Skip to main content

Great Lakes Road Trip Day 5 Part 3; Exploring Michigan Copper County in Houghton, Hancock, the Quincy Mine and Calumet

I arrived in Houghton just as the solar eclipse was hitting.  I was way too far north to get much of a shadow so I made my way to the visitor center of Isle Royale National Park on Lake Shore Drive to pick up a couple park maps.






US 41 has an interesting alignment through downtown Houghton with the northbound lanes running on Shelden Avenue and the southbound lanes on Montezuma Avenue.






Most people were interested in looking at the eclipse I was more interested in the old buildings and the Keweenaw Waterway Lift Bridge.  Houghton is the county seat of Houghton County and is by far the largest city in the general area of the Keweenaw Peninsula at about 8,000 residents.  The city was likely settled in the 1850s and grew in importance as port once the Keweenaw Waterway was dredged by the 1870s from a smaller river.  Much of the buildings in use today date from the early 20th century and have a classic "mine town" feel to them.

The copper boom in the Upper Peninsula (I should note it wasn't exclusive to just the Keweenaw Peninsula but primarily was located there) in 1845 and the industry was in operation on a large scale until the late 1960s.  Being the location of an early mining boom the Keweenaw Peninsula has a large assortment of almost abandoned cities scattered throughout,.  The mining decline started in the 1910s following large scale work strikes in 1913 to 1914.  Having lived in the west coast for so long I really found the place to be interesting to explore.

Houghton in particular suffered similar declines like the other mining towns in the area.  The city only lost one third of the population after the 1910s but has grown substantially since given Michigan Tech is located in the city which has become the primary source of employment.  The current Portage Lake Lift Bridge over the Keweenaw Waterway was completed in 1959.  The current bridge actually has a deck dedicated to rail service which has long been discontinued.  






US 41 and M-26 meet on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.  In the city of Hancock the routes split with US 41 traveling through downtown westward while M-26 continues in an eastern direction.





Hancock dates back to 1846 and once had a population close to 9,000 by 1910.  The city now has roughly half of it's peak population and essentially is now a suburb of Houghton.  US 41 splits in downtown with the northbound lanes running on first Reservation Street and then Quincy Street.  The southbound lanes of US 41 run on on Hancock Street.  Both lanes of travel converge past downtown on Lincoln Drive and ascend the cliffs to the Quincy Mine.









Above Hancock on US 41 is the remains the Quincy Mine.   The Quincy Mine was in operation from 1846 to 1945 to the end of World War II but initially was shuttered in the early 1930s.  Apparently the shaft of the Quincy Mine was deepest in the world at about 9,300 feet in depth upon closure in 1945.  The National Park Service now maintains the Quincy Mine property as part of the Keweenah National Historic Park.  Some of the remaining structures include the; Quincy Mine Hoist House, Number 2 Shaft Rock House, and many other older structures from the early history of the mine.




  
The final stop of the day was up at the village of Calumet which essentially is a ruin a small city.  Calumet was founded in 1864 as Red Jacket.  Calumet was incorporated late in the 1860s but did assume the modern name until the 1890s and was not legally changed until 1929.  Calumet was the location of the Calumet and Helca Mining Company which was once one of the largest producers of copper in the country.  Calumet peaked out at about 4,700 residents but began a quick decline after the 1913-1914 copper mine work strikes.  Calumet has about 700 residents today according to recent census figures and the village or rather city-scape is largely one of abandonment.  I walked 5th Street and the surround roadways checking out the crumbling buildings before heading back to Houghton for the night.













Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hetch Hetchy Valley; Hetch Hetchy Railroad, abandoned Lake Eleanor Road, and the Wapama Fall Bridge

This June I took a trip out to Yosemite National Park upon receiving my COVID-19 Day Use Reservation.  My destination in Yosemite National Park was out in Hetch Hetchy Valley.  I sought to hike to the Wapama Fall Bridge which took me through some of the path of the former Hetch Hetchy Valley Railroad and abandoned Lake Eleanor Road.



Part 1; Hetch Hetchy Valley, the Hetch Hetchy Railroad, and reservoir roads

Hetch Hetchy is glacially carved valley similar to Yosemite Valley which is located on the Tuolumne River of Tuolumne County.  Hetch Hetchy Valley presently is impounded by the O'Shaughnessy Dam which was completed during 1923 as part of a project to deliver water and hydroelectric power to the City of San Francisco.  Before being impounded Hetch Hetchy Valley had an average depth of approximately 1,800 feet with a maximum depth of approximately 3,000 feet.  Hetch Hetchy Valley is approximately three miles long and as much as a half mile wide.  Hetch Hetchy Valley is located dow…

Mineral King Road, the White Chief Mine, and the unbuilt California State Route 276

Back in July of 2016 I took Mineral King Road east from California State Route 198 to Mineral King Valley within the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Sequoia National Park.  This June I revisited Mineral King Valley and made my way up to the White Chief Mine.


Mineral King Road is a 24.8 mile rural highway maintained by the National Park Service and as Tulare County Mountain Road 375.  Mineral King Road originates at California State Route 198 in Three Rivers near the confluence of the Middle Fork Kaweah River and the East Fork Kaweah River.  Mineral King Road climbs from a starting elevation of 1,400 feet above sea level to 7,830 feet above sea level at the White Chief Mine Trailhead in Mineral King Valley.  Notably Mineral King Road is stated to have 697 curves.


Mineral King Road has an average grade of 5.1% but has several stretches between 15-20% in places.  Pjammycycling has a detailed breakdown on the grade levels over the entirety of Mineral King Road.

Pjammycycling on Mineral King R…

California's Rogue Sign State Route Shields

While recently revisiting Yosemite National Park I took a couple minutes to capture some of the California Sign State Route shields posted by the National Park Service ("NPS").  None of the NPS shields were actually posted on roadways maintained by Caltrans but were clearly intended to create route continuity with the Sign State Highways.  This phenomenon is not exclusive to Yosemite National Park and can be found on numerous roads not maintained by Caltrans throughout California.



Part 1; Route continuity over who maintains the route

In the very early era of State Highways in California the Division of Highways didn't actually field sign the Auto Trails or even US Routes.  The responsibility of Highway signage fell to the California State Automobile Association ("CSAA") and Automobile Club of Southern California ("ACSC").  The Auto Clubs simply signed Highways on roadways that best served navigational purposes.  These navigational purposes often didn&#…