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State board okays improving Douglass Houghton Falls accessibility

Northern Houghton County is home to the tallest waterfall in the entire State of Michigan. It’s not easy to get to, and Lansing is on the path to changing that. The Michigan National Resources Trust Fund okayed work to help increase public access at the Douglass Houghton Falls. All that is left is similar approval from the legislature.

Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brad Barnett says the informal Houghton County Recreation Authority played a huge role in the decision, two commissioners in particular.

The county was heavily involved. Commissioner Anderson and Commissioner Tikkanen were both involved, they’re both involved in the Houghton County Recreation Authority.

The work will most likely resemble something closer to what is seen at Canyon Falls in Baraga County, rather than a new state park. Barnett thinks there are other sites throughout the Keweenaw that could get the same treatment in the future.

One that immediately comes to mind is Montreal Falls. It is state land, but the access to that is just not nearly as robust as we need to make it to allow our residents and our visitors to truly enjoy that attraction.

The full release from the bureau is below.

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Residents and visitors to the Keweenaw Peninsula praised the Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Board’s recommendation to provide $300,000 to develop access to Houghton-Douglass Falls, Michigan’s tallest waterfall. If the Michigan Legislature approves the funding, preliminary design work and community engagement will begin to provide access to the ecological, geological and recreational gem.

“This announcement from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board is the most significant step forward of the Houghton-Douglass waterfall project since the property purchase by the State of Michigan,” shared Tom Tikkanen, Houghton County Commissioner. “This critical design process will allow development of this most unique natural and historical resource into one of Michigan’s premier destination landmarks. This will be a great benefit to the Houghton County community.”

Houghton-Douglass Falls, located near Calumet, MI, boats an impressive 110’ vertical drop making it the tallest waterfall in Michigan. The falls are fed by Hammel Creek and flow over the drop into a deep canyon with high rock walls. Historical records dating back to 1896 suggest it was named for cousins Douglass Houghton (former state geologist of Michigan) and Columbus Douglass.

The waterfall has been a popular site with locals; however, safety concerns and overuse led to its closure to public access in the mid-2010s. The Michigan DNR successfully purchased the property in 2018 with the intent of preserving the site and eventually developing public access.

Once Trust Fund allocations are approved by the Legislature, the DNR will move to begin community outreach to inform the design of the site.

“Houghton-Douglass Falls really is one of the most impressive sites in the Upper Peninsula,” expressed Brad Barnett, executive director of the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Its one of those places that just makes you feel small in comparison the Keweenaw’s wilderness. Allowing visitors to safely and respectfully experience this site will mean a lot to the area’s businesses and visitor economy.”

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