Black - B) Upper: Ramsey (Mill St) to Gabbro (Baker) Falls (2.42 miles)

Black, Michigan, US


B) Upper: Ramsey (Mill St) to Gabbro (Baker) Falls (2.42 miles)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 50 fpm
Max Gradient 59 fpm


Photo taken 02/18/15

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Black at Ramsay Approximation
virtual-130854 250 - 1200 cfs II-III 00h38m ~ 79.17 cfs (too low)
Likely too low for reasonable whitewater. Approximation of flow at Mill Street based on relative drainage compared with existing gauge yielding .39*Black at Bessemer. Correlation not assured.

River Description

Quick Facts:
Location: Western Upper Peninsula, Michigan, between Bessemer & Wakefield (about 8.5 miles ENE of Hurley/Ironwood).
Shuttle Length: 3 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)

Drainage area at gauge: (a few miles downstream of take-out for this reach) 200 square miles.

Note: Boaters may wish to combine this reach with all or part of the section upstream to make for a longer trip.

This reach is characterized by fairly continuous class II rock and boulder bed rapids leading into some entertaining sequences of small ledges in the final mile. There is a Neepikon Falls shown on many maps downstream (north) of the Hwy.2 bridge, but it is difficult to ascertain which portion of the small ledges is the "falls".

Take-out is at an underground pipeline right-of-way which may be reached by driving to the Blackjack ski area on Blackjack Rd, crossing the covered bridge over the river, turning left in the parking area and following the road back upstream to an obvious clearing at the top of the hill. Walk down to the river at this point to mark or make certain that you can recognize it from the river as this is only a short distance upstream of Gabbro Falls. At higher flows and/or with less experienced paddlers, it may be prudent to use another pipeline clearing about a quarter mile upstream to minimize the potential of a paddler being flushed into this potentially fatal falls.

There is one more good drop just downstream of the recommended take-out that may be run with caution as this places one very close to the brink of Gabbro Falls. Known locally as Baker Falls, Gabbro has an initial drop of about 10' onto rock, immediately spilling another 25' into a narrow slot, with the river turning 90 degrees to the right at the base of the falls (see photo above). The exit from this mini-canyon is a constriction of about 10' that drops onto and behind a large boulder. The whole sequence is well worth taking a look at when in the area, even if you do not intend to boat this reach.

Note: Part or all (it is unclear from the write-up on their 'blog') of this drop was run in April, 2007 by Tao Berman & Eric Boomer. Photos verify running of the first two pitches (10' and 25'), but it appears wood (and other concerns) may have had them rope out before finishing the rest of the drop.

There is about a third of a mile of rockbed rapid downstream of Gabbro to the covered bridge at the entrance to Blackjack ski area, and the confluence with Jackson Creek. While it is possible to portage Gabbro (recommended on river-right) and run this final stretch, it is not easy, thus the recommended carry-out above the falls.

The following video (via YouTube, courtesy of 'Duck Wild Producktions') features a very snowy run of much of this section at 576 cfs.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-09-18 20:27:35

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.3Main Street / USGS Sampling SiteN/A
0.8Sanders RoadN/A
1.4Confluence, Little BlackN/A
1.9Neepikon FallsN/A
2.2First Major ClearingN/A
2.4Second Major ClearingN/A
2.5Gabbro FallsVTakeout Portage Hazard Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Main Street / USGS Sampling Site (Class N/A, Mile 0.3)

As the river heads toward Main Street, it passes under former rail line and is squeezed between cement walls, tripping across some waves and holes.

USGS lists a 'sampling site' (used for thirteen occasions from 1921-1976) and shows drainage at this point as 78 square miles.

Ledge/hole (Class N/A, Mile 1.0)

Immediately upstream of Hwy.2, a slightly more significant ledge may create some fine play (at some flows) or could potentially be 'sticky' at some flows.

Confluence, Little Black (Class N/A, Mile 1.4)

Little Black River enters river-right.

Neepikon Falls (Class N/A, Mile 1.9)

Rather than a "falls", this is more a rather short series of relatively minor ledges and rapids. (And, on all maps I've seen, seems to be marked well upstream of the actual location of the best action.) It comes to an end as you reach a minor clearing (though trees have populated near both shores).

First Major Clearing (Class N/A, Mile 2.2)

Downstream of this first clearing, you'll find a fine sequence of rapids. However, this serves as your 'notice' to be on the lookout for the next clearing, which is your take-out before Gabbro Falls.

Second Major Clearing (Class N/A, Mile 2.4)

There is a fine drop just beyond this Second Clearing. However, Gabbro Falls lies perilously close downstream of that. We advise getting out at this clearing.

Gabbro Falls (Class V, Mile 2.5)

This falls is BEYOND the highly recommended take-out for this reach. While the falls has been run (by Tao Berman and crew) it is NOT recommended for the vast majority of boaters. Thus, make certain to get out at the power-line clearing upstream of this falls.

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