Experiencing Tahquamenon Falls State Park in 2024: Waterfalls, Hikes, Swimming Holes & Hidden Gems

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

The gorgeous state of Michigan has many unique places to visit on your next summer vacation.

An hour past the Mackinac Bridge and tucked deep in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a unique, rugged, and unmissable destination.

Tahquamenon Falls Upper Falls
Upper Falls

Yes, this sprawling water wonder, (pronounced Tah-kwa-me-non), is known for its stunning Upper and Lower Falls.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park Waterfall swimming hole
Lower Falls Swimming Hole

But, it also holds surprises beyond gazing at its two waterfalls – like the fact that it offers dynamite swimming holes.

With this, and all of the new park improvements underway, see why you might want to visit this inspiring destination for the first time – or make a trip back – soon:

Tahquamenon Falls State Park sign - canva

Tahquamenon Falls State Park Overview

A State Park since 1947, this 50,000-acre swath of land envelopes most of the 89-mile-long Tahquamenon River as it flows east through Luce and Chippewa Counties.

Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan

Eventually, the river empties into Lake Superior at Whitefish Bay, just south of Paradise, Michigan.

tahquamenon falls state park map
Map of Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the second largest state park in Michigan.

The entrance fee at the gate is $17/vehicle or $11/motorcycle for MI residents. The fee for non-residents is $9 for a day pass or $34 for a year. Get your Michigan Recreation Passport ahead of time to save time & money.

A Year-Round Destination

The park serves as a year-round haven for recreation, drawing people in even during the colder months.

During the warmer months, you can camp, swim, hike, fish, paddle, go bird watching (bald eagles!), or look for wildlife.

As the seasons change, fall is a magnet for people on the hunt for fall colors.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls Fall Colors - Canva

When winter sets in, the park doesn’t close down.

Instead, it comes alive with visitors marveling at the frozen waterfalls, enjoying the deep snow on snowmobiles or cross-country skis, and signing up for lantern-lit snowshoe hikes.

WinterTahquamenon Falls - canva

Tahquamenon Trivia: Root Beer Falls

Since we’re spilling all of the Tahquamenon tea, here’s a fun fact: The Tahquamenon Falls are sometimes called “Root Beer Falls.”

The Tahquamenon River’s waters are crystal clear with a golden-brown tint, kind of like root beer.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls Rootbeer Falls - Canva

The reason for the amber-colored waters?

It’s all thanks to tannic acid, a naturally occurring substance produced by the cedar, spruce and hemlock trees growing near the river.

Plan to Spend Time at Lower Tahquamenon Falls

39956 M-123, Paradise, MI 49768

While the Upper Falls garners a lot of attention due to its size, the Lower Falls draws us in with its fabulous stepping stone swimming area.

Here, a small island is surrounded by five picturesque miniature waterfalls and we can’t get enough.

Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Lower Falls – Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Hike around the island, swim, or even put in a kayak and paddle miles to Lake Superior.

Set your alarm and keep your eyes peeled:  bald eagles fish the rapids below the falls early in the morning!

The Lower Falls also have a picnic pavilion, a kayak launch, and two modern campgrounds.

Waterfall Swimming Hole at the Lower Falls

The small falls create several natural swimming holes that are good for a fun dip.

Tahquamenon Falls Swimming Hole

Plan to spend hours here on a warm summer day when the water and weather cooperate.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park Lower Falls
Lower Falls – Tahquamenon Falls State Park

*Of course, this is a waterfall that you’re playing in. To that end:

Tahquamenon Falls lower falls

  • Use caution.
  • Obey all signs.
  • Swim and recreate at your own risk.
  • Life jackets are recommended.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Beatiful but treacherous sign

New Lower Falls Bridge Makes Island Access Easy

Thanks to a new bridge, boardwalks, and flat trail surfaces, the island is easily accessible to everyone.

new bridge to island Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park
New bridge to island – Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Hike Around the Island

For those who wish to explore beyond the swimming hole, a short hike around the island at the Lower Falls is a must-do.

