Agate Falls

near Bruce Crossing / Interior Township / Ontonagon County, Michigan, USA

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 2.5
Agate Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Bond Falls was a waterfall in the western side of the UP (short for Upper Peninsula of Michigan) that seemed to be a sentimental favorite amongst those "Yoopers" (folks who live in or frequent the UP) from this local region of the state. Just about every "Yooper" we spoke to in the area considered this to be the prettiest waterfall in Michigan, even trumping the more famous Upper Tahquamenon Falls. And after seeing this waterfall for ourselves, we can see where they were coming from. After all, Bond Falls featured a wide but graceful characteristic (the kind that Julie says has "character") that seemed to be very photogenic so I was definitely glad that I had brought my tripod along for this excursion. Moreover, we were able to experience the falls from a variety of positions given the nice infrastructure here in the form of boardwalks and trails surrounding this part of the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River. Indeed, given its ease of access, scenic allure, size, and even some of the fall colors nearby, we were getting as sentimentally caught up with this falls as the locals!

The walk from the dedicated car park to our first views of the falls took less than five minutes. Most of our time spent on this excursion was pretty much checking out the falls from the entirety of the 600ft boardwalk and developed trails right around the impressively wide curtain of water. At least that was what I was busy doing when not using the tripod to take family photos. Apparently, this boardwalk was the result of a recent improvement effort that made this waterfall even more accessible to a wider pool of visitors than before. In any case, Julie was busy watching Tahia drop leaves into the river and watch them flow away much to their amusement. Indeed, this was one of those places that was perfect for the enjoyment by families as well as for channeling our inner Ansel Adams to make our attempts at capturing this magical place in photographs.

First (albeit partial) look at Bond Falls Now while we made numerous attempts to take photos and try to capture the falls in a way that would adequately convey what we saw and the mood it put us in, admittedly this was not an easy exercise. The reason was that Bond Falls was so wide (said to be about 100ft wide as well as 40-50ft tall) and there were trees obstructing part of its view that it was difficult to get that all encompassing shot. That photo you see at the top of this page was my best effort though that was at an angle and it kind of made the waterfall look smaller than it really was. In fact, trying to capture the entire width of the waterfall directly in one shot from the boardwalk was difficult at best though it wasn't impossible (I have one such photo in the photo journal below).

Once I had my fill of the front of the falls from the various angles from the boardwalk, I then swung all the way to the right side of the falls where the trail ascended some steps alongside the slope of the falling water. Once I got up to the top, I was treated to a handful of tiny cascades tumbling their way down to the main drop of Bond Falls. As I peered over the brink of the falls, I was treated to a nice overlook of the immediate area beneath the falls as well as the opportunity to photograph part of the falls with some fall colors down below.

Another thing I noticed up here was that there were concrete barricades that seemed to channel that Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River towards the main drop of the Bond Falls. I thought it was unusual to see such a structure actually "help" the river flow over the waterfall (I've seen too many examples of structures robbing the flow of water from a waterfall), but perhaps it was to prevent potentially excess overflow of the river onto the trails and infrastructure here (thereby causing damage).

Finally, speaking of infrastructure, while driving the Bond Falls Road further upstream of the waterfall itself, we noticed the Bond Falls Hydroelectric Project. That meant that this branch of the river was being held up, and I'd have to believe that this would constrain the average flow of the falls itself. We don't know if the hydro scheme was required to discharge a minimum amount of water like at Superior Falls, but it seemed like this waterfall held its own in terms of year-round flow even with the man-made interventions. That said, just imagine what a crazy scene Bond Falls would be had it been allowed to flow naturally.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Close to both Paulding and Agate Falls was the 'hidden gem' known as Bond Falls, which was certainly the most impressive waterfall in the Western UPClose to both Paulding and Agate Falls was the 'hidden gem' known as Bond Falls, which was certainly the most impressive waterfall in the Western UP
About 62 miles west of Paulding was the town of Ironwood, Michigan, which possessed this giant Hiawatha statue that was proclaimed to be 'the largest Indian statue in the world.'About 62 miles west of Paulding was the town of Ironwood, Michigan, which possessed this giant Hiawatha statue that was proclaimed to be 'the largest Indian statue in the world.'
Paulding was merely a stopover on our way to Munising, which was the base for cruises that tour the Pictured Rocks. Munising was still another 139 miles (2.5 hours) from PauldingPaulding was merely a stopover on our way to Munising, which was the base for cruises that tour the Pictured Rocks. Munising was still another 139 miles (2.5 hours) from Paulding
At the well-developed car park for Agate FallsAt the well-developed car park for the falls

