Winthrop Junction to Kawbawgam Road. Travel 28 miles - back in time - and explore the history of Michigan's iron mining industry on the new Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Dedicated in 2013, this is the first stage of a 48-mile "path through the past" that will eventually run to the mines of Republic on the former Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad.
The current 28-mile trail follows along the Lake Superior shoreline from Kawbawgam Road to the historic iron ore dock in Marquette harbor. It then travels west, on a gradual uphill grade, to the mining communities of Negaunee and Ishpeming, passing by several museums, abandoned mines, historic sites and scenic natural areas. A series of interpretive signs keep you informed along the way.
If you don't have time to ride the entire 56-mile round trip, but would still like to experience the most historic sections of trail, we recommend the 38-mile round trip (19 miles each way) from the Marquette iron ore dock to Winthrop Junction and back. It's mostly uphill on the way there and mostly downhill (easy) on the way back.
Begin your journey at Lakeshore Parking Lot and head west on Spring Street to where the paved path begins at Marquette Commons. After three miles, the trail surface changes from asphalt to finely screened limestone. The uphill grade begins to level out as you reach "Pellet Pavilion," a pitched roof under a railroad trestle that protects the trail from iron ore pellets (taconite balls) that occasionally fall from passing rail cars. Stop and pick up a free souvenir. West of M-35, a spur of the trail takes you about a half mile north to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum. When you reach Maas Street, you must travel a short distance north on Forge Road (around Negaunee Cemetery) to reach the museum entrance.
The trail surface changes to asphalt as you approach Negaunee. Follow along Rail Street past the old Negaunee Train Depot to Jackson Mine Park. As the trail passes through an abandoned mining town, you will come to the site of the Jackson Mine, the first open pit iron mine in the Lake Superior region. Stop and check it out.
You will continue to see lots of other abandoned mines, equipment and buildings on your way to downtown Ishpeming. In Ishpeming, you will see three towering mine shafts dominating the landscape. At Lakeshore Drive, a northern spur of the trail takes you to the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum - a good place to learn the local history or start your journey east. The trail continues west of Ishpeming for another two miles. Just before the end of the trail in Winthrop Junction, you will come to an observation deck overlooking a lake. This is the flooded remains of the Section 16 Mine. As you gaze across the water, you will see the mountainous tailings of the mighty Empire Mine (still in operation) off in the distance - the world's largest open pit iron mine.