This manageable hike is primarily on boardwalks or crushed stone.

new accessible boardwalk Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Accessible boardwalk pathway to the Lower Falls Island

A well-maintained trail skirts the island, giving you 360-degree views of the falls, river, and surrounding forest.

map of island Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Map – Hike around Lower Falls Island

Several viewing platforms dot the island. Take your time and get a good look at the falls and waters so clear you can see the rock layers underneath.

Tahquamenon Falls lower falls (2)

Or, choose to reach the island via a row boat. (This is how the island was accessed before the bridge was built. Rentals available at concessions.)

Lower Tahquamenon Rowboats
Lower Falls Row Boats
Tahquamenon Falls rowboat to lower falls
Rowing to Lower Falls Island

Major Improvements Elevate the Lower Falls

Recently, the state embarked on a $4.2 million upgrade at Tahquamenon Falls State Park with the majority of the improvements happening at the Lower Falls.

Pathway construction and bridge projects have made the Lower Falls easily accessible for wheelchair users.

Closeup of Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Lower Falls Amenities

As far as amenities go, they’ve also been upgraded in a major way.

Concessions Building at Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park
New Lower Falls Concession and Gift Shop

Not only is there a huge new restroom building, the concessions and gift shop have been entirely rebuilt and added to the existing picnic pavilion, kayak launch, and campground.

Plus, everything is conveniently situated near the falls – and completely wheelchair accessible – so everyone can be immersed in the natural beauty of the falls.

Available Here

  • Ice Cream
  • Paddle Boat Rentals
  • Souvenirs
  • Ice

Upper Tahquamenon Falls Experiences

41382 W M 123, Paradise, MI 49768

The Upper Falls are much larger and really something to see – they’re actually the second biggest waterfall east of the Mississippi!

At 200 feet wide and with a 50-foot drop, there’s no swimming here!

Tahquamenon Falls Upper Falls
Gorge View – Upper Tahquamenon Falls

(A ton of water goes over the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, but they still can’t beat Niagara Falls in size or volume.)

The Upper Falls offer an awe-inspiring viewing experience. This spot also houses a brewery/restaurant and gift shop.

Viewing the Upper Falls

A series of trails, boardwalks, and staircases guide visitors to five viewing points for the best views.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls State Park - Stairs to Falls
Upper Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Stairs to Falls


We recommend starting at the platforms furthest from the falls and working your way closer, saving the best for last. See the map below for details.

Tahquamenon Falls upper falls viewing areas
Upper Falls Viewing Areas


Don’t let the 181 stairs keep you from this view. The Gorge View wasn’t as hard as I thought 181 steps would be because a large portion of the access is flat boardwalk. Yes, there are a lot of stairs, but the flat sections give you a breather.

This view gives first glimpses of the falls. You’re at the lower level of the falls here, looking straight on at the cascade.

If you have a large zoom on your camera, you can get some great shots from here.

STOP 2, 3 & 4

Once you climb back up to the shady, paved trail, you will be able to catch various views of the falls from the photo areas numbered 2, 3 & 4.


The 94 steps to get to this view were worth it, in my opinion.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls Viewing Platform
Brink Viewing Platform

The Brink View puts you atop the waterfall, so you can watch the water careen over the side and even see the river around the bend. Very cool.

Brink View- Tahquamenon Falls State Park Upper Falls
Brink View – Upper Falls

Upper Falls Shops and Amenities

The Upper Falls area houses the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub, a popular year-round stop for meals and local craft beer.

They also operate a giant gift shop filled unique souvenirs.

A Fact Shack, restrooms and picnic facilities, and sometimes a food truck are available here. This is also where you can catch the shuttle to the Lower Falls.

Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub

Built to emulate a logging camp, this brewery is one of the only places you can get a sit-down meal for miles. Try their locally caught Whitefish or a UP pasty to get a taste of the area.

Tahquamenon Falls Brewery
Inside Tahquamenon Falls Brewery

Fact Shack

The Fact Shack is a covered pavilion that doubles as an info center with artifacts and displays and acts as a launch point for ranger-led activities.

