Porcupine Mountains State Park: Presque Isle River, Manabezho Falls

One of my favorite Midwest spots is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Michigan upper peninsula.

The park offers 90 miles of trails, beautiful lakes, and numerous waterfalls. It also offers an immense amount of biting insects (black flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and other major nuisances).

The best way to avoid these annoying pests (they are worst in June and July), is to go offseason. Fall and Winter are my favorite times. In the Winter the park offers both downhill and cross-country ski trails.

The park has three main sections: Lake of the Clouds (plus the shoreline), the interior, and the river (waterfall) section. This post and the next few will cover the Presque Isle River section.

Manabezho Falls

Manabezho Falls has a drop of approximately 25 feet and a crest of 150 feet, it is the largest of the waterfalls on the river. It is below Manido Falls and Nawadaha Falls. The name Manabezho refers to an Ojibway spirit god. A view of the falls is easily accessible by trail.

All of these images are from mid-October. They represent what you can look forward to.

Feature Image Details

ISO 100 for 0.6 seconds at F16. I used a Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens at a focal length of 200 MM. I seldom use this lens but it does come in handy at times. This was one of the times.

For this waterfall, one needs to zoom in to isolate the best portion of it. Otherwise, you will end up with too much sky or too many unattractive sections of the span.

The composition lends itself to both horizontal and vertical framing.

The focal length on the vertical image is 300 mm.


Waterfalls photograph best in bright overcast conditions or in shade. Judging from the autumn reflections in the water, this was an image taken late mid-to-late afternoon with some sun hitting the trees and reflecting in the water, but no direct light on the waterfall itself.

There is a 2-mile waterfall loop trail that circles the waterfall section. Take it. This waterfall photographs best from the main parking area side, but Manido Falls, up next, offers opportunities from both sides.

Presque Isle River Bridge Crossing

A scenic wooden bridge crosses the Presque Isle River and there is a nice shot from the middle of it.

Be forewarned, traffic is heavy and it can be difficult to get a shot with no one crossing. That shot was 1.3 seconds at 100 mm which necessitate a tripod. For this length of time, if anyone is moving on the bridge it will ruin the image.

The water is high in this shot, way too high actually. There are beautiful stone carve-outs and potholes that photograph better when the water is low. But when the water is low, it’s also low on the main waterfalls. All in all, more water is better even if less water was better for this one shot.

It’s hard to get calm conditions at this spot. The rushing water makes its own wind. The best approach is to take a couple of frames, one to stop motion of the leaves, and another to enhance the motion on the water and blend them.

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Coming up next: Manido Falls and Rainbows

In case you missed it, please see Porcupine Mountains State Park: Lake of the Clouds for a glorious sunset.

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