Hunts' Guide to The Upper Peninsula

Bond Falls Scenic Site and Bond Falls Flowage

Bond Falls JMP
Photography by James Marvin Phelps

Complex and spectacular Bond Falls, one of the western Upper Peninsula's most visited and photographed places, is just one of the attractions at the outlet of the Bond Falls Flowage. Put together, it's a fine place to spend a day, what with trout fishing in the flowage and on the Ontonagon River's Middle Branch; the swimming beach; a woodland streamside path; wading in the rapids before the falls; and enjoying an ice cream cone at a little park below the dam with swings, picnic tables, and benches.

Bond Falls minimap

An Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) dam created the flowage, over three miles across. Just below the dam and across the road, a trail, steep and root-laced in places, follows the river for a quarter mile through cedars and other conifers. The river cascades over a dark, wide rim of ancient volcanic rock, fractured into boulders. It forms several pools magnets for splashing and wading on hot summer days. The river then curves and disappears into a concrete channel that minimizes erosion.

Finally, the water spreads out for dramatic effect at Bond Falls. There the river drops almost 50 feel over a wide series of stair-like boulders. The water makes complicated, curvy spray patterns in many directions, then creates a wide pool and divides, forming an island. A bridge lets people cross onto the island, which provides a grand photo opportunity for capturing the falls' complex panorama against the sky, as if the photographer were standing in the river.

Until recently Bond Falls was off-limits to anyone not sure of foot, let alone disabled. Now it's fully accessible via a second entrance and steep asphalt drive down to a parking lot. From it a 600' boardwalk leads to the falls. Viewing platforms with artistic grillwork frame some views of the falls. People can still walk down to the water. (Funds from gas and oil drilling make such projects possible despite Michigan's economic woes.)

At the main falls, visitors can cross a footbridge to reach another, steeper trail along the east bank, returning back to the road and the Bond Falls Outpost (906-827-3753). That's the little ice cream-souvenir stand and camp store just below the dam, next to the campground office.

In Fish Michigan: 50 Rivers, fishing authority Tom Huggler says the five-mile stretch of the Ontonagon River's Middle Branch north from Bond Falls to Agate Falls is an excellent spot to fly-fish for brook trout. It's "shallow, fast water that stays cold, . . . with some deep pools and substrate of mostly cobble and gravel."
From U.S. 45 in Paulding, go east on Bond Falls Road a little over 3 miles. The new parking area comes first. The Outpost is past it. From M-28 a mile west of Trout Creek, follow One Mile Road to falls.
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Bond Falls Scenic Site and Bond Falls Flowage. Not just a spectacular waterfall, but rocky upstream rapids, great fror wading, flanked by trails through cedars and pines. Nearby: impoundment, camping, great brook trout fishing. ... more

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