Today we struck out alone, initially headed for Oswald’s Bear Ranch … the largest (bear only) bear ranch in the United States. It began in 1984 when the owner, interestingly a former boxer, rescued a baby bear. As Michigan law prohibits breeding or buying black bears, the Ranch rescues cubs from all over the US. They will then live the remainder of their 25-30 year lifespan there.
Opening to the public in 1997, the complex now has 29 bears, 2 huge habitats (with ½ and ⅓mile perimeters) and 2 smaller habitats (with ¼ mile perimeters). Thus, the environment where these bears live is natural and anything but the typical cage most wild animals are forced to live in. It was also very apparent that the bears were well-cared for as their coats were clean and shiny.
Each of the four habitats allows visitors to explore the perimeters and view these magnificent animals, which in the past I’ve only seen both while hiking and during our motor home travels. Apparently there used to be only a single chain link fence around each habitat … now there are two (making photography a real challenge). We’re guessing that the second perimeter fence was added after some stupid individual(s) stuck their fingers through the single fence and possibly lost them.
The water is notably brown in color from the tannins leached from the cedar swamps which the river drains.
The Upper Falls are more than 200 feet across and with a drop of approximately 48 feet. During the late spring runoff, the river drains as much as 50,000 US gallons of water per second, making the upper falls the third most voluminous vertical waterfall east of the Mississippi River, after Niagara Falls and Cohoes Falls, both in New York State.
The Lower Falls, located four miles downstream, are a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island which can be reached by rowboat. A hiking trail runs between the falls along the riverside, and visitors often play in the lower falls during the summer heat.
The Tahquamenon is noted as being the land of Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha – “by the rushing Tahquamenaw” where Hiawatha built his canoe. “Tahquamenon Falls” is also a song from Sufjan Stevens’s album Michigan.
Leaving the falls, we drove east to
Just before the center of the small town … we spotted some chain saw art