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Protected Lands

Hungarian Falls Nature Area

 

Acres: 10
Established: 2013
County: Houghton
Category: Public Nature Area

A prized recreational spot located in the heart of the Keweenaw, Hungarian Falls is one the most visited destinations for both tourists and local residents. A series of impressive waterfalls cascade down the steep gorge before draining into Torch Lake near the small town of Tamarack City. Mixed hardwood forests fill the valley, with towering white pine, dense hemlocks, maple, oak, birch, and other native species providing shade in summer and beautiful hikes in the autumn. A series of trails meander their way up both sides of the gorge, allowing hikers an almost unlimited number of viewpoints from which to enjoy the waterfalls' scenic beauty. The Keweenaw Fault, a billion-year-old geological feature, is exposed at the uppermost falls and provides insight into the history of how the Keweenaw landscape was formed long ago.

In the final days of 2012, KLT was alerted that the uppermost falls in the gorge were put up for sale by the local Torch Lake Area Fire Protection Authority. Public reaction to the news was swift, with overwhelming support for the KLT to step in to try and protect public access to this special place. Challenged by the KLT Board of Directors, we set out on an ambitious fundraising effort: raise $40,000 from the community and get 100 new member households in two months or risk losing public access to the uppermost falls by putting the fate of the land in the hands of a private buyer.

The public took to the challenge and quickly spread the word - let's top off Hungarian Falls! Donations poured in from across the country, with local residents and Copper Country transplants alike chipping in as much as they could to keep their memories alive. Alumni from Michigan Tech and Finlandia shared stories of their wonderful times visiting the falls during their time in the Keweenaw, happy to know that KLT was working to keep the area open for their children to visit in the future. More than a few people revealed that they were proposed to by their loved one at Hungarian Falls. With so many people behind the project, we felt confident that the fundraising goal would be met.

The pivotal moment in our Hungarian Falls fundraising campaign was our Dam Jam musical social. Nearly 300 people of all ages came out to show their support for the falls and to have a good time, entertained by six talented bands. The Dam Jam was our most successful fundraiser to date and a memorable night in KLT history, giving tremendous momentum to the days that followed. The results were overwhelming: in just 60 days, we raised well over $50,000 to protect the uppermost Hungarian Falls. After completing the legal work to secure ownership, KLT finally assumed responsibility for the 10 acres containing the uppermost falls, historic dam, and pond in the fall of 2013.

Stewardship efforts are ongoing. Local residents are helping pick up garbage to keep the trails clean for visitors, and volunteers from Michigan Tech helped create a new trail on the west side of the pond. KLT is working with the DNR to formulate a working relationship to repair and consolidate trails and stewardship efforts in the gorge. A senior design project led by Professor Stan Vitton with students from Michigan Tech completed a study of the Hungarian Dam and stream dynamics in the fall of 2013, determining that the dam poses little to no risk of catastrophic failure, even in our children's lifetimes. Other students from the Visual & Performing Arts department at Michigan Tech are recording the soundscapes heard at the falls, creating intriguing pieces that make you aware of the sounds around us. The Hungarian Falls gorge is a hotspot for unique geology, providing a perfect location for students and professors in the Geoheritage movement to showcase their studies to the greater public.

The Hungarian Falls Nature Area is open year-round to the public. Visitors can hike in from multiple locations, either along the gorge from Tamarack City or in from Golf Course Road, a seasonal dirt road that is unplowed in winter. An access drive in from Golf Course Road is very rugged and we do not advise cars with low ground clearance to drive in. Ample parking is available along Golf Course Road in the warmer months. Please, be respectful of the property and do not burn garbage or other materials near the pond. KLT is actively trying to clean up the site and will continue to seek input from the public and the DNR to develop a management plan for the property. ATVs should stay off of obvious footpaths to help reduce erosion throughout the gorge.

 

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