The New Lower Tahquamenon Falls Bridge Will Enhance the Visitor Experience Starting in 2022
Each year, more than half a million visitors come to Tahquamenon Falls State Park to see waterfalls, hike trails, and enjoy everything else Michigan’s second-largest state has to offer. This 46,000-acre park boasts Michigan’s largest and most well known waterfall, Upper Tahquamenon Falls (200 feet wide and 50 feet tall!), as well as a collection of waterfalls downstream that make up Lower Tahquamenon Falls. For years, options for seeing Lower Tahquamenon Falls included distant views from a viewing area near the parking lot or side views from the trail along the river. Those willing to rent a rowboat could head to the island the falls drop around and explore these impressive drops up close. Last month we started seeing news stories about a new bridge being put in to allow everyone access to the island. We hadn’t heard anything about it before then, but immediately knew we had to go check out the new Lower Tahquamenon Falls bridge for ourselves. Today we will look at the new bridge (which is not open yet) and why we think it is a great addition to the park, while also sharing some photos of the waterfalls you will be bale to see up close after crossing the bridge.
First off you’ll want to check out some of the awesome footage of the bridge being put into place (video from the park’s Facebook linked here) by a helicopter. The bridge is 142 feet long and six feet wide. It consists of four sections that were joined together and it required no supports to be placed in the river. According to the Michigan DNR press release “this bridge will allow for easier park staff and emergency services access to help maintain and keep the island safe.” It was originally reported that the Lower Tahquamenon Falls bridge would open in October, but the signs posted during our visit now say it will open in the spring of 2022. Early public comments seem to focus on two worries: that the bridge would ruin the aesthetics of the falls and that more visitors to the island could lead to more accidents in the water and erosion along the edge of the trail. Having visited now we can say that the first concern is not one to worry about, as the bridge is located away from any of the major drops. The second concern is a valid one, but it is important to note that the bridge will allow park rangers more access for trail repairs and emergency crews a quicker path to respond to possible incidents in the water.
Now, let’s take a look at the great views from the island. These photos come from our recent rowboat trip and we took the loop trail to the left once we reached the island. Following that route the first drop of Lower Tahquamenon Falls you come to is the most impressive one – a 100 foot wide and 20 foot tall waterfall.
A short walk from the first drop leads to open views of the river where small drops appear in the shallow water.
The trail continues to where the new bridge is. More boardwalk is also being added on the island side to make the trail more accessible for everyone.
Below the bridge there are three more drops, the first two being close to five feet and the last being closer to 10 feet. It is possible to get up close to the last drop for photos, and from here you have a good view of the viewing platform on the mainland.
For comparison, here’s a look at the views offered from the current mainland trail:
We love Tahquamenon Falls State Park and have enjoyed every visit. After seeing the new Lower Tahquamenon Falls bridge in person we are positive it will be a great addition to the visitor experience. We love that everyone will be able to visit the island regardless of mobility issues and have faith in park staff to make sure that erosion on the island doesn’t become a problem. As Upper Peninsula parks continue to see an increase in visitors each year, projects like this will continue to be necessary to ensure that everyone can enjoy their visit in the safest way possible. We can’t wait to return to the park in 2022 and make our first trip across this bridge!