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.
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.
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 car park for the falls was a mere 3 miles east of Paulding along Bond Falls Road. The car park 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). From Marquette, we would have to drive west on Michigan State Highway 41 for about 54 miles, then 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, then 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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