Drive this scenic byway for a wonderful waterfall tour

In the mood for a waterfall road trip? Hop into your car or on your motorcycle and head west to the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway, which is home to several scenic, easy-to-reach waterfalls. Here’s what you need to know about the route.

What is the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway?

The Black River National Forest Scenic Byway is located in the Ottawa National Forest and follows the Black River from just north of the city of Bessemer to Black River Harbor on Lake Superior. The route travels approximately 15 miles from Bessemer and takes drivers through beautiful U.P. scenery, including groves of pine, hemlock and hardwood trees and past eye-catching waterfalls.

The byway was officially dedicated as a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1992 in recognition of its exceptional beauty and recreational opportunities.

Where is it located?

The Black River National Forest Scenic Byway follows County Highway 513 north of Bessemer (take Moore Street north from U.S. Highway 2 and turn left on Black River Drive; Black River Drive turns into County Highway 513). You can also follow Powderhorn Road north from U.S. Highway 2 to Black River Road west of Bessemer.

What waterfalls can I see along the byway?

The byway provides access to five main sets of waterfalls, all found within the last 3 miles of the drive as you’re headed toward Lake Superior. Each of the five main falls is accessible via a parking area.

  • Great Conglomerate Falls: These falls, the first ones that drivers will encounter as they head north on the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway, take their name from the large part of conglomerate rock that divides the two segments of the falls. A ¾-mile walking trail leads to an observation platform.
  • Gorge Falls and Potawatomi Falls: These two falls are the most scenic along the route and also the easiest to access. A short drive off of Highway 513 just south of Maple Creek Road takes visitors to a parking lot, where they can take a 1/8-mile walk to either set of falls along an improved trail.
  • Sandstone Falls: About a half-mile north of Gorge Falls, you’ll find Sandstone Falls, a small set of falls that can be reached by a quarter-mile walking trail.
  • Rainbow Falls: Another scenic spot, Rainbow Falls can be found about a half-mile north of Sandstone Falls. This is the last waterfall on the Black River before it reaches Lake Superior. A parking lot offers access to the half-mile trail that leads to a stairway that takes visitors to an observation platform.

At the end of the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway, you’ll reach Black River Harbor Recreation Area, which offers boating access to Lake Superior, campsites, a pavilion and restrooms.

Where can I visit more waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains?

Discover more waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County here.

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Note: Please travel safely and responsibly when you are visiting the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County. Some businesses and facilities may have modified hours or procedures; please contact them directly for information. See Michigan’s latest coronavirus orders here.



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