Skip to main content

Great Lakes Road Trip Day 8 Part 2; 103 miles on MN 1 through the Iron Ranges

Leaving Voyageurs I decided that I didn't want to back track on US 53 to Duluth so I took MN 1 east towards MN 61.  MN 1 is the longest state highway in Minnesota at approximately 346 miles.







There isn't much on MN 1 until the junction with MN 169 which is multiplex through Ely to the east.






When MN 169 was created in 1934 it terminated the junction of MN 1 and MN 135 in Tower until was extended past Ely in 1953.



Tower was apparently incorporated in 1889 and was plotted out due to the nearby Soudan Mine.  Tower is still a city despite only having about 500 residents today.











Directly east of Tower is Soudan which apparently was named after the mine above the town.  The Soudan Mine is now a state park and was in operation from 1882 to 1962 when it was shut down by US Steel.  Originally the Soudan Mine was an open pit but was moved underground in 1900.  The state park offers tours of the underground portion of the Soudan Mine but I only had time to check out the above ground portions.



















I'm fairly certain MN 1 used to run on Main Street in Soudan.  There eastern end of the street seems to be cut-off intentionally from the modern bypass route.


MN 1/169 is being straightened and widened between Soudan and Ely.  Apparently this is due to icy conditions in the winter which have been a hazard, it is called the "Eagle's Nest Project" and a link can be found here:




http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/Hwy169eagles/





Apparently settlers first arrived in Ely in the 1860s when iron was discovered in what is now known as the Iron Ranges.  Ely had rail service by 1888 and is still by far the largest inhabited place in the with about 3,400 residents today.  The big mine in the area was the Pioneer Mine which closed in 1967.






In the eastern end of the city of Ely MN 169 continues east for a couple miles before terminating on Sheridan Street while MN 1 uses 17th Avenue to exit the city and begin the southeast trek towards MN 61.


Interestingly it does appear there was a plan at some point to build a road east out of Ely to the Gun Flint Trail which would have connected to US 61.  There is no direct evidence to suggest that may have been a far flung plan for US 169 but it isn't hard not envision that was the idea.  North Star Highways has a photo of the unbuilt road in question at the following link.







Map of unbuilt roadway in the Iron Range east of Ely

Exiting Ely on MN 1 it is a 60 mile trek through the wilderness to MN 61 and the shores of Lake Superior.  Interestingly the guide sign still indicates US 61 and not MN 61.  US 61 was truncated back to Wyoming, MN in 1991 following the completion of I-35 through Duluth.





There isn't much trace of civilization between Ely and Isabella.  MN 1 is in bad shape and there are some pretty decent hills.  The elevation crossed over 2,000 feet above sea within the vicinity of Isabella.





The real hills are between Isabella and Finland.  The drop to Lake Superior had an 10% grade east of Finland before MN 1 terminates at MN 61.








Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Vague Original Southern Terminus of US Route 91 in the Californian Mojave Desert

One of the more intriguing mysteries of the early US Route System in California is where the original south terminus of US Route 91 was intended to be located in the Mojave Desert.  This blog is a little different than my usual behind the wheel fare and explores why US Route 91 ultimately ended at US Route 66 in Daggett instead of Bannock. What ultimately became the US Route System was first discussed during the American Association of State Highway Officials ("AASHO") during their annual 1924 meeting.  Ultimately the AASHO recommended to the Department of Agriculture to work with the States to develop a system of Interstate Highways to replace the many Auto Trails in use.  The Joint Board on Interstate Highways was ultimately commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and it's branch agency the Bureau of Public Roads in March of 1925.  The Joint Board on Interstate Highways first met in April of 1925 and decided on the new interstate road network would be known a

Where the hell is Hill Valley? (US Route 8 south/US Route 395 east)

Recently I made a visit to Universal Studios near Los Angeles.  While on the back lot tour I came across a piece of infamous movie-borne fictional highway infamy; the location of town square of Hill Valley, California on US Route 8/US Route 395. The above photo is part of the intro scene to the first Back-to-the-Future movie which was set in 1985. To anyone who follows roadways the signage error of US 8 meeting US 395 in California is an immediately notable error.  For one; US 8 doesn't even exist anywhere near California with present alignment being signed as an east/west highway between Norway, Michigan and Forest Lake, Minnesota.  To make matters worse US 8 is signed as a southbound route and US 395 (a north/south highway) is signed as an eastbound route.  At minimum the cut-out US 8 and US 395 shields somewhat resemble what Caltrans used in the 1980s. Assuming Hill Valley is located on what would have been US 395 by 1985 what locales would be a viable real world analog? 

Legend of the Ridge Route; a history of crossing the mountains between the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley from wagon trails to Interstates

Over the past two decades I've crossed the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles north over the Sierra Pelona Mountains and Tehachapi Range to San Joaquin Valley what seems to be an immeasurable number of times.  While Interstate 5 from Castaic Junction to Grapevine via Tejon Pass today is known to most as "The Grapevine" it occupies a corridor which has been traversed by numerous historic highways.  The most notable of these highways is known as the "Ridge Route."  This article is dedicated to the Ridge Route and the various highways that preceded it.  The Ridge Route is a 44 mile section of highway which was completed in 1915.  The Ridge Route originally stretched from Castaic Junction north over Liebre Summit and Tejon Pass to the tiny community of Grapevine.  In spite of a roadway that once utilized nearly 700 curves the Ridge Route is generally considered far ahead of it's time and one of the first modern highways constructed for automotive use.