Location: Western Upper Peninsula, MI, about 5.5 miles NNE of Bessemer.
Shuttle Length: 6.8 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Beautiful northwoods run. Mostly open easy rapids, finishing with a big drop.
Drainage: 200 sq.mi. (at gauge site 5 miles upriver).
(Description based on one run, at 275 cfs.)
This run starts off with perhaps a mile of easy wide boulder-garden rapids with a few minor (at this water level) playable waves. At mile 1.5, Reed Creek enters from the left. Mostly flatwater continues until nearing the Copper Peak Ski Flying tower. (This can be used as an alternate put-in to cut off some of the (mostly uninteresting) length of the run. This would likely put you below the following described drop.)Chippewa Falls (about mile 3.4), a somewhat technical, wide, boulder jumble drop (class II-III) of maybe 50 yards precedes a right-hand bend in the river. This was easily boat-scoutable. (Obviously, it is much more of a 'rapids' than a 'falls'.) A few random waves and holes follow before action subsides for a bit. At mile 4.0, Kirby Creek enters from the right, followed almost immediately by a backroad crossing.
Before long, the character of the river changes. Instead of the wide open grassy shores and red-granite boulder strewn stream (as it had been down to this point), you encounter an area of vertical walls and sloping bedrock drops with a couple random appearances of conglomerate, hinting at the character of the river in the lower reach. Again, at 275 cfs, all was boat-scoutable. A couple drops provided great surf opportunities. My guess is that with perhaps 1.5-2.0 times as much water (400-500 cfs or higher), some holes could become rather meaty, and provide (intentional or unintentional) rodeo activity. (I believe the main drop in this area is what is marked on maps as Algonquin Falls (5.7 miles). Again, it is much more of a 'rapids' (a quick sliding drop) than a real 'falls'.)
Quickly the river returns to its prior more pastoral state. At mile 7.0, a backroad nears on the left, and Sand Island Creek enters from the right. Mile 8.0 brings you to Great Conglomerate Falls, where a great dome of conglomerate rock divides the flow into three channels. At 275 cfs, it was quite easy to eddy out river right and carefully wade across the (relatively smaller) river-right channel to scout the main (center) channel. (With any appreciably increased flow it would be necessary to beach on the 'hump', which could become a bit unnerving at some flows!) A huge log blocked both the very small left channel and the somewhat larger right channel. The wide, main, center channel was clear, and provided a quite straight-forward slide into a surging, but not grabby hole at the base of the falls. Most of the group took out here, while two of us ran the twisted, rocky, short rapids immediately below before eddying out to carry back up the three-quarters of a mile trail to the parking area. (Ugh! Long hike!)
The following video (via YouTube, courtesy of "Duck Wild Producktions") shows a very-high-flow raft run of this section.
Click here for an article from the AW Journal, way back in 1981!
In addition to this reach, the article also describes the following:
Upper Presque Isle,
Lower Presque Isle,
Montreal, W.Fk., and
Labeled 'falls', but really much more of a rapids. This is (more-or-less) at the base of the Copper Peak Ski Flying Area.
Again, much more of a squeeze/ledge/rapids than a 'falls'. At medium to higher flows, this could get quite sticky (class IV-ish). At some flows this might be a great playspot (if one can catch it in warm enough conditions or be of that mindset).
Now, THIS one is really a FALLS!
Recommended to scout (though may not be easy at higher water levels).
There are multiple possible lines, as the current is split by various humps of conglomerate rock. The most usual route is immediately left of the largest hump of rock.
It is a rather long trudge back to the parking lot from here.
Ran this section during the 2010 fall rains. The level for the lower black was 2100cfs (it was huge!). We decided to run this section and it was an amazing run. all of the class II turned into III and the two main rapids turned into big water IV. There were some crazy death holes, but they were easily avoidable. If you get the chance to run this section during flood its way worth it.....just be careful.
Recommended levels for this reach not yet certain. Indicated min/max are a guess. If you paddle this reach, please add a comment below if you have recommendations regarding min/max levels.
Onsite, paddlers measure down from a bridge off Hwy.513 northwest of Bessemer. Readings around 13' (156") down are considered runnable. -153" is reportedly about 350cfs.
Note: Be aware that indication of a 'runnable' level does not mean that the river is necessarily runnable. In winter, readings may be 'ice affected', and/or sections of the river may be impassable due to ice.
Offseason ('Ice') USGS stage-gauge conversions
2.75' = 451cfs
2.50' = 371cfs
2.25' = 300cfs
2.00' = 236cfs
1.75' = 180cfs
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!