The cascading water of Michigan waterfalls and the surrounding nature are beautiful sights no matter the time of year. Did you know that you don’t have to plan a tropical vacation or drive to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula just to see a waterfall? In the Lower Peninsula, Ocqueoc Falls offers a one-of-a-kind experience with opportunities to hike, bike, and then cool off afterward.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide to this awesome Northern Michigan destination.
An Overview of Ocqueoc Falls
Ocqueoc Falls is the biggest waterfall in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Despite being small compared to the waterfalls that you can visit in the Upper Peninsula, it’s the only universally accessible waterfall in the nation. Wheelchairs can access the water via a decked ramp.
The waterfall is fed by the Ocqueoc River, which cut channels through the region’s limestone bedrock. You can see salmon swimming upriver through the underground channels during the spawning season.
Above the waterfall are remnants of an old mill site. Looking down, the water cascades over three ledges and only drops 5 feet into a pool below. This pool of water offers a great place to cool off after enjoying recreational activities.
Before you visit the falls, you’ll need to park at the day-use area, which is marked well on Ocqueoc Falls Hwy. From Rogers City, you can reach the area by following M-68 for about 11 miles. Then, turn right onto Ocqueoc Falls Hwy. You’ll see the entrance to the day-use area on the right.
Plenty of parking — 50 spaces — is available at the day-use area, and there are vault toilets. The waterfall is only about 300 feet away, so it’s a very quick walk. You’ll find a few picnic tables overlooking the water, which are accessible and surfaced with compacted crushed limestone.
The Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway
Access to Ocqueoc Falls wasn’t always so easy. Visitors used to have to climb over uneven landscape and down a 14-foot rocky incline to reach the river. Several organizations worked together to design and create the Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway in 1976, giving it a universal design without sacrificing the connection with nature or fun experience.
While the waterfall itself is an attraction, the pathway has brought even more people to the area for recreation. The paved trail starts from the parking lot and is wide enough to accommodate groups, wheelchairs, and cycling. Benches along the path have cement pads next to them, allowing for side-by-side seating with wheelchairs.
Down the decked ramp is a tiered climbing wall that features strategically designed transfer stations, allowing people in wheelchairs to get into the water. Additionally, the pathway has a platform for viewing the Ocqueoc Falls. Further into the trail are even more accessible picnic areas, giving visitors an array of scenic views.
Hiking & Mountain Biking Around Ocqueoc Falls
Whether you want a short or long adventure, the Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway is the perfect place to go for hiking and mountain biking. The paved trail, which has a mix of single-track and two-track paths, features four well-marked loops that range in length from 3 to 6 miles.
The shortest loop is the closest to the parking lot and provides the most scenery and activity for families with children. This first loop is also the easiest. Along with being longer — 3.5 miles, 4.6 miles, and 6 miles — the other loops are hard-packed and moderate in difficulty. This mix of difficulty means that hikers and mountain bikers of any skill level have a portion of trail to use.
No matter how far you go, you’ll pass the waterfall and journey through towering hardwood and pine trees. On the large display map at the trailhead, the numbered posts are set in a counterclockwise direction. If you follow that route, you’ll come to the falls at the end of your journey.
Best Time to Visit Ocqueoc Falls
Your reason for visiting Ocqueoc Falls has a direct impact on the best time to plan your trip. Here are our recommendations:
- Hiking or Biking — If you plan to hike or bike the pathway, anytime from spring through fall is wonderful.
- Picnicking — The picnic tables are always open, so you can go at any time of year. However, we suggest spring as the flowers bloom or fall as the colors change.
- Swimming — If you go to swim, summer is the best time to go. Generally, the water is the warmest from mid-July through August. Keep in mind that this is also the busiest time to take a trip to the waterfall.
- Snowshoeing or Skiing — As soon as the snow is thick enough, you can head to Ocqueoc Falls and the pathway for some winter sports.
Items to Take on Your Trip to the Waterfall
In order to access the parking lot for Ocqueoc Falls and the pathway, you need a state park annual pass or a daily vehicle pass. You can obtain one ahead of time here.
Take some sunscreen to protect your skin while you explore the area. If you plan to swim or wade in the river, you’ll want water shoes because the bottom of the river is rocky rather than sandy like a beach. Consider taking goggles for some underwater fun as well. And don’t forget towels to dry off afterward.
Ocqueoc Falls Highway–Ocqueoc River Bridge
About 530 feet from the entrance to the Ocqueoc Falls parking lot and day-use area, the Ocqueoc Falls Highway–Ocqueoc River Bridge is an early example of the concrete arch bridges that the Michigan State Highway Department built. It’s simply another marvel to visit while you’re here.
Constructed in 1920, the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by John Decker, a contractor from Rogers City, at a total cost of $8,849. At the time, the MSHD said the bridge was “notable for the excellence of the workmanship.”
Also called the Ocqueoc Falls Highway Bridge, it stretches across the Ocqueoc River at 57 feet long and 23 feet wide. The bridge is a 50-foot filled spandrel arch and has an elliptical profile on concrete abutments. It has a corbeled ring arch and panels on the concrete guardrails. On the inside of the guardrails, a bronze plate reads, “Trunk Line Bridge.”
Frequently Asked Questions About Ocqueoc Falls
How do you pronounce Ocqueoc Falls?
Here is the pronunciation for Ocqueoc — Ah-kee-ahk.
Where are the Ocqueoc Falls in Michigan?
The waterfall is located in Presque Isle County of Northeastern Michigan, not too far from Mackinaw State Forest. It’s about a 12-mile drive west of Rogers City, which is situated on the shoreline of Lake Huron.
How tall are Ocqueoc Falls?
Although it’s the largest waterfall in the Lower Peninsula, it only has a drop of about 5 feet.
How many waterfalls are in lower Michigan?
While there are hundreds of waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula, there are only two in the Lower Peninsula. Ocqueoc Falls is the most popular, partially because it’s the only publicly-owned waterfall. Also, it’s the only universally accessible falls in the country.
Can you swim at Ocqueoc Falls?
Yes. At the bottom of the waterfall is a pool of water big enough to call a swimming hole.
Can dogs go to Ocqueoc Falls?
Yes. You can take your dog to the waterfall and walk it along the pathway as long as you keep it on a leash.
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