You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
We're here to see America, after all, and Duluth seems like a worthy destination for that. It's in Minnesota, we're told, and it's late June 2022. Proceed ad libitum.
Today we're off north along the Lake Superior lakeshore, but first, the fabulous Aerial Lift Bridge, 29 June 2022.
And next, leaving the Canal Park district and turning onto Interstate I35 north (which ends two miles up the road -- thereafter we're on Hwy 61, alternating with the Scenic Dr [Old Hwy 61]).
First a brief stop, Two Harbors, where we'll descend to have a hasty look round.
Just down to one of the two harbors, with this monumental ore loading pier, extending nearly 500 meters out into Agate Bay. That's the shore end of the first one, and . . .
. . . that's rest of it. There were originally six wooden docks from 1884, replaced by steel in the 1920s, and now with only three left. Trains lumber out onto the docks and dump the goods down one of the 112 'pockets' into waiting ships. We're informed that even now they are shipping 10 million tons of low-grade iron ore called taconite per year. The wonders of the modern age.
The vintage tugboat is called the Edna G., and is evidently visitable.
The train depot just above those loading docks -- they've got at least one vintage locomotive to be admired, off to the left.
There was a time when Two Harbors had its fair share of interesting architecture. There is in fact still a second harbor as well, called Burlington Bay. One of the interesting things about Two Harbors is that the five fellows who started the 3M company ($35 billion in sales in 2021) registered it from here in 1902 -- it was all a mistake at that time, unfortunately, and they moved on to St Paul in 1907; the rest is a glorious capitalist story.
A noble small town on the middle American template
About five miles farther on from Two Harbors, we approach the Silver Creek Cliff tunnel, a recommended destination for a five-minute interlude.
The little carpark is just north of the tunnel, so here we go; it's free, after all.
The new wooden walkway above soon gave way to the original Old Hwy 61, which had been drilled out of the cliffside years earlier and only replaced by the tunnel in 1994 . . .
. . . as explained at the scenic overlook.
They've put a nasty-looking fence up, so we won't be able to play on the ladder at all.
A thrilling commute it must have been before the tunnel went in.
Mile after mile, after mile after mile, these purple flowers along the roadside. Someone mentioned the word 'phlox'.
Here we are at the Silver Bay Safe Harbor, about 20 miles farther north along Hwy 61 (here called the 'Voyageur Hwy' after the 18th century French Canadian canoe transporters for the fur industry) -- after a non-brief interlude of 70 minutes awaiting two BLTs at the Lemon Wolf Café in Beaver Bay. It looks a bit like the offshore Michael's Mount in Cornwall, in miniature.
We're informed (below, in fact) that there are so few natural harbors along this Lake Superior shoreline, so many unpredictable cataclysmic storms, and so many recreational boaters preferring safety to adventure (wisely), there was a movement in the 1990s to create a system of nautical refuges under the direction of the Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources, employing the US Corps of Engineers, other groups, and local authorities.
And this is the worthy Safe Harbors establishment in Silver Bay, created beginning in 1997 and opened in 2000.
A little helpful background
The Silver Bay safe harbor and marina
It's got a sort of lighthouse motif to it, without the lighthouse
One does enviously love these cute little boats. Someday, we will have one of our own. Maybe several.
There's other stuff beneath this construction, laid out in the 1950s as a breakwater leading out to Pellet Island to serve a taconite processing plant at the time, but these massive 'armor stones', stuck on as a reliable top layer and trucked in in 1996-97, weigh more than 7 tons each (the largest of them is said to weigh 28 tons).
And that surely does look like a taconite processing plant, if we've ever seen one.
(Though we haven't.)
The good ship 'Kraken'. Familiar name -- whatever does that remind us of? Oh of course, Jules Verne. And Sidney Powell.
A trim little craft representing the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society
Very nice ambience, they must all be having fun here. Though there are only two people anywhere about, an aging smoker on the docks and the site manager peeking out of the little office at the corner of the building facing us. ('It's okay, we're leaving now; no worries.')
But now, at last, it's time for the GOOSEBERRY FALLS.
