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Tahquamenon Falls–Paradise of Purity at Risk for Effects of Climate Change

 Tahquamenon Falls Movement and Power

Tahquamenon Falls Movement and Power

Tahquamenon Falls in located in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Lake Superior. During the spring melt, up to 50,000 gallons per second of water tumbles over the 50 foot sandstone cliff of these 200 foot-wide falls.  The sandstone is part of the Chapel Rock group of the Munising Formation, which was responsible for eroding this part of the landscape in the Cambrian period 500-600 million years ago.  It is primitive and popular with trout fisherman,  The water gets its brown color from the tannins of the surrounding cedar swamp.

 The Many Shades of Tahquamenon Falls

The Many Shades of Tahquamenon Falls

The first image was taken with a very slow shutter and filter.  The image above was taken with a fast shutter speed to freeze the tumbling water.  This served to crystalize the bands of color, making the falls appear almost rock-like.

 Tahquamenon Falls Vertical Against the Sandstone Cliffs

Tahquamenon Falls Vertical Against the Sandstone Cliffs

The water seemed almost alive as it fell over the cliffs to the river below, its droplets flipped up and back with electric force due to its velocity and mass.  I watched the water for hours, mesmerized by how many forms it could take, as it roared incessantly announcing its incredible force.  No wonder rivers shape landscapes.

 Tahquamemon Falls, Water is Gold

Tahquamemon Falls, Water is Gold

This water is pure, save for the sand that gets swept in from erosion and from the leftover damage done to the riparian banks from logging in the area years ago.  Other than that, it is pure and one of the top trout fishing destinations in the country.  It was celebrated in Hiawatha and walking along the walkways, I suspected the river appeared much the same way as it is today (save the paved trails) to an indigenous person back then. Yet, this cold water river that provides habitat for trout is at risk from climate change, as are all rivers in the United States.  Organizations like Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club have focused on this potential problem along this river and engage in conservation efforts and ways to raise awareness.  When the temperature of a river rises above 70 degrees for too long, brook trout and other cold water species of fish cannot survive.  

 Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Lower Tahquamenon Falls

The image above is of the Lower Falls, which are four miles below the upper falls.  You can see the tree being swept into the river and other branches caught along the rocks.  Yet despite all this powerful water, I felt a strong sense of peace being in direct contact with unspoiled nature unharnessed by man.  It is not every day that we can experience elemental force in a natural area and these places need to be preserved for humans to learn these lessons as well as for the species that live here, in some of the last waters cold enough to support them.