Black River (Gogebic County)

Black River (Gogebic County)

The Black River is a river in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. The river flows into Lake Superior at coord|46|40|03|N|90|02|57|W|, approximately 22 miles (35 km) from the Wisconsin border. Its source is a boreal wetland in Gogebic County. The northern section of the river, 14 miles (23 km) within the boundaries of the Ottawa National Forest, was designated a National Wild and Scenic River in 1992.

At the Lake Superior mouth of the Black River is "Black River Harbor", a former fishing station where commercial fishermen brought in cargoes of lake trout. The North Country Trail crosses the river here via a Suspension footbridge.


The Wild and Scenic River section of the Black River of Gogebic County is known for the many waterfalls produced as the river tumbles down from near Copper Peak to Lake Superior. The river drops more than 200 feet (61 m) over five separate named cataracts beginning 2 miles (3.2 km) from its mouth. The first three named falls (not included in the five mentioned before) are smaller, farther apart, and have limited access. Some of these seven waterfalls are easily accessible from the parallel "Black River Road" (Gogebic County Route 513) north of Bessemer, Michigan, while other waterfalls require a more strenuous hike to see. Roadside trails provide access to Gorge Falls and Potawatomi Falls. The Black River Road was named a National Scenic Byway in 1992. The trails to two of the Black River waterfalls, Gorge and Potawatomi falls, have been designated National Recreation Trails due to their unique stairway designs (to provide easier access down the steep slopes) and observation platforms.

Narrows, Chippewa, and Algonquin Falls

The first three waterfalls on the Black River as it approaches Lake Superior are Narrows Falls, Chippewa Falls, and Algonquin Falls. They are the three smallest named waterfalls on the river. Narrows and Algonquin Falls are technically rapids or cascades. Chippewa falls drops nearly 10 feet (3 meters) over boulders and dead tree limbs. These area have limited access and are not often visited.

Great Conglomerate and Potawatomi Falls

Great Conglomerate Falls is the southernmost (the Black River flows North) of the more publicized falls and the first large waterfall on the river's approach to Lake Superior. The river drops 30 feet (9 m) around a large piece of conglomerate rock, boulders and tree trunks into a deep gorge. Potawatomi Falls drops nearly 40 feet (12 m) in two sections around a piece of conglomerate rock, similar to Great Conglomerate Falls.

Gorge and Sandstone Falls

At Gorge Falls, the Black River constricts to about 7 feet (2 m) across and drops 20 feet (6 m) into a steep gorge, creating masses of foam as the water falls against the rocks below. Sandstone Falls drops a total of 25 feet (7.6 m) in two sections, a 5 foot initial drop (pictured) and a 20 foot second drop. Sandstone Falls is named for the sandstone rocks along the riverbed that the river has cut channels through.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is the northernmost waterfall on the Black River, less than 1 mile from Lake Superior. It is also the highest. Here, the water drops 45 feet (13.7 m) down into a rocky gorge. The waterfall here creates much mist, which, on a sunny day, creates a constant rainbow. The approach to this waterfall is the most strenuous, 200 steps are built on staircases and into the side of the hill, creating a very steep approach.


*cite book
last =Penrose
first =Laurie
title = A Guide to 199 Michigan Waterfalls
publisher =Penrose Publications
month = June | year = 2005
location =West Branch, Michigan
pages =114-121
isbn =978-0-9769629-0-8

*cite web
title = Black River waterfalls & Black River Scenic Byway
work = Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula
publisher = Midwestern Guides
url =
accessdate =2007-04-24

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