And this is really it -- 14 miles back down the Voyageurs Hwy to the Gooseberry Falls State Park. Highly recommended by Kitty & William Mayo, 61 gems on Highway 61, 2nd ed., 2018 ('If you only have time for one stop on your North Shore drive, make sure it's at Gooseberry Falls State Park.').
This, in fact, is Gem 18. So we'll be happy to test the Mayos' judgment.
This is the Visitors' Centre, extremely well done, but no pets allowed inside. The arcade of benches on the left is inhabited by designated members of each family taking turns with the pets whilst the rest of them visit the facilities inside.
Credit where credit is due. Back in the days when goverment focused more on genuinely helpful improvements, and jobs.
Since returning to the US, we've been building up an estimable portfolio of CCC achievements in Kentucky, etc. -- and one remembers from many years ago the similar works for public conservation and enjoyment along the Hudson River north of New York City. And they're all built to the same architectural template.
The short path to the Middle Falls, overlooking the Lower Falls
The whole thing's a big bunch of basalt rock created by lava flows 'over a billion years ago' (!) -- and we're standing right on it.
The Middle Falls -- not awe-inspiring (cf. Niagara) but interesting, pretty, thought-provoking, and . . .
persuading us to carry on to the Upper Falls, past that Hwy 61 ('Voyageurs Hwy') bridge.
Our first look at the Upper Falls, at least the Upperest to be found in this part of the '1,700 acres of mixed evergreen, aspen and birch forests bordering Lake Superior'. The brochure does note that one of the many walking trails in the park follows up the river one mile to what's called the Fifth Falls.
It really is quite pretty. And not too noisy. We'll go on up for a closer look.
Here's the Upper Falls from alongside, slooshing down under the highway (and pedestrian) bridge, over all that basalt.
The Gooseberry River is a 23-mile stream which 'has an irregular discharge highly dependent on runoff from rain and snow melt'. According to Wikipedia, the Gooseberry name dates from an 1823 map and comes either from an Ojibwe name for a river with gooseberries (makes sense) or from a translation of a French explorer named Groseilliers on a map from 1670 (less so).
The original bridge for Hwy 61, the only US-Canada highway along the North Shore, was built here in 1922, but replaced by this more reliable one in the 1990s.
A small refutation of the Intelligent Design theories
Aesthetically speaking, the Upper Falls has all of the pleasing symmetries. And it's not too noisy.
Back down to the slightly more elaborate Middle Falls now, and next . . .
. . . a glance at some of the truly tortured vegetation here. This area, like nearly most of the upper midwest, was hit hard by the lumber barons with political connections -- the lumber was cleaned out of here from the 1890s and rafted to Ashland, Wisconsin, not so far off. 'Logging and fires exhausted the pine by the 1920s, and loggers moved out of the region.' Evidently, ghost towns are left, and are 'now the subject of ghost stories'.
Ample and thoughtful facilities ('Swimming not recommended'!)
We're heading down now to the Lower Falls, to complete our three-falls Gooseberry experience.
The Middle Falls again as we scurry on down the convenient steps
And a 'land bridge' (what kind of rock was that again?)
The Lower Falls, just as promised
And a bridge from the path down the far side. There are more ambitious walking trails all over this State Park, including part of the celebrated paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail. But we'll decline. Maybe another day.
The Lower Falls, and . . .
. . . its pool, leading to . . .
. . . the Gooseberry River, all finished with its exciting waterfalls and bound calmly now for the lake. It was in 1933 that the state of Minnesota authorized the preservation of this area, and the Civilian Conservation Corps soon arrived to establish the Gooseberry Falls State Park. Gratitude to everyone involved in that, and now.
There are a few rural fixer-uppers on the Voyageur Hwy back to Duluth.
Passing by Caribou Coffee on Canal Park Drive, we finally get to see the fanciful installation from the front. (Here's the back view from yesterday.)
The other valued guest must really be needing some help -- the sign's been up for half an hour.
Soon: Ashland on the way home, then back on the lake (with ducks)