On a recent waterfall-themed road trip in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the folks at the Western Upper Peninsula Convention and Visitor's Bureau
had instructed us "not to miss" Bond Falls, a beautiful waterfall located on the middle branch of the Ontonagon River near the town of Paulding. A perfect spot for people of all ages, take our word that this is great advice!
With more than 150 waterfalls across the Western Upper Peninsula, Bond Balls is one of the region's more popular falls. (and, in my opinion, on par with Tahquamenon Falls on the opposite side of the Peninsula). The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has classified Bond Falls
as a Scenic Site and as far as I can tell, there is not an admission fee. While there is a road that takes you closer into the base of the falls (and an accessible boardwalk with six viewing locations), we found a parking spot at the top (near the picnic tables and all the other parked cars and motorcycles) and made a downward descent.
It seems that the amount of water flowing down Bond Falls is ultimately controlled by the needs of the Upper Peninsula Power Company; a powerful blast of water exits the Bond Falls Flowage (Parents, keep a tight grip on your toddlers if you walk up the road from the trail head and cross over this bridge.).
At first glance this sign doesn't make sense (and I even let my kids wade in a sandy, safer, area a bit further upstream), but you really don't want to mess around with Mother Nature once the river passes under the pedestrian bridge.
Why? The river makes a sudden sharp right turn and starts its descent down a series of man-made drops and sloping rocks.
While the main "attraction" is a 50-foot waterfall, your descent will lead you through a series of "stair step" falls worthy of their own photos.
At this point on the hike you will see a sign warning of the impending uneven and slippery steps.
Get ready to hang on to the handrail.
Your efforts will not be in vain.
The base of the falls makes for a fabulous spot to take a souvenir photo or, perhaps, to set up your easel. The accessible wooden boardwalk has several steps of stairs leading down closer to the water (again, I wouldn't get too crazy wading here as it looks like the rapids continue further downstream).
If you need to use the restroom at this point, you can find some accommodations just off the lower trail (or you can 'hold it' like I did and find the outhouses at the top).
Having noticed some people off to the other side of the river on our way down, we decided to take the alternate route back to our car. This is, by far, the inferior choice (unless you like holding on to tree roots and trying to figure out where the trail starts and ends). Also, this route takes you a bit further away from the river bank. You do exit a bit up the road from the parking area, near the stairs leading up to the Bond Falls Flowage (and this is worth a look). Your hike back to the parking area will take you past a gift shop that sells ice cream treats at an extremely reasonable price (less than $4 for three treats - what a deal).