Tahquamenon Falls Fact Shack

Hiking at Tahquamenon Falls State Park

There are a lot of hiking options in the state park but the most popular is hiking between the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls on the scenic Tahquamenon River Trail.

“Trail Between Da Falls”

It’s a 4-mile trail one-way.

You’ll see awesome river views the whole way. But, just a heads up – there are plenty of tree roots sticking out, hilly terrain, and lots of stairs to climb. Plus it is overgrown in spots and muddy in places.

It can be a bit tough, but it’s worth it to do at least once in your life.

Tahquamenon River Trail Hike
Tahquamenon River Trail Hike

If you would like to try it, consider using Jordan’s Hike & Ride Shuttle Service so that you can turn your trek into a one-way hike. (This privately-operated shuttle service even accepts dogs!)

*We recommend parking at the Lower Falls, riding the shuttle to the Upper Falls, and then hiking back to your vehicle at the Lower Falls.

jordan's shuttle service 2023
2023 Shuttle Schedule

If it’s a warm summer day, reward yourself with a dip in the Lower Falls and ice cream from the new concession shop!

Paddling the Tahquamenon River

You can rent a kayak from the Rivermouth Campground office and use it to explore Marsh Island’s abundant wildlife or venture into the shallow waters of Whitefish Bay and paddle along the Lake Superior shoreline.

Rentals for kayaking or canoeing are also offered by The Woods on M-123 between Newberry and Paradise, with two beginner-friendly trip options available.

Kayak Launch Lower Tahquamenon Falls
Kayak Launch – Lower Tahquamenon Falls

If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can paddle the Tahquamenon River between the Lower Falls and the river mouth. Start your adventure from either location to access this 17-mile stretch of water.

Camping at Tahquamenon Falls State Park

There are four main campground loops at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Two are located at the Rivermouth, near Paradise, and the other two are at the Lower Falls.

Tahquamenon falls state park campgrounds map
Tahquamenon Falls Campground Map

The Lower Falls Campgrounds are ideal for:

  • people wanting to be close to the falls
  • birdwatching and paddling
  • a more rustic experience

Reserve Campsite

Lower Falls Campgrounds: Modern Hemlock and Portage Loops

6999 N Lower Campground Ln, Paradise, MI 49768

Most people stay overnight at or near the falls because of the park’s remote location. For the full UP experience, consider staying at one of the Lower Falls Campgrounds (there are no campgrounds at the Upper Falls).

All sites have 30-amp service (some 50-amp sites) and a seasonal sanitation station is available.


It’s just a short walk from your tent at the Portage Campground to the awesome fun of the Lower Falls.

Camping at Tahquamenon Falls State Park - Portage Campground
Waterfront Campsite at Portage Campground, Lower Falls


  • some sites are sunny
  • river views
  • access to the North Country Trail
  • accessible facilities.
  • In winter, it’s open for hike-in camping


The Hemlock campground loop is about a mile from the Lower Falls and is open year-round. (Modern winter camping is offered.)

Most campsites are shaded under big pine trees.

Hemlock PERKS: This is the best spot at Lower Falls for cellphone service and the loop connects with park hiking trails.

camping hammock lower tahquamenon falls state park
Hemlock Loop Campground – Lower Falls

Rivermouth Campgrounds: Modern & Rustic Pines

The River Mouth area is a peaceful and beautiful spot where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior. It’s about a 20 minute drive (16 miles) from the Rivermouth Campgrounds to the Lower Falls.

You can relax, spot wildlife, go fishing, paddle, play at the beach, and enjoy stunning sunsets.


32130 W South River Rd, Paradise, MI 49768

The 36 rustic campsites (and camper cabin) at Pines Rivermouth Campground are equipped with vault toilets, but they don’t have electricity or showers.

They do have phenomenal riverfront views, though, and rustic campers can use the showers in the nearby modern campground, too.

Riverfront site R123 at Rivermouth Campground

Rivermouth Pines Camper Cabin

Rivermouth Camper Cabin


32130 W South River Rd, Paradise, MI 49768

Camp at one of the 72 (mostly wooded with large pines) sites at the Modern Rivermouth Campground for easy access to kayak rentals and creature comforts of a modern campground.

