Students and Volunteers Build a Boardwalk at Twin Waterfalls

By Adrienne Bozic, Regional Stewardship Organizer – Eastern Upper Peninsula

On a brisk Saturday morning, a group of intrepid young adults converged upon MNA’s Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve in Munising to celebrate All Saint’s Day in the most hallowed of ways: volunteering in the name of community service and ecological restoration. Regional Stewardship Organizers Adrienne Bozic and John Bagley led a crew of ten in construction of a new boardwalk over a wet section of trail. Twin Waterfalls is one MNA’s most visited sanctuaries, so these improvements were much needed and will provide a better trail system and visitor experience for years to come.

Our lumber was delivered, already cut to length, to the construction site at 8:30, thanks to 41 Lumber – who also extended a significant discount on all of the project materials. The enthusiastic group of students from Northern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, all the more dedicated for having foregone Halloween festivities for this endeavor (maybe we should have had a belated costume contest?), carried the lumber from the road up the trail to the job site.

Nicole Mathiasz carrying lumber

Nicole Mathiasz carries more than her weight in lumber! Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

After moving all of the lumber down the trail to the construction site, we set to work clearing the area and constructing the framework for the walkway.  At this point, the trail was still relatively dry.

But… our work site quickly turned into a wet, muddy quagmire which would have soured most; but expectations were realistic and spirits were high. One noted that “I never expected to have warm, dry feet anyway!”  Good thing!

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

The project slowly came together over the course of the morning. Everybody took part in all tasks, including cutting, drilling, digging, and most importantly, keeping spirits and energy high. I would welcome this good-natured crew on any of my projects!  David Buth of the Grand Rapids-based experiential education non-profit, Summer Journeys, brought several of his current and former students and leaders.  He noted that this service project was a perfect fit for his organization’s goal to “transform adolescents through experiential learning so they become stewards of their communities and selves”. Though the Twin Waterfalls project was not officially part of his curriculum, we agree that participation in activities like MNA work days help people acquire knowledge, skills, and confidence.  Working on service projects enables people to better appreciate and act ethically in the places they visit and call home.  We hope to work more with Summer Journeys in the future!

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

Everyone lent a hand, and while some present may not necessarily agree that “many hands make light work”, it certainly made it more enjoyable! One student was even overheard exclaiming, “I love volunteering!”

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Four hours of heavy labor in the cold really works up an appetite, so we broke for lunch at noon to enjoy hearty and delicious sandwiches and sides generously donated by the Falling Rock Café in downtown Munising.

Alas, the end of a long work day came before we could complete the project.  But we got a significant portion built and a great foundation to add to in the future. Besides…we had hot pizza and cold drinks awaiting us at Main Street Pizza in Munising, who offered to donate all the pizza we could eat and then some!  And we all had a long drive awaiting us: some back to Marquette, and some an all-day drive back home to Grand Rapids.  What a commitment by these dedicated volunteers! You can see the keen sense of satisfaction on the faces of these well-fed volunteers at the end of a long, tough day.

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

More improvements are yet needed, and additional segments of boardwalk have yet to be built.  Keep your eye out for future opportunities to help improve this fantastic natural area! Volunteer Days will be posted on the MNA website.

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Thanks to all of the participants who showed up on Saturday to lend a much-needed hand; and without whom this project would not have happened: David Buth, Sky Curie, Tyler Lenderink, Peter Donnelly, Nicole Mathiasz, Kelly Radius, Nathan Sherman, Kathryn Lund Johnson, Maddie Tencate.

Special thanks to the generous local business donors who made this project possible: 41 Lumber, Falling Rock Café, Main Street Pizza, the Munising Chamber of Commerce, and the Magnusson Hotel


The Upper Peninsula’s abundance of waterfalls

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Olson Falls. Photo by Mike Zajczenko.

Olson Falls. Photo by Mike Zajczenko.

Besides being the Great Lakes State, another unique thing that attracts people to Michigan is the hundreds of waterfalls all around the Upper Peninsula.

Despite the fact that there are so many waterfalls in the UP, surprisingly there are only a few in the Lower Peninsula.

Most Michiganders know the story of how the Great Lakes were created; after an ice age, the melting process began, with some glaciers being extremely dense and thick, gouging holes into the earth. These gouges formed the Great Lakes as they are today after the glaciers finally melted away and the land became populated with plants, animals and people.

Memorial falls. Photo via MNA archives.

Memorial falls. Photo via MNA archives.

The Upper Peninsula’s waterfalls are made up of sandstone and were formed over thousands of years. Much of the formation is due to how water falls over or on top of the rock that makes it up. Water erodes the rock over time and can create ridges and falls and a water basin by wearing down soft rock. The water basin at the bottom of the falls where water is collected.

Some waterfalls are more cascading, others have more of a sharp drop-off and some are considered rapids because of their location and how water flows.

MNA boasts the Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve Nature Sanctuary in Alger County. The sanctuary was acquired in 1986 in honor of MNA member Rudy Olson. The Munising Formation is also an exquisite part of the sanctuary, making up the vertical walls of the waterfalls. This formation is made of 550-million year old sandstone which is soft and erodes more quickly. The sandstone of the upper-rock which caps the formation is made of harder sandstone, which takes much longer to erode and makes up the Au Train Formation. This slower rate of erosion results in the shelf over which the water drops.

