A New Must-Visit Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Enjoy easy island access and phenomenal views at Tahquamenon Falls
They don’t call it Paradise for nothing. With the opening of a new footbridge at Tahquamenon Falls that connects both sides of the river at the lower falls, the roar of the Tahquamenon River is closer than ever.
The all-access GatorBridge connects two boardwalks, the one on the mainland that’s been used for years, and the half-mile newly updated boardwalk on the island. With construction completed in October 2021, the four-section bridge provides views of the cascading river and the island.
From the parking lot, a raised boardwalk can be taken to the new bridge. The short walk is dotted with interpretive signage about the falls and the cedar-covered terrain. Each May, birders gather at the falls to witness the migration of warbles, woodpeckers and more.
The aluminum bridge is 142 feet long and 6 feet wide. This new walkable and rollable route leads to the island, which sits in the middle of the rapids and provides exhilarating views. Prior, the only way to get to the island was by rowboat.
The centerpiece of the Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s nearly 50,000 acres are the Tahquamenon Falls. The Upper Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet wide. The water rush reaches more than 50,000 gallons per second. Just four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, a more gently flowing experience that now includes island access.
Lower Tahquamenon Falls consists of five smaller waterfalls that cascade along the island. The half-mile boardwalk, known as Island Trail, provides new views of the waterfalls and the flora and fauna that inhabit the island. The falls are amber in color from the tannins that originate in the cedar swamp at the start of the river.
The bridge arrived at the state park on trucks in four sections. Last September, a crew of assemblers, including a helicopter, carefully maneuvered each piece into place. This is the first summer the bridge and the improved boardwalk are open.
For those who have accessed the island by boat, there will not be rowboat rental in 2022 because of additional improvement projects nearby. The store and public restrooms are being replaced, although there will be restrooms available throughout the season. The parks and its campgrounds are fully operational this year.
The park bridge was made possible through the voices of the public. Eighty percent of the respondents to a 2017 survey said they would be more likely to visit the island if it could be reached by bridge. The project is a $1.28 million investment that’s sure to better showcase this natural wonder.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park has more than 40 miles of hiking trails, 13 inland lakes and 24 miles of the Tahquamenon River running through. The North Country Trail runs through the park. For the last news, go to https://www.facebook.com/TQFalls.
When in the Upper Peninsula, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located at Whitefish Point and includes displays of the maritime industry that uses the local lighthouse as an aid to navigation. A favorite display features the 200-pound bronze bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald, lost at sea Nov. 10, 1974, with all 29 members of the crew.
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