Big Iron - White Pine to Silver City (5.6 miles)

Big Iron, Michigan, US


White Pine to Silver City (5.6 miles)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Length 5.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 28 fpm
Max Gradient 52 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Big Iron Approximation
virtual-130824 250 - 1000 cfs II-III 00h32m ~ 50.64 cfs (too low)
Likely too low for reasonable whitewater run. Virtual gauge approximates flow based on relative drainage of Big Iron versus W.Br.Ontonagon. Correlation is not assured

River Description

Quick Facts:

Location: White Pine to Silver City
Shuttle Length: 6.1 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Innumerous small ledge drops in a fairly uniform-width channel.
Drainage area at put-in: approximately 97 square miles.

Put-in is approximately 760' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 600' elevation (Lake Superior, mean level).
Thus total elevation change is approximately 160'.

Reach consists of alternating sections of short bedrock ledges, rapids and moving water. Most of this bedrock breaks diagonally (rather than perpendicular) to the flow, making for some interesting running! One quite significantly bigger drop, Bonanza Falls, comes at 4.5 miles into the run and may easily push into class IV- territory at higher flows.

Good photos of the falls are available online at:

The resolution on Google Maps for this area is excellent. Therefore, we highly recommended going to the 'Map' tab, clicking 'Satellite', zooming in to the maximum resolution available (without losing image), and doing a 'virtual walk' of this reach!

Those seeking a longer run may wish to put-in about five miles upstream of White Pine (if the logging roads are passable for access).

The (rather smaller) Little Iron lies immediately to the West of this run, and may be a great 'companion-run' (if they prove both to be at runnable levels) or the Big and Little Iron runs may be 'fall-back' runs for each other in the event one is too high (or low) and the other may be runnable.

There are also runs nearby on the W.Br.Big Iron and Mineral River. Accessing these rivers (as with the aforementioned upper section of the Big Iron) may require navigating the maze of logging roads in the area, many of which are not seasonally maintained. This will likely stymie any early spring attempts at access, but should allow later spring or early summer runs.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-12-31 18:46:27

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.2USGS sampling siteN/A
4.5Bonanza FallsIII+Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Note: (Class N/A)

Do not let the near total absence of marked/named features deter you from exploring this run. While it is not nearly as challenging as many U.P. runs, with the right flows, this should be a great change of pace and a lot of fun in its own right.

USGS sampling site (Class N/A, Mile 1.2)

USGS lists a sampling site at this location with drainage area of 98.1 square miles.

Bonanza Falls (Class III+, Mile 4.5)

Described as "60-foot-wide falls consisting of two separate drops spaced about 200 yards apart. The upper falls drops about ten feet; the lower about three feet."

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