While I’m on the subject of frozen waterfalls, I saw a beautiful one the other day! On a whim, I drove up to Bond Falls, a spectacular multi-level falls on the Ontonogan River near Paulding, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is located within the boundaries of the Ottawa National Forest, but the park facilities are managed by the Upper Peninsula Power Company, which operates the dam just upstream, and designated by the Michigan DNR as a State Scenic Site. None of that matters much to the casual visitor though – we are more impressed by the scope of the falls – a 50′ cumulative drop and over twice that wide at the bottom!
Though it’s been quite cold at night, it has been warming up enough during the days to keep most of the ice off the face of the falls. There was still a lot of accumulation from the spray, and in more slowly-moving sections, which was impressive in itself.
It had gotten cloudy on the drive over, but a few rays of sun came out for about two minutes, and I got some great shots of the spray hitting the walls of ice at the bottom.
In fact, one of the best parts about this falls was how slowly it moved. As a result, there were many small currents and eddies to see, and the rock was mostly visible under the clear water, without clouds of foam and bubbles to obscure it.
In one section, it was clear that some concrete structures had been added , both to shore up the banks of the river, and within the bed of the river/falls itself. We speculated that it might be intended to slow the water down for safety, or to enhance the appearance of the waterfall (unlikely to be done nowadays but a common enough practice earlier in our history). We figured that it must be somehow related to the dam near the top of the cascades, but couldn’t quite figure out how. It piqued my curiosity, and I did a little research. It turns out that, when the dam that created the Bond Falls Flowage was built, all the water from the natural river was engineered to go through the power dam, and the falls actually dried up in some seasons, so they had to divert water back in order to make it keep flowing. Since it flowed more slowly than before, with lower water volume, they put in the structures along the banks to keep all the water heading to the main falls, and the structures in the river for the sake of appearance.
On a warmer day, I could have sat on the banks and just watched for hours as the water poured over the rocks, pooling here, flowing there, turning around and seeming to flow back up hill before rushing over another ledge. Of course, on a warmer day there would have been crowds of people there to change the experience. This is by no means a “wild” falls – not only has it been slightly domesticated by the structures explained above, but the viewers are “tamed” as well, constrained the a wooden boardwalk at the bottom (offering excellent views while keeping everyone safe) and handrails on the trail up along the river (useful on the steep sections and to remind the foolhardy not to step closer to the rushing water). However, given its history it might not exist at all, had someone not recognized its value and kept it flowing strong for the rest of us!