It was a beautiful Sunday morning – the autumn colors were at their peak, the sky was blue, the air was warm. My wife and I awoke and wanted to take a road trip. A few weeks ago, I asked The Crooked Porch’s Facebook followers about interesting bridges in Northern Michigan. More than one reader recommended the Cut River Bridge on US-2 in the UP. My son and I stopped there a few years back during a school field trip, but my wife and daughter have never been. I remembered the stunning views from atop the bridge and fun we had going down to the river. When I told my wife about it, she wanted to see it. So we packed the kids in the car and headed north.
Built in 1947, the Cut River Bridge is one of only two cantilevered steel deck bridges in Michigan. It is 641 feet long and was built using 888 short tons of steel. It spans the length of the Cut River Valley, 147 feet above the riverbed. The Michigan Department of Transportation has installed walkways on both sides of the bridge, allowing for safe viewing of the river valley below and the forest on either side.
The views are magnificent. Rolling hillsides. Dense forests. The river cuts a winding trail through the valley before ending in Lake Michigan. It is impossible not to be moved by the beauty of the Upper Peninsula, when looking out at the Cut River Valley.
Once we crossed the bridge on both sides, we made our way down the wooden stairs leading to the valley below. Here we explored the forest and marveled at the height of the bridge.
The children had fun climbing the steep bank and oddly shaped trees. They jumped on rocks in the river. They ran up the hill leading back to the parking lot, and slid back down on their bottoms. My wife Jill was especially intrigued by the sounds of the river, the wind passing through the leaves, and the faint hum of the cars passing overhead. I was so in awe of the scenery, I kept snapping photographs.
We spent several hours exploring the forest, river, and Lake Michigan. When we got back to the car, all four of us thought the site well worth the ninety-minute drive.
If you plan on visiting the Cut River Bridge, there is safe parking on both sides of the bridge. US-2 is a busy highway, with fast moving cars and trucks, so please do not cross the road. There are walkways under the bridge at both ends to get you safely to the other side.
There is two ways to get up and/or down to the river below. The first is a staircase on the Lake Michigan side of the bridge. The climb back up is extremely strenuous, but there are benches placed along the climb.
The other way up is one of two forest paths. You will walk further, but the climb is not as steep. My family highly recommends the trails, especially the one on the eastern side of the river. This route takes you alongside trees that have grown at odd angles or have been unnaturally bent.
The view from the river is nearly as magnificent as the views from atop the bridge, so I would highly recommend the descent.