Toonerville Trolley to Tahquamenon River & Falls


The Toonerville Trolley, on its 24-inch gauge tracks, is seen here waiting for passengers at Hunter's Mill, the Tahquamenon River end of its line. The other end is 5 ½ miles due south at Soo Junction a little north of state highway 28 west of Sault Ste. Marie -- as may be seen on this map of the northeast end of the Upper Peninsula.

The Toonerville Trolley people offer the return train ride as a separate 2-hour-45-minute excursion. But the real point of the narrow gauge line is transportation to the Tahquamenon River, at a point otherwise not easily accessible by vehicle, for boarding a tour boat for the 21-mile journey down the river to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. And that makes a day trip of it.
The Toonerville Trolley, which follows the path of a 19th-century logging road, itself dates from the 1920s and takes its name from the cartoon created by Fontaine Fox. (See "The Real Toonerville Trolley" from the February 1938 Railroad Magazine.)

Numbered plaques along the route allow riders to identify trees and shrubs from the list each one receives upon boarding. My trouble (and everyone else's, too) was seeing the numbers, as the train bounced along at 15 or so miles per hour, in time to check the list. Tree #2 is a Jack Pine. Some of the ones I was too late to photograph were Black Spruce (#1), Bigtooth Aspen (#4), Swamp Maple (#6), Skunk Spruce (#8), and Balm-of-Gilead (#10).

We were told to be on the look-out for eagles and hawks, bear and deer. But the day was cold with a bit of rain, which must had made the wild creatures seek shelter -- certainly they apparently felt no need to make themselves known to a trainload of tourists.

Once on the river boat -- the one I boarded was named Hiawatha -- I settled down to watch the scenery through a rain-smeared window, venturing out occasionlly simply because I didn't want to "waste" opportunities to see what was to be seen. Fortunately, the rain fled before too very long and, though the sun never assumed complete control, it became possible to remain outside on the boat's upper deck.


The Tahquamenon River, like many rivers in Florida, is shallow and the color of tea due to tannin from decaying vegetation. The purity of the water is in no way depreciated, a fact that the beavers who made their home into what looks like a pile of sticks, surely must appreciate.


Numerous fish camps line the river bank;
most may be reached only by boat.

Fishers and tourists share the river with wildlife. Or --
perhaps the wildlife are forced to share it with humans?

The Changing Face of the Tahquamenon River

To the Falls