One of the premier destinations in the Upper Peninsula is the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls between Newberry and Paradise. Many people drive to the Tahquamenon Falls State Park to see the thundering Upper Falls, the largest waterfalls in Michigan, and to play and paddle around the tranquil Lower Falls. But there is another way to see the beautiful wilderness and Tahquamenon River in Tahquamenon Country — take the Famous Toonerville Trolley and Tahquamenon Riverboat Tour to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. This one-of-a-kind, guided tour will show you just how wildly beautiful and historically significant this area is. So, come aboard!
The Tahquamenon Falls Famous Toonerville Trolley and Riverboat Tour was started in 1927 by partners Joe Beach and Robert Hunter. Beach was a conservation officer on the Tahquamenon River and often got requests from people who wanted to ride along on his daily river patrol that went from north of Newberry to the rapids a half-mile above the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. It was a 14-hour round trip. Once at the rapids, you could then hike through the virgin forest to view the falls. At that time, there was no other way to reach the falls.
Joe envisioned a tour to the Upper Falls, but he needed a way to shorten the trip and to have access to a wider and deeper section of the river to navigate a larger boat. He partnered with Robert Hunter, a lumberman who had a rail line running from Soo Junction to the Tahquamenon River. The rail was a standard-size track, and they fitted a Model T truck with train wheels and a cart. Joe and Robert could carry 30 passengers across the rail to the river where they boarded the “Betty B” for the 21-mile cruise to the rapids above the falls.
The partners soon needed a way to carry more passengers on the popular tour. The partners bought a 24-inch gauge track, a locomotive and four flat cars, and in 1933, converted the track. This rail line is the longest of its kind in the country and one of the oldest. The company is still family-owned and operated by Robert Hunter’s great-grandson, Captain Kris Stewart and his family.
The tour includes both a 35-minute train ride through the Tahquamenon Country wilderness followed by a 2-hour Tahquamenon River cruise. The riverboat docks for 1-1/4 hours to allow for a ⅝-mile nature hike to view the Upper Tahquamenon Falls from the tour company’s private viewing area. The riverboat and train will retrace their route back to the boarding area, 2 hours by boat and then 35 minutes by train.
The total time is 6-½ hours, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on select days from mid-June to the beginning of October. Please arrive 30 minutes before the train departs to allow time to get your tickets and find a seat.
The address is 7195 County Road 381 (Soo Junction Road) Soo Junction, MI 49868 (or 49000). It is one hour from the Mackinac Bridge, 15 miles east of Newberry and just two minutes off Highway M-28 at mile marker #246. Look for the big black and yellow sign on the corner of M-28 and County Road 381.
The riverboat has a cash-only bar and grill onboard. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, ham and cheese or chicken sandwiches, sloppy joes, nachos, vegetarian burgers, peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches. After Labor Day, the crew serves homemade riverboat chili. There are also snacks, chips and beverages including beer, wine and wine coolers.
You will have access to a restroom at the Soo Junction train depot, on the riverboat and at the Tahquamenon Upper Falls viewing area. There is no restroom on the Toonerville Trolley Wilderness Train.
What to wear: In the warmer summer months, bring a jacket or sweatshirt as mornings can be cool. Walking shoes, tennis shoes or hiking boots are the best footwear for any season.
In the cooler months, wear long pants and several layers. Gloves are advisable, too. You can even bring blankets.
When traveling with young children: 6-½ hours can be long for children so please bring books or toys, blankets and a diaper bag. Child carriers and strollers are also welcome onboard.
Other things you can bring: Backpacks, bags, camera, binoculars and a small cooler that fits under your seat. NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ARE ALLOWED; you may purchase them from the grill/concession stand.
Well-behaved pets are welcome. There is a list of rules on the tour company’s site, but mainly keep your pet on a six-foot or shorter leash and in an adult’s control at all times. Please bring a water dish for your pet, too.
While there is a variety of wildlife in Tahquamenon Country, including bear and whitetail deer, several factors determine whether you will see them: the air temperature, weather and their whims. During the hottest part of the summer or later in the fall, you are less likely to see the larger wild animals.
The tour company recommends making online reservations. The train and riverboat tour only handles 180 passengers, and during summer and fall-color-tour season, the once-a-day trips fill fast. The company accepts VISA, Mastercard and Discover cards for ticket purchases only. Sorry, no personal checks. You may also purchase tickets at the Soo Junction train depot gift shop.
Check current adult, senior and children ticket prices.
Visit the Tahquamenon Falls Train & Riverboat Tour website or Facebook for complete details and updates to make it easier to plan your trip. The Stewart Family welcomes visitors of all ages to make memories that last for generations. If we can be of any assistance, contact us at Tahquamenon Country: (906) 287-1962 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.