Hunts' Guide to The Upper Peninsula

Cut River Bridge & picnic area

Cut River Bridge March 2012
Glorious surprise: below Cut River Bridge

Motorists on U.S. 2 notice the striking, deep limestone gorge formed by the Cut River as it empties into Lake Michigan. But the attractive, shady picnic areas at the bridge's east and west ends end aren't quite so obvious, nor are the paved paths and stairways that descend 147 feet to the river on either side of the gorge.

The east park and path are more elaborately developed and easier to walk. There a striking stretch of asphalt path (wheelchair-accessible) goes under the dramatic stone bridge supports to the splendid stairway. The stairs are in flights, with large landings and overlooks to make the trip back up less arduous and more interesting.

Cut River mouth in March
Cut River mouth in March

As you descend, the sound of waves replaces highway noise. It's beautiful to look down through the treetops and glimpse the beach and water below. This is especially dramatic in fall color season. From the bottom, it's an easy walk along the river to the sandy beach. Kids enjoy diverting water to make their own channels and lagoons. Look east along the shoreline and you'll see the giant limestone dock for freighters two miles away.

Limestone dock from Cut River mouth
Limestone dock from Cut River mouth

Look up to see interpretive markers identifying some trees along the way. Spectacular as the walkway is, the DNR Wildlife Division's Michigan Wildlife Viewing Guide (Michigan State University Press, $9.95) says that "the real beauty of this site lies hidden among the rolling, forested dunes of the Lake Superior State Forest. Hike these trails in May to view spring wildflowers such as trout lily, trilliums, and Dutchman's breeches. Spring is also a good time to view migrating warblers and other songbirds." Songbirds migrate along the Lake Michigan shore and use the wooded gorge as a rest spot. Some stay over the summer and breed here.

Cut River trail map
Cut River trail map

It's not altogether obvious how to find these attractive trails, each about 1/4 mile. On the east side of the bridge, walk along above the river back from the parking area to find a wide dirt trail with wood chips. It will lead down the valley wall to the river mouth by the beach - a 10- to 15-minute walk out to the lake. A footbridge down by the lake, some 50 to 100 yards in from the shore, lets you cross the river and take the other trail up the west side of the river valley. That trail down to the lake begins at the north end of the parking area by the west side of the bridge.

Beach next to Cut River
Cut River beach

If you're wearing waterproof sandals or waterproof boots, you can make a loop by going down on one side of the bridge, up the other, and then walk across the high U.S. 2 bridge on a pedestrian walkway. The view down is terrific. Be advised that the sway and vibration from big trucks may be thrilling - or alarming.

On U.S. 2 about 4 miles west of Brevort. Vault toilets are by the picnic area. Wheelchair-accessible: first part of walk to stairway from east picnic area.
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Michigan's Upper Peninsula - Hunts' Guide to the U.P.

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