Tucked away on the western side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, just a few miles east of Paulding, is Bond Falls State Park. Although modest in size, this area is home to both upper and lower Bond Falls—two of the most stunning waterfalls in Michigan.
Once you arrive, simply park in the lower main lot and take a quick jaunt down the 600-foot path that serves the lower falls area. Accessing the area showcased in the photo requires an equally brief stroll along an easy uphill trail to the right of lower falls.
Weather At Bond Falls State Park
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for chaotic weather, so “average” conditions can be difficult to pin down. Summer temps are typically pleasant and comfortable, while winter can see the thermometer plummet to numbers that would intimidate a polar bear. Fall comes early, and snow in late September isn’t uncommon. Foliage doesn’t make a full appearance again until the first part of May.
Despite the weather, Bond Falls is immune to variances in seasonal water flow. A dam was placed on the middle fork of the Ontonagon River, and the resulting reservoir feeds the falls a relatively consistent supply of water year-round.
Photo Experience At Bond Falls
With two areas of distinct, photogenic waterfalls, the area is a playground for landscape photographers. I pack lenses that cover everything from 14mm to 70mm when tackling this location. The image in this article was captured with a 21mm Zeiss lens, but don’t underestimate the opportunities for other focal lengths as you test various compositions.
When it comes to accessories, this location requires nothing more exotic than a polarizing filter and a tripod—and perhaps a neutral-density filter if you’re shooting during midday. A polarizer is especially important if you want to minimize distracting reflections on rocks and pull the best colors from the leaves.
The image accompanying this article was captured a bit after sunset with my Nikon D810. I was very close to the nearest foreground rock, so I chose ƒ/11 to get everything sharp in a single take. With the polarizer attached, this resulted in an 8-second exposure—a dangerous proposition since I was contending with a light, intermittent breeze that threatened to turn my leaves into colorful blobs at the tips of the branches. Patience and timing helped me get a shot without movement.
It can be argued that any time of the year can yield excellent results at this location. While I haven’t visited the area in winter, I have really enjoyed the images I’ve captured in both late summer and autumn.
While the upper falls section makes a compelling subject any time of year, it puts on the best show in autumn. The trick is hitting it at peak color, which can happen anywhere between late September and the second week of October. Consulting foliage-tracking websites can help narrow down the ideal time.
I also recommend shooting early or late in the day. This photo was captured just after sunset, so I was able to include some soft color in the sky. Early morning works well too, especially in late summer or early autumn when the chilly night air encourages steam to rise from the relatively warmer water.
Contact: Pure Michigan, michigan.org/property/bond-falls-scenic-site.
See more of Steve Perry’s work at backcountrygallery.com.