Tahquamenon River - Michigan

Date: June 12, 2022; Length: 16 miles; Duration: 6 hours 30 min

Put In: Lower Falls Landing

Below Lower Tahquamenon Falls, off the North Country Scenic Trail. There is an observation area with benches leading down to a sandy area to put in from.

Takeout: Lake Superior

Just beyond the Hwy 123 bridge on river right where the river enters Lake Superior. There is a parking lot and docks for easy access.

Paddling Experience = 3/5

16 miles can be a pretty long time paddling for a day. The nature of this river didn't help there, with it being wide, flat, and lacking much current. With paddling fairly consistently, I finished in 6 1/2 hours, making for a slow rate of about 2.5 MPH.

Natural Scenery = 5/5

A nice clear river with forests covering both banks. Houses only started to appear nearly halfway into this trip, and were scattered the rest of the way. The only bridge occurred right before the takeout. Overall, the scenery was overwhelmingly natural.

Solitude = 5/5

The river is wide but you are still surrounded by forests. The Upper and Lower Falls come just before this trip's put in and are the more popular choice for spectators. In the 16 miles Below Lower Falls to the Rivermouth, I came across only two fishing boats in my 6 1/2 hours on the water.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~1 foot per mile. The river has some current but still requires a lot of paddling.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: There were no issues with this water level. The river is plenty wide enough to never have logjam issues and the water is deep enough for motorized boats.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located near Paradise, MI, with the exact location uncertain.):

  • USGS Number = 04045500
  • Discharge Rate = 450 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 3.8 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Tahquamenon River is best known for its Upper & Lower Falls. Upper Falls is a 51-foot waterfall with a 4-mile stretch of water leading to Lower Falls, that has a few Class IV rapids. I intended to include this 4-mile section below Upper Falls to Lower Falls in my plans, but chose to wait for another occasion. In place, I planned to paddle the 16-mile section from below Lower Falls to the Rivermouth, which is absent of rapids.

Shuttle: The 16-mile section of the Tahquamenon River from below Lower Falls to the Rivermouth also has the North Country Scenic Trail connecting it. This was the best case scenario for a shuttle, with it being 15-miles of the trail for the 16 miles of river. The hike was great. After the first 1/2 mile along the road, there were a handful of miles of a mix of dirt road and the trail, with the river often in sight off on the left. The last 10 miles or so were purely trail.

Paddling: After nearly 5 hours of hiking, I thought the grind was over, but the paddling quickly became the new one. The river was plenty deep and clear enough, but also wide and lacking much of a current. There are long straight stretches to it making it feel like you’re getting no where to top it off. So 16 miles of this wasn’t the best idea but after 6 1/2 miles I felt a greater accomplishment in being finished with the trip.

Observations: The water is wide and clear and surrounded by mostly uninterrupted forest. Wildlife were limited to some ducks, geese, and hawks, while other people consisted of only 2 fishing boats towards the end of this trip. Houses were scattered in the second half and the only bridge occurred right before the takeout.

Reflecting: Looking back on this trip, I’ll remember it for the paddling workout, but also the natural surroundings and cool hike for the shuttle. I’m satisfied with this trip being a one time thing but do plan to come back to paddle the 4-mile rapids stretch from below Upper Falls to Lower Falls in the near future.