Click here to see a map of all Upper Peninsula waterfalls.


Photographer Stephen Ross to host photo workshop at Twin Waterfalls

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Olson Falls by Mike Zajczenko

Water trickles down the sandstone falls surrounded by lush ferns.  Photo by Mike Zajczenko

Photographer Stephen Ross will guide guests through a photo workshop while snapping shots in the beautiful Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve located in Alger County, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The workshop, on Saturday May 31, will focus on techniques in photography including  basic digital camera use, lighting, composition and subject choice.

Stephen will also facilitate a group critique of the morning’s collected pictures followed by a short talk on techniques including effective use of the histogram and white balance.

The group will visit several other locations for additional practice. There will also be an additional sunset photography session offered to those who would like to attend.

The Twin Waterfalls sanctuary was acquired in 1986 and expanded on in following years totaling more than 17 acres of land.

The waterfalls, known as the Memorial Falls in commemoration of MNA’s friends and donors, are accessible to guests via several trails, a half-mile in length. The falls are made up of sandstone dating back 550 million years. This wall formation is known as the Munising Formation and is rose-colored and easily eroded by harsh winter weather.

Beech Drops by Ben Blazier

Beech drops appear, attaching themselves to the roots of beech trees. Photo by Ben Blazier

The rock atop the formation, the Au Train Formation, is made up of more firm sandstone which is less affected by erosion. This formation appears as a “shelf” over which the water trickles down.

The falls are home to several different plants including ferns, beech trees and a parasitic plant, the tan-colored beech drop, which can grow to 18 inches in length and secures itself to the roots of the beech tree.

The workshop will be held at the Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve, the Alger County Community Center, and nearby locations. The cost for the workshop is $35, and lunch is included. For more information and to register please contact Upper Peninsula Regional Stewardship Organizer Adrienne Bozic at

MNA Odyssey: Exploring the Spectacular Twin Waterfalls

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling


Our energetic guide, Adrienne. Photo by Dave Wendling

September 25: Twin Waterfalls has so many reasons to be on the Odyssey list of Showcase Sanctuaries that it is hard to know where to begin.  It was the MNA’s 100th acquisition, and although it is only 15 acres, it contains two waterfalls. The Rudy Olson Falls, previously called Tannery Falls, was renamed in honor of member Rudy Olson, and Memorial Falls is named to honor more than one hundred past MNA members who had contributed to the association by the time of this acquisition. Adrienne Bozic, our very energetic and knowledgeable Regional Stewardship Organizer, led the field trip and explained how this is one of the most visited of the MNA sanctuaries, and that is one of the dilemmas of this natural wonder. Located next to a Munising neighborhood, the falls have for many years been used as a neighborhood park, and evidence of its use is everywhere, and it can be difficult to maintain the sense of isolation that is often valued in a sanctuary. While we hiked, we often came upon other hikers, photographers, and dog walkers.  While used as a location for many wedding photographs and family portraits, the falls are also unique in that one can actually walk behind the spray for a unique perspective of looking out from behind a waterfall.

Walking along the trail

Walking along the trail. Photo by Dave Wendling

The geology here also makes for an interesting experience and in a large part determines some of the special plants that can be found here.  The majestic vertical walls of both of the waterfall canyons are part of the Munising Formation, which consists of ancient sandstone that is about 550 million years old.  The buff, rose-colored sandstone is soft rock easily eroded by ice and water, due to its composition of small quartz partials that resemble beach sand. The upper rock capping the Munising Formation is made of harder dolomite sandstone, known at the Au Train Formation. This cap erodes at slower rate than the surrounding rock, which results in the shelf over which the water drops.  One special fern that requires this type of habitat to survive is the slender cliff brake fern.  It grows in the large horizontal crevices in the sandstone where seepage through the rocks supplies constant moisture.  Unfortunately for us, this year was especially dry, and the fern was not at its best.  Many other ferns and interesting plants can be found on the sandstone and throughout this sanctuary.

As Adrienne led us into a grove of American beech trees, she showed us white streaks that were covering the smooth bark of all the beech trees. She explained that this is the characteristic sign of beech bark disease, which will, sadly, kill all of them within the next five years.  She explained that the entire Lake Superior shoreline beech population is being disseminated as a result of this disease.  Beech bark disease is caused by an alien beech scale insect Cryptococcus fagisuga, which feeds on the sap of the trees and allows at least two species of Nectria fungus (one of which is alien) to enter the inner bark and kill the tree.  The white streaks are produced by the scale insect which secretes a wax-like substance that covers their bodies.  This waxy material will actually rub off on your fingers.  Adrienne worried about what will happen to the bears and other woodland animals that are dependent upon the beechnuts for their survival.  She warned that beech bark disease is likely to spread south and affect all of Michigan’s beech trees.   There is some hope because some trees may be resistant to the disease, but the majority of our beech trees are not.

Sharing the same sandstone rock formations as the Pictured Rock shoreline, the Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve is a somewhat challenging hike due to the changes in elevation and narrow trails. At many points, however, it is truly spectacular and an especially interesting sanctuary to introduce children to the wonder of the natural world.

Under the falls

The group stands behind the falls. Photo by Marianne Glosenger