Falls - Mead Rd to Lake Superior (L'Anse) (2 miles)

Falls, Michigan, US


Mead Rd to Lake Superior (L'Anse) (2 miles)

Usual Difficulty III-IV+ (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 155 fpm
Max Gradient 175 fpm

Powerhouse Falls

Powerhouse Falls
Photo by Jesse Becker taken 04/01/06 @ Medium/high

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-04043097 200 - 500 cfs III-IV+ 36d00h09m 196 cfs (too low)
Likely too low, but possible ELF (extreme low flow) run. Gauge is new (fall 2014). We need your input to define/refine ranges and descriptions at various flows Gauge (drainage area 44.2sq.mi.) is at former site of dam on this run, thus should very accurately reflect actual flows.
usgs-04043150 7.50 - 10.00 ft III-IV+ 00h24m ~ 7.04 ft (too low)

River Description

Quick Facts:
Location: South of L'Anse into Downtown L'Anse.
Shuttle Length: 3.4 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Ledges and falls, ledges and falls (and a few slides).
Drainage area at Hwy.41: 48 square miles.

Put-in elevation is approximately 890'.
Take-out elevation is approximately 600' (mean Lake Superior elevation).
Thus total elevation change is approximately 290'.

Information (lat, lng, elev, total drop, run length, shuttle length) adjusted and/or verified from best manual extrapolation of online data (via maps.google.com, distance measuring tool, and other resources). 2009.02.05

The Falls is one of the classic South Shore creek runs and is aptly named as most of the drops are of a ledge type. This run is a good intro to South Shore boating as it is located along the outskirts of L'Anse and is about as forgiving as a stream with this gradient can be.

This run is near continuous whitewater from the start with lighter whitewater between the more notable drops. The two drops of greatest consequence, "Powerhouse Falls" (IV+) and "Asshole" (IV), come early in the run. Some may wish to use an alternate put-in below "Powerhouse Falls", located by carrying in off Power Dam Rd to avoid a portage. Ledge type drops up to 10' ("Big Mo Falls") continue to the Hwy 41 bridge. The final drop to Lake Superior consists of a staircase drop followed by a slide and finally a breached dam.

Removal of a former hydro dam at the end of Power Dam Rd allows one to start at the head of the gradient off Mead Rd and adds a quarter mile of enjoyable warm-up water. As of Spring '00, the traditional put-in off Power Dam Rd was gated and the road in poor condition.

Google Maps has reasonably good resolution aerials of this reach. You can go to the "Map" tab, click 'Satellite' or 'USGS Aerial', double click near (not on, but near) the put-in location icon (or any other spot on the run), zoom to the maximum resolution (without losing image), and do a 'virtual tour' to 'walk' down the reach. However, due to the narrowness of the river on this run (and resulting tree-cover), and not quite optimum resolution, many of the drops are obscured or otherwise not totally apparent.

AW members may click here for Part 2 of an article from the AW Journal, way back in 1981!
(AW members may also click here for Part 1 of the article.)

The article describes the following:

     Upper Presque Isle
     Lower Presque Isle
     Middle Black
     Lower Black
     Upper Silver
     Lower Silver

     Falls, (this river/reach)

and Wisconsin's 
     Lower Brunsweiler
     Montreal, W.Fk., and 
     Montreal Canyon.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-01-01 11:02:44

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.2Warm-up ledgesIII
0.4Alternate put-in (former dam location)N/AAccess
0.6Power House FallsIVWaterfall Photo
0.8Ass HoleN/AHazard Waterfall Photo
1.8Alternate take-outN/AAccess
1.8Former USGS siteN/A
1.9Middle FallsIVWaterfall
2.0Lower FallsN/AWaterfall
2.1Dam DropIVWaterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Warm-up ledges (Class III, Mile 0.2)

Using the upper put-in has two advantages.
One: the road is much better maintained than the road to the former dam site (which, in early/wet season can be snowpacked or a total mud pit).
Two: You get a little more 'warm-up' before getting to the bigger tougher drops on the run.

When the former-dam put-in is reasonably accessible, some boaters may opt for the shorter run, concentrating on the main gradient, foregoing the one or two smaller drops on the upper part of the run and the 'boogie water' down to the site of the former dam.

Alternate put-in (former dam location) (Class N/A, Mile 0.4)

Virtually all trace of the former dam have been removed. In its stead, the river is lined for a short stretch with trucked-in boulders to stabilize the banks. No falls, ledges, or significant rapids exist through that stretch -- only boogie water. Thus, many boaters opt to put in at this point, forgoing the one upper drop.