Amenities: 30-amp service, 50-amp sites, boat launch, sanitation station, recycling facilities

Where to Stay: Tahquamenon Falls Lodging

If you’re not into camping, you can still stay overnight near the falls.

Birch Lodge in Trout Lake

21830 S Birch Lodge Dr, Trout Lake, MI 49793

Our recommendation: stay at Birch Lodge in Trout Lake if you can get a room. It is a 50-minute drive from the falls, but it worth it, as it’s probably one of the nicest places you can lay your head.

This 1912 hotel has been restored and modernized in the most thoughtful way. Beds are comfortable, ambiance is relaxing and the décor, refreshing. Air conditioning is crisp and the rain shower heads add a welcome touch.

Birch Lodge Trout Lake

Bonus: Guests get free use of the row boats and sea kayaks as well as a muffin breakfast.

Birch Lodge Trout Lake

Vacation Rentals & Nearby Hotels Map

History of Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls is a place steeped in history. Considering its place in time and culture add to the experience.

Here are a few bits of relevant history:

Before this fantastic river realm was home to the Ojibwe people, and before Longfellow penned his epic Song of Hiawatha, running waters cut through sandstone and carved out the falls.

Eventually, the old-growth forest became a bustling center for fur trading and later, a hub for lumberjacks and logging.

Finally, the State of Michigan worked to take over as caretaker of the land, eventually turning it into a State Park.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park Timeline

First: Native Americans lived here

Early 1600s: French explorers come to the area and meet Natives

1634-1763: Fur trading era

1805: Michigan becomes a territory with Detroit as its capitol

1837: Michigan becomes a state.

1840: The State’s first geologist, Douglass Houghton, paddled a canoe up the Tahquamenon River to the Upper Falls and noted signs of native life along the river. Survey work of the area followed, laying the foundation for the 50 years of logging that followed.

app. 1860-1910: Logging becomes a huge industry in Michigan. Forests are clear-cut and the industry dies.

1885: Longfellow publishes “The Song of Hiawatha

1929: Six men snowshoed 50 miles, sometimes on the icy river, to capture the first-ever winter images of both falls. Once published, these photos ignited public interest, ultimately resulting in area land acquisition by the state.

1947: Tahquamenon Falls becomes a Michigan State Park

Making of Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls was created by water constantly running over the land, wearing away the softer rock (sandstone) underneath the top layer of hard dolomite bedrock.

This constant erosion created the almost 50-foot high ledge at the Upper Falls that the water cascades over today.

First People of the Land

Not much has been written about the Native Americans who lived around the Tahquamenon Falls area, but we know they were here. In fact, this area was home to the Ojibwe and other indigenous people for thousands of years prior to Europeans arriving.

Note: The Ojibwe call themselves “Anishinaabeg,” which means the “True People” or the “Original People.” Other Native Americans and Europeans called them “Ojibwe.” While “Chippewa” is a widely used term, it is the name the US government uses in its documents and is not the preferred term.

Before their world was upended, the indigenous people established a sophisticated way of life that flowed with the seasons, allowing them to thrive even with the UP’s harsh winters.

Food preservation and travel for trade and social gatherings were common practices. Strong family bonds and community connections shaped their lives, along with deeply held spiritual beliefs. Places like the falls, often mentioned in stories and customs, held great spiritual significance.

Most Native American settlements in Michigan grew up along waterways (easy transportation and a steady supply of fish) during the warmer months, with families moving inland to more sheltered hunting camps for the winter.

Every few generations, native groups would relocate to areas with fresh resources. Despite challenging terrain and soil, they grew several crops and foraged for apples, berries, nuts, and wild rice.

Maple trees were tapped for sugar production, and birch bark was used in creating wigwams, baskets, and the canoes that were important for hunting, fishing and trade.

Hardship happened, too. Relationships between tribes could be contentious, so it’s not surprising that these tribes had their share of conflict.