Tahia on the short trail leading under the road bridge for Hwy 28 then continuing on towards Agate FallsTahia on the short trail leading under the road bridge for Hwy 28 then continuing on towards the falls

Examining the arched bridge over the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River from the Agate Falls TrailExamining the arched bridge over the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River from the falls trail

Approaching the end of the Agate Falls Trail and viewing deck, but we also noticed some trails of use leaving the boardwalk to the rightAppraoching the end of the falls trail and viewing deck, but we also noticed some trails of use leaving the boardwalk to the right

This was the subpar view of Agate Falls from the end of the trail at the viewing deck.  As you can see, this just tempted us (and I'm sure everyone else who has visited here) to find that better viewThis was the subpar view of Agate Falls from the end of the trail at the viewing deck. As you can see, this just tempted us (and I'm sure everyone else who has visited here) to find that better view

Looking towards the fence below the viewing deck that seemed to be a deterrent for scrambling down the steep and dangerous gully right behind itLooking towards the fence below the viewing deck that seemed to be a deterrent for scrambling down the steep and dangerous gully right behind it

Looking back as I was scrambling beyond the official viewing deckLooking back as I was scrambling beyond the official viewing deck

When I got up to the fence, I noticed this trail of use to the right that looked very tame compared to how dangerous I initially thought it would beWhen I got up to the fence, I noticed this trail of use to the right that looked very tame compared to how dangerous I initially thought it would be

Throughout this scramble, there was some mild dropoff exposure, but we've seen far worse in our travels so it's not all that badThroughout this scramble, there was some mild dropoff exposure, but we've seen far worse in our travels so it's not all that bad

Julie and Tahia caught up to me at this scramble, and as you can see, it's quite doable by a four-year-old though we made sure to hold her hand to keep her honestJulie and Tahia caught up to me at this scramble, and as you can see, it's quite doable by a four-year-old though we made sure to hold her hand to keep her honest

Near the bottom of the scrambleNear the bottom of the scramble

Finally at the bank of the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River downstream of Agate FallsFinally at the bank of the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River downstream of the falls

Just Agate Falls and the bridgeJust the falls and the bridge

Julie and Tahia going back up to the boardwalk and main trail. This was one of the rougher spots, but Tahia was still able to do itJulie and Tahia going back up to the boardwalk and main trail. This was one of the rougher spots, but Tahia was still able to do it

Profile view of Agate Falls from a rough spur near some big bouldersProfile view of the falls from a rough spur near some big boulders

Another look across Agate Falls from the bouldery spotAnother look across the falls from the bouldery spot


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


short right-to-left sweep of the river and falls itself from the best vantage point


right to left sweep from the scrambling trail to a profile view of the falls before zooming in on the waterfall itself


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Agate Falls was accessed from a well-signed and fair-sized car park by the road bridge traversing the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River. From Bruce Crossing, drive on the Hwy 28 east for just under 7 miles. Shortly after crossing the bridge over the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River, the signposted turnoff was on the right. The Michigan Recreation Passport fees apply here.

Since we had stayed in Paulding, Michigan, we actually took the Bond Falls Road to the Hwy 28 (roughly 12 miles). Turning left onto Hwy 28, we then drove 2.7 miles to the signposted turnoff and car park for the falls on the left. This drive took us 25 minutes.

For context, Paulding was 61 miles (over an hour drive) east of Ironwood, Michigan. Ironwood was 146 miles (under 3 hours drive) west of Marquette, Michigan, 226 miles (over 4 hours drive) northeast of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 264 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) north of Madison, Wisconsin, and 404 miles (about 6.5 hours drive) northwest of Chicago, Illinois.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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