporated this trail system into their system. It is well maintained.
All of the falls are accessible, but some are definitely easier to get to than others. Distance is marked at the beginning of each trail so you can decide right away if you’re up to the hike.
For about nine miles, the trail takes the hiker through the woods and along the gorges that make up the Black River. In the north six mile section, there are seven separate waterfalls that make this hike worth the effort. Alternate trails run off the main trail to the road at individual waterfall sites. It makes for a trail system that is quite versatile so a visitor can view as much of the area as they choose. The falls can be taken in a day or over the course of a few. They can fit any plan.
There is a campground at the end of County Road 513 and is at the Black River Harbor. The 30 site campground at the mouth of the river on Lake Superior is underused. It’s highly picturesque and well-sheltered bay has been tastefully developed into a multi-use recreation area. Although the park itself is open seasonally, it can be reached year around.
This campground is well maintained. There are electric hookups, but there are no showers or modern out facilities. The sites are well spread out so a small amount of privacy can be maintained. A small per-night fee is the only cost.
This is a harbor of refuge and can accommodate all size boats from Lake Superior. There is a large craft launch here too. A small store, which is open seasonally, provides refreshments (not groceries) and fuel. Any type of supplies should be picked up before leaving Bessemer.
A trail that leads over the river, via a long suspension bridge, eventually ends up on a Lake Superior beach. The beach which is nicely secluded, with good swimming in the summer, is one of the nicest places on the shoreline.
This area has special appeal anytime of the year. Though the campground is open on a seasonal basis, the county road is plowed and accessible all year. Each season takes on its own special characteristics and the Black River reflects them well.
Spring and fall herald trout and salmon runs. The river is well known for seasonal fishing. There is brook trout fishing, but, because of the steepness of the Black River Gorge, the fisherman should be part mountain goat. The harbor here makes it easy to do some deep water fishing on Superior in a section that is underfished.
The most unique season here is winter. Because it is accessible, the Black River presents some of the most breathtaking Cross-Country skiing and snowshoeing there is. This series of waterfalls when frozen creates dazzling ice formations and sculptures. It overpowers the senses with one winter vision after another.
This can also be an excellent side trip when visiting the area for some of the other big winter activities. On County Road 513 on the way to the Black River is Copper Peak ski flying hill and Big Powderhorn ski resort. This is a great alternative to doing the same thing all of the time. Actually, when visiting any of the several Bessemer-Ironwood area ski resorts (there are several) it’s never far to take a ride to the river.
The Black River is one of those places that shouldn’t be missed when travelling the Upper Peninsula. There are always vacant campsites and a minimal amount of visitors at any one time. The quiet and spectacular surroundings make for a classic Upper Peninsula experience.
Author’s Note: Be sure to go to the Black River that is in the Bessemer area of Gogebic County. There are at least three Black Rivers in the Upper Peninsula. There are even other Black River falls as well.
Content copyright . Mikel Classen. All rights reserved.