Tahquamenon Falls: It's a (tourist) Trap!!!


What defines a "Tourist Trap"? We all probably have different ways in which we define what constitutes a tourist trap. For me, I identify the tourist trap with one simple machine. The penny flattener. I'm sure everyone has seen these at the zoo, the amusement park or even at Prehistoric Forest(yes, that's a 'Tommy Boy' clip). You put in 50¢ and in return you get a flattened, monetarily worthless penny - what a scam! I know, I know, I'm being a bit cynical and to some the flattened penny is a token or memory of a place they visited and truly loved. But to me it easily identifies a place as a tourist trap.


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In the beautiful, dense and pristine forest of Michigan's Upper Peninsula you can find a place that sells Buffalo Burgers, Micro Brews and yes, flattened pennies. This place is called Tahquamenon Falls State Park and by my simple definition, it is a tourist trap. I had been to this park once before and was a bit frustrated with how "touristy" this spot was. So when I decided to start the Parks Series I was reluctant to put in on the list of parks that I would visit. However, being one of the most well known and most visited of the Michigan State Parks I knew I would catch grief from those who are following this series if I didn't include it. So when I had some free time in July I decided to head north of the bridge and visit this park. 

When looking at a map of Tahquamenon Falls State Park you can see just how large this park is. That's what was encouraging to me and helped remove some of the negativity I felt about it being a "tourist trap". The park actually consists of 2 seperate waterfall areas - the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls. When I arrived I stopped by both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls just to see how busy they were. And being July they were packed!! I don't like taking photos amongst crowds so I decided to head to Clark Lake(just north of the falls) and try to create some images there. You can access the trailhead to Clark Lake via a one lane dirt/sand road. When I arrived at the trailhead I was surprised to find that nobody else was there, so I took a quick bath in OFF Deep Woods with Extra Deet and headed off to find Clark Lake. The trail was nicely defined and the scenery was quite beautiful. The light was decent with some high clouds and nice blue sky. I clicked the shutter quite a bit while on this hike but was really only fond of the image I created above.

As the day went on and the light began changing I decided it was time to head to falls, elbow my way through the crowds and create some photos of what I actually came for. I started at The Lower Falls and plunked down $7 for a row boat to the island for better views. Being out $7.50 and only having a flat penny to show for it I had hopes that the island would supply the beauty and solitude I was looking for. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!!  The views were amazing with the water rushing over rocks and the sound as relaxing as the cool breeze coming over the river. This was definitely the Tahquamenon I was hoping to find! I created many compositions from the shores of this small island and eventually got back in my row boat and slowly made my way back to the main area of the Lower Falls park(I also found that my rowing abilities are lacking..)

After creating images at the Lower Falls for a while I decided I should probably go to the Upper Falls(the most recognizable) and create a photo or two there. The light was getting good and I wanted to create a good panoramic image. So I walked down the path and down the flight of stairs to get to the observation deck. By this time most of the tourists had gone so I had very little company on the observation deck, which was nice. I was able to create a panoramic image that I really liked(at the top of this post). Eventually the light left and I headed to the hotel to get some rest after a long day. The day was over but I certainly learned that a "Tourist Trap" might attract tourists for good reason - such as amazing natural beauty - and that if you explore a little bit and tune out some ambient distractions, flattened pennies aren't really a bad thing.

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