Tag Archives: lake superior ore boats

Great Lakes Ore boats

While today may feel dreary, drizzle, overcast and cool, it does remind me of how we can adapt if we are open to it. Having grown up and lived in the Midwest where we stayed indoors when the weather was similar to today’s, moving to Oregon,as my first job out of the Army, was quite a shock. However, I soon learned that Oregonians don’t let dreary weather keep them inside. I also learned something strange, how comforting the drizzle and clouds felt mostly because everything stayed green.

Later when I returned to attend University of Oregon for a degree in Landscape Architecture, I really learned about adaptability. One of the required classes through out my tenure was on plant materials, the class was conducted outdoors regardless of the weather. We all learned to adapt and the class ended up being one of our favorites.

The Great Lake freighter below, making its way into the Duluth harbor on a similarly dreary day as today, brought back those Oregon memories. Many of these Great Lakes ore boats have plied the waters of the lakes for decades hauling ore from mining towns to ports through out the Great Lakes. Many of the ore boats seem to be on the verge of falling apart like the one in the photo. If you look closely along the port side of the hull it looks like Swiss cheese. Signs of the toll these boats pay over decades of constant abuse can be seen through out the entirety of this boat’s structure.

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Working Lake Superior

I’ve tried to catch these photos for years, a lake cargo boat leaving at sunrise through the ship channel. It was one of those “accidental” shots, I was shooting the sunset from the balcony of our motel and turned to get some of the light house only to discover this beauty. The light couldn’t have been better with a hint of sunrise reflecting off the bow and bridge of the boat as it heads up the lake.

The Mainistee  makes an early morning departure through the Duluth ship canal  into the open water of Lake Superior,  on its’ way to do whatever it does. These Great Lakes working boats have always fascinated me in part because of their strange design and the fact that they add a nautical narrative to a state and region that is far from nautical.

My first encounter with both Lake Superior and the great north woods occurred in the early to mid 1950s when my family decided to venture up here from St. Louis, where I grew up. I have vague memories of the Duluth lift bridge and a harbor and water front full of working ore boats crewed by tough looking men who hung out in what is now Canal Park, as they waited for their boats to depart up the North Shore to fetch a fresh load of ore.

As we left Duluth and headed into the “wilderness”of the north woods I remember feeling that someday I would come back.

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