The gauge is at this point, and while it doesn't list drainage area, by my best calculation, it appears to be very near 44 square miles.

Power House Falls (Class IV, Mile 0.6)

Powerhouse Falls

Powerhouse Falls
Photo by Jesse Becker taken 04/01/06 @ Medium/high

A long, usually shallow/grungy lead-in rapids pitches increasingly downward leading to the site of the powerhouse immediately on the river-right bank. The first of the more 'significant' falls lies immediately adjacent to the old building. Center and river-right all have broken pitch dropping mostly onto shallow rock, and are therefore highly recommended to avoid. River-left above the falls is a small eddy from which one can 'stage' to take a few quick strokes and 'boof' the falls.

Ass Hole (Class N/A, Mile 0.8)


Photo by Bob Menard taken 09/28/10

This list of rapids is very incomplete, and the specific location (of the indicator on the map) is likely way imprecise. However, we felt it important to mention what is certainly not the biggest drop on the river but what is (perhaps) the most perennially troublesome drop on the river. By the way, the name comes not just from boaters, but from the locals who use the various 'holes' in summer for swimming. This is why it is two separate words (Ass Hole), not just one word (Asshole).

The clues that you have reached this drop are seeing a house on river-right, and seeing the river squeezed between a large hump of rock on the right and a much smaller and lower hump of rock on the left. The flow is funneled into a crease, and drops into a brief pool below. Only a couple boat-lengths downstream, the current pillows against a large rock ('Hemorrhoid Rock', 'cuz it's a real P.I.T.A.), backing up the flow, making the hole even more sticky. The usual route is to start from well-to-the-right in the pool above, charging hard to the left as you hit the crest of the drop, trying to charge hard toward the eddy to river-left of the hole. Make sure to paddle out upon landing, lest you get sucked back into the hole! There are epic tales (and videos) of boaters who didn't quite make the eddy, leaving them and their boats recircing in the hole and the 'room-of-doom' on the right. Rescue is not easy from there.

Downstream, a great wealth of ledges, slides and falls await. As stated elsewhere in the general description, the best advice on almost everything is stay to the left on all major drops and gradient.

Alternate take-out (Class N/A, Mile 1.8)

Historically, many boaters would take out at the highway, forgoing the final series of gradient. Less adventurous boaters (or those who may have 'bitten off a bit more than they could chew' and who have been somewhat beaten-up by the river on their chosen day) may still wish to use this spot to get out.

Most boaters will want to continue under the highway and the railroad bridges (through random small ledges and wrapping waves) for a fantastic finish to the run.

Former USGS site (Class N/A, Mile 1.8)

USGS had a sampling site below Hwy.41, listing drainage of 47.9 square miles.

Middle Falls (Class IV, Mile 1.9)

The first big slide below the highway and railroad bridges (as has already been advised for much of this run) is usually run well to the left shore.

Lower Falls (Class N/A, Mile 2.0)

A brief rest brings up a second, lower-angle, round-the-bend (to the left) slide. Usual route on this is trying to stay to the center, angling to the left as the drop sweeps 'round the bend. Alternate route (with adequate water) is to stay to the right partway down, to drop a boof at the end.

Dam Drop (Class IV, Mile 2.1)

The final drop is an old dam. The shoulders of the dam remain (to left and right), so all water (at most flows) pours through a center notch and lands on reasonably 'cushioned' bedrock below. You will be pushed hard to the left, toward a wall of rock, and rebound to trip downstream over a few remaining small ledges, waves, and holes. The shores through here are vertical metal walls, until passing under a small bridge and out into the bay, where a beach allows easy exit from the river.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 27 2009 (3550 days ago)
(As posted to BSBS message board by Craig Smerda)
New wood blocking the run about a quarter mile after powerhouse falls and well before the A-hole on
a tight right hand corner... get out on the right side well above it and carry
The old tree crossing the river after the A-hole and Big Mo' is still there... at low water you can
eddy out right in front of it on the left and carry around.
Near the takeout under the last bridge it is logged tight. After running the [bottom] "dam" get
right and take out. Do not attempt to paddle to the lake at this time.
October 10 2007 (4116 days ago)
(As posted to BSBS message board by Craig Smerda 2007.10.08) "the tree that you used to be able to
sneak under on the right side well before "big-mo-?" (10ft?'er) has dropped into the river further
and it is now it mandatory to get out and carry around it. Do NOT attempt to go under it any
longer. Get out on the river left side and carry around it... there is a decent trail already
there. Lastly... on this run... when in doubt... for the most part... stay river left. A kayaker
pinned his boat below the car and train bridges on the river right side under a tree. Fortunately
he was able to stablize himself and safely climb out."