Bond Falls

Paulding / Bruce Crossing / Watersmeet, Michigan, USA

About Bond Falls

Hiking Distance: 1/2 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2015-09-28
Date last visited: 2015-09-28

Waterfall Latitude: 46.40955
Waterfall Longitude: -89.13253

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Bond Falls was a waterfall in the western side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or UP for short) that seemed to be a sentimental favorite amongst many “Yoopers” from this part of the state.

It featured a 40-50ft tall cascade while it was upwards of about 100ft wide with a graceful characteristic that seemed to be very photogenic and tripod-friendly.

Bond_Falls_055_09282015 - Bond Falls
Bond Falls

Just about every “Yooper” (people who lived in or grew up in the UP) that we spoke to in the area considered this to be the prettiest waterfall in Michigan.

They even considered it to be better than the more famous Upper Tahquamenon Falls.

Well, after we finally got a chance to experience Bond Falls for ourselves, we can see where they were coming from.

Moreover, we were able to experience the falls from a variety of positions given the nice boardwalks and trails surrounding this part of the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River.

Bond_Falls_043_09282015 - Direct view across Bond Falls
Direct view across Bond Falls

Indeed, given its ease of access, character (as Julie likes to say), size, and even some of the Autumn colors nearby, we started to get as sentimentally attached to Bond Falls as the locals were!

Experiencing Bond Falls

The walk from the dedicated parking lot to our first views of the Bond 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 or watching our daughter drop leaves into the river.

Bond_Falls_015_09282015 - Julie and Tahia walking on the Bond Falls Boardwalk
Julie and Tahia walking on the Bond Falls Boardwalk

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.

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 with 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.

Bond_Falls_019_09282015 - First (albeit partial) look at Bond Falls
First (albeit partial) look at Bond Falls

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.

Once I had my fill of the front of the Bond 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 Bond Falls, I was treated to a nice overlook of the immediate area accentuated with some fall colors down below.

Man-made Modifications around Bond Falls

Bond_Falls_078_09282015 - Looking down over the top of Bond Falls
Looking down over the top of Bond Falls

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, but perhaps it was there to prevent damage from potentially excess overflow of the river onto the trails and infrastructure here.

Usually, when it comes to man-modifications around waterfalls, they tend to be with the intent of robbing the flow of water from the waterfall to energy production, irrigation, or some other form of exploitation of the water’s flow.

Finally, speaking of infrastructure, while driving the Bond Falls Road further upstream of the waterfall itself, we noticed the Bond Falls Hydroelectric Project.

Bond_Falls_071_09282015 - Looking up towards the upper cascades tumbling towards the main drop of Bond Falls. Note the little walls on the right side ensuring the river stays confined to the watercourse and not drifting onto the trail
Looking up towards the upper cascades tumbling towards the main drop of Bond Falls. Note the little walls on the right side ensuring the river stays confined to the watercourse and not drifting onto the trail

That meant that the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River was being held up, and I’d have to believe that this would constrain the average flow of the Bond 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 despite the man-made interventions.

That said, just imagine what a crazy scene Bond Falls would be had it been allowed to flow naturally.


Bond Falls resides just outside the Ottawa National Forest near Watersmeet in Ontonagon County, Michigan. It is administered by the Upper Peninsula Power Company. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the UPPCO website or the US Forest Service website.

Bond_Falls_014_09282015 - Julie and Tahia on the short paved trail descending towards the boardwalk before Bond Falls
Bond_Falls_128_09282015 - Approaching Bond Falls while on the boardwalk
Bond_Falls_024_09282015 - Partial view of Bond Falls from the boardwalk going in front of the falls
Bond_Falls_027_09282015 - Tahia exploring the Bond Falls Boardwalk, which seemed to make it pretty safe even for her to experience Bond Falls without as much risk of her getting swept away
Bond_Falls_121_09282015 - This was a part of the boardwalk with a fair-sized viewing deck, but from there, we were only able to get a partial view of Bond Falls
Bond_Falls_032_09282015 - Looking back towards the right side of Bond Falls, which revealed a pretty wide plunge pool
Bond_Falls_034_09282015 - Looking in the direction where the fall colors were most pronounced during our visit to Bond Falls
Bond_Falls_036_09282015 - Partial view towards the extreme left side of the Bond Falls as seen from the boardwalk
Bond_Falls_048_09282015 - Julie enjoying some of the Autumn colors that were starting to appear during our visit to Bond Falls
Bond_Falls_066_09282015 - Angled view of Bond Falls after walking to the leftmost extreme of the boardwalk
Bond_Falls_084_09282015 - After getting my fill of the top of Bond Falls, it was time to go back down the steps, where there was also a view across the middle of the 40ft drop of the waterfall itself, which this couple was checking out

Bond Falls was very close to the tiny hamlet of Paulding, Michigan (roughly 9 miles south of Bruce Crossing and 10 miles north of Watersmeet).

In fact, the parking lot for the falls was a mere 3 miles east of Paulding along Bond Falls Road.

The parking area was on the left side of the road at the bottom of a short descent.

There was a self-help pay-and-display to pay for the “Passport”, which required $10 in day-use fees that was only good for the day.

I wasn’t sure if they had one of those one-hour passes like the Wisconsin State Parks had.

Just to establish a frame of reference, Paulding, Michigan was about 95 miles (nearly 2 hours drive) west of Marquette, Michigan (probably the largest city of note in the UP).

Bond_Falls_009_09282015 - The parking lot nearest to the boardwalk for the Bond Falls
The parking lot nearest to the boardwalk for the Bond Falls

From Marquette, we would have to drive west on Michigan State Highway 41 for about 54 miles.

Then, we’d turn left onto Hwy 141 and drive for about 4 miles, then keep right to go on Route 28 for about 34 miles to Bruce Crossing.

Next, we’d head south on Michigan State Hwy 45 for about 9 miles to Paulding.

Note that Watersmeet was another 10 miles further to the south of Paulding on the same state highway.

Going in the other direction, Paulding was about 62 miles (a little over an hour) east of Ironwood, Michigan.

From there, we would have to drive east on Hwy 2 for about 51 miles to Watersmeet, then head north on state highway 45 for 10 miles to Paulding.

From Ironwood, we also could’ve driven about 10 miles on Hwy 2, then keep left to take the Hwy 28 for 40 miles to Bruce Crossing.

Then take the Hwy 45 south for 9 miles to Paulding.

Finally, for some additional geographical context, Ironwood, Michigan 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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The complete Bond Falls expeience from its leftmost side all the way to its brink on the right side

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Tagged with: paulding, bruce crossing, watersmeet, ontonagon, upper peninsula, up, michigan, lake superior, waterfall, hydroelectric, middle branch, passport, great lakes

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Bond Falls, Western Upper Peninsula, Michigan April 15, 2015 12:40 am by Daniel - Bond Falls is considered the best waterfall in the Upper Peninsula. That's a pretty big claim, but when you have a cascade over 100 feet wide, you pretty much dwarf the competition. On the middle branch of the Ontonagon River, a few miles east of Paulding in Haight Township in southern Ontonagon County, Michigan. ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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