Horse Race Rapids, Iron County
Michigan’s Iron County is home to a handful of waterfalls, and while Horse Race Rapids on the Paint River doesn’t feature the largest drop it is an excellent spot to visit thanks to its off-the-beaten path location and solitude. Located just a few miles south of Crystal Falls, the rapids are created as the river makes its way over large rocks that have fallen in over the years. The rock bluff on the opposite side of the river is about 80 feet tall. This place has a way of making you feel quite small, and we’ve been lucky to have the place to ourselves on both of our visits.
The path from the parking area to the rapids is steep but well-worn as it winds its way through the forest. You’ll want a sturdy pair of shoes and boots here as there are a few large rocks that need to be traversed to really be able to soak in the whole scene. Depending on water levels the scene here may vary greatly, and as with any Upper Peninsula waterfall it is best to visit after spring melt or a heavy rain. The river is 25-30 feet wide here, and while none of the drops are more than a foot in height the boulders in the river help create a nice whitewater show.
Horse Race Rapids are apparently a popular spot for adventurous kayakers, though they would only be recommended for very experienced paddlers due to the fast-moving nature of the water and the numerous obstructions in the river itself.
Directions: From Crystal Falls head south on US-2 for around six miles, then turn east on County Airport Rd. Follow this road for a little over a mile and a half, then when it forks stay straight on Horserace Rapids Road and follow it to its end at a parking area. A good portion of this route is dirt road after leaving US-2. Always remember to use caution in wild areas like this, as there have been accidents here in the past. Other nearby attractions include Bewabic State Park, Chicagon Falls, and the first roadside park in Michigan.