The UP: Driving through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2020)

When we awaken, the sky is still a leaden gray. However, the lake is calm and it isn’t actually raining. If the weather doesn’t get worse than this, it will be ok.As we head toward Michigan, there are still fall colors: First pale yellow tamaracks and then brilliant golden poplars laced through the dark evergreens. They call out for attention, but in this light, it is a muted call.

We have a long day ahead of us if we want to reach the Mackinaw Bridge before dark, so we don’t plan to make a lot of stops, however, I do want to stop at Agate Falls on the Ontonagon River.

The sky is brightening even as we park. Maybe the weather is taking a turn for the better!

The path to the waterfall overlook is cool and shady, still dripping with moisture from last night’s rain.

The dominant feature here (besides the trees) is an old railroad bridge – the Ontonagon River Middle Branch Bridge, a state historic civil engineering landmark that is now part of a regional bike trail. (That’s for you, Brian! 🙂

It’s a great bridge.

The waterfall, on the other hand, is a bit disappointing. The river is barely visible through the trees until we reach the viewing platform, but even here it is hard to really see the falls and the shore looks inaccessible. It’s a pretty enough place, but not particularly special. . . of course, it might be more impressive on a sunny day.

We continue on through the UP, passing through Marquette without stopping.

After a couple false starts in our search for lunch (we miss the turn for one spot and another is closed for remodeling), we end up at the Brownstone Inn near Munising. The food is fine, but what pleases me most are the picturesque little cabins that surround the restaurant.

On the road again, the sun is finally beginning to really show itself.

It is going to be a beautiful afternoon, but we have a lot of territory to cover. Not much time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Dang.

Although, I can’t resist the pull-off at the Cut Creek Bridge, where the parking area boasts a lovely view of Lake Michigan.

The bridge itself is best viewed from the bottom of an impressive set of 231 stairs.

But not today. While it is now a beautiful day, we don’t have either the time or energy for the trek back up if we do go down, so we admire the bridge from only slightly below grade.

I am christening this “Bridge Day.” I have already seen two cool bridges and next will be one of the grandest – the Mackinac, which connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the rest of the state.

It’s just a glimpse, but it’s an enticing glimpse.

I am determined to get a good picture, so I make Lane stop at a couple of overlook areas. The first aren’t great, but a little gravel road along the shore takes us to a better spot.

The bridge is quite elegant, but I’m a under-whelmed. Maybe the promo was too much: At five miles long and 55 stories high, it’s billed as the “longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere”. I was expecting something more dramatic.

Actually crossing the bridge is pretty cool though and, thanks to a construction project, traffic is backed up enough that I can shoot through the windshield as we cross. Excellent!


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