War with other tribes, including deadly raids and ambushes, were normal occurrences.

This pattern was normal until the arrival of white people in the 1600s.

Note: Some of the Ojibwe lifestyle is depicted in “The Story of Sault Ste. Marie and Chippewa County” by Stanley Newton (printed in Sault Ste. Marie in 1923.)

Ripple Effects of Longfellow’s Poem

The Tahquamenon River had a starring role in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.”

Reading of the Longfellow poem

(If you are new to “The Song of Hiawatha,” the epic poem written in 1885 features a Native American hero. Here are a few things to know:

  • it was an instant hit and put Longfellow – and Tahquamenon – on the map
  • the poem is loosely based on the legends of the Ojibwe and other Native American groups as they were understood by Longfellow – it contains inaccuracies.
  • Inaccuracies stem from use of Henry Schoolcraft’s sometimes erroneous writings as a source, and his own creative liberties to Anglicize the narrative.
  • Longfellow’s blend of truth and fiction created lasting misconceptions about Native Americans
  • Given the pros and cons of the piece, the poem merits a nuanced evaluation

Understanding the backstory of Tahquamenon Falls can deepen a visitor’s experience.

Tahquamenon Falls FAQs

Why are the Tahquamenon Falls brown?

The water of the Tahquamenon Falls is brown because it is colored by tannins, organic substances that are leached from the cedar, spruce, and hemlock in the swamps drained by the river. The tannins cause the water to become dark brown, similar to the color of a well-steeped tea. This distinctive coloring has led to the falls sometimes being referred to as the “Root Beer Falls.” Despite the unusual color, the water is completely safe and natural.

Can you swim in the Tahquamenon Falls?

Swimming is allowed at the Lower Falls, where the river creates several natural swimming holes. However, swimming is not allowed at the Upper Falls due to safety reasons. Always remember to exercise caution and swim at your own risk.

Brown-colored water at Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Are dining facilities available at Tahquamenon Falls State Park?

Yes, the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub located near the Upper Falls offers a variety of meals and locally crafted beer. Additionally, a concession stand is available near the Lower Falls, providing food and drink options.

Is there a shuttle between the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls?

Yes! Jordan’s Hike & Ride Shuttle Service runs between the upper and lower falls so that hikers can do a one-way hike. (This privately-operated shuttle service even accepts dogs!)

Pick-up locations are at the Lower Falls and Upper Falls parking lots. (Look for the large green flag. No reservation is required.)

The shuttle runs continuously from 12 – 8 PM every day from June 17 – Sept 2, 2024.

Spring and Fall shuttles run on Saturdays and Sundays from May 25 – June 16 and Sept 14 – Oct 6 in 2024.

Are pets allowed at Tahquamenon Falls?

Yes, it is a pet friendly park. There are rules for pet owners to follow, however.
– Take your dog with you, or get a ticket: People who leave pets in their car unattended will be ticketed.
– Keep your dog on a short leash
– Bring a bowl for water
– If you are bringing your pet, bring a bag and clean up after your pet

Does Tahquamenon Falls have an entrance fee?

The entrance fee at the gate is $17/vehicle or $11/motorcycle for MI residents. The fee for non-residents is $9 for a day pass or $34 for a year. HOT TIP: Get your Michigan Recreation Passport ahead of time to save money and get into all MI State Parks all year long.

Can you visit Tahquamenon Falls in the winter?

Yes, you can visit Tahquamenon Falls in the winter! The falls take on a magical aura in the winter season, with frozen landscapes, snow-covered trees, and icy cascades creating a winter wonderland.

Activities, like snowshoe hikes, are scheduled and snowmobiling is popular. Winter camping is available, too.

Will You Visit This Outdoor Paradise?

With its rich history, old-growth forests, hidden swimming holes, scenic hiking trails, and captivating waterfall views, Tahquamenon Falls State Park has stolen our hearts.

This dreamlike sanctuary certainly stays with you long after you have left the park.

We can’t wait to talk about one of our favorite destinations with you – Drop your tips and questions below!

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