Gogebic and Ontonagon County Info

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GOGEBIC COUNTY encompasses the southern half of Lake Gogebic and is in the Central Time Zone.
It includes the Watersmeet area, Marenisco, Wakefield, Bessemer and Ironwood.

Gogebic County welcomes you to year-round vacation enjoyment. If you are interested in 4-seasons of outdoor activities – you’ve found your new vacation area or maybe your new home!
Explore miles of scenic mountain bike trails thru the Ottawa forest. Enjoy the 21,000 acres of virgin forest in the Sylvania Wilderness Area and the Chisco Chain of Lakes, taking your camara to record the beauty of the area along with the experience of seeing many birds, loons, fantastic eagles soaring and wildlife in their natural setting.. Enjoy the fun and excitement of the Gogebic County Fair in August. Take an adventure ride to the top of Copper Peak and “Big Snow Country” offers some of the best downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Midwest.

Visit Gogebic County Natural Resources Center website!


Ottawa Visitor Center
US 2 and 45, Watersmeet, Michigan
(906) 358-4724 Visitor Center and (906) 358-4127 Bear’s Den Gift Shop
Website: www.ottawainterpretive.org
or www.fs.fed.us/r9/Ottawa

The center provides an excellent source of info about the area and recreation opportunities, including snowmobiling, hunting, fall color tours, hiking, maps and brochures. As well as weekly videos on wildlife in U.P., history and culture in our area and more on Saturday afternoons at 2pm(ct).

ONTONAGON COUNTY is located along the south shore of Lake Superior towards the western end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It includes some of the most beautiful areas in the state of Michigan, such as the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Ottawa National Forest, and Lake Gogebic, the U.P.’s largest inland lake.

Ontonagon County is in the Eastern Time Zone and encompasses the North half of Lake Gogebic.  This is always fun on New Years Eve where you can celebrate first in Eastern Time Zone and then head down the lake to celebrate once again in Central Time Zone. It’s kind of crazy but you get used to it after awhile…when making plans you’re always asking “in my time or your time?”, “real time or your time?”.  

Ontonagon County includes the following towns:  Bergland, White Pine, Silver City, Ontonagon, Rockland, Greenland, Mass City Bruce Crossing, Ewen, Trout Creek and Paulding.

Ontonagon County has over 1,200 miles of streams and rivers.  Canoing or kayaking on rivers or viewing the many waterfalls are a tourist delight.  Bond Falls, Agate Falls, and O-Kun-de-Kun Falls are just  several of the more popular.  Lake Superior provides some excellent fishing as well as Lake Gogebic and the countless other inland lakes and streams located in Ontonagon County.

There are also miles of trails open to ATV’s (www.mi-trale.org) and hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails through some of the most remarkable scenery in the Midwest.  Our nationally renowned snowmobile trail system interconnects with the Upper Peninsula’s 2,500 miles of trails as well as northern Wisconsin’s trail system.

The PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS STATE PARK was established in 1945 and remains virtually unchanged since then. Its 60,000 acres are one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest. Some of the park’s many attractions include Lake of the Clouds (one of the most scenic spots in all of Michigan), and Summit Peak Observation Tower (one of the highest points in Michigan). Sandy beaches along the Lake Superior shoreline are good for swimming and agate hunting. History buffs can explore self-guided trails to old mining sites on the Union Mine Scenic Trail, the Nonesuch Mine location, the old Carp Lake Mine, and the historic Carp Lake Stamp Mill site.

The Porcupine Mountains Ski Area features one of the highest vertical drops in the Midwest.  Uncrowded slopes and a spectacular view of Lake Superior make skiing the “Porkies” an unforgettable experience.  Nordic skiing through incomparable forests and a variety of terrain can be enjoyed along the 23 miles of groomed trails, as well as snowshoeing and hiking for all skill levels.  www.porkiesfun.com

Michigan’s premier scenic attraction.  Don’t miss it during your visit here!
An observation area 300 feet above the lake is at the end of highway M-107.  A State Park motor vehicle permit is required, but the view is easiy worth a few time the price of admission.  Take some time to appreciate the ancient volcanic escarpment that borders the lake, the vast carpet of  virgin timber, and the dramatic view of Lake of the Clouds in its many moods.

The center has exhibits and a high tech multi image slide program that tells of the attractions and the history of the Porcupine Mountains.  Take an “armchair adventure” at the Visitor Center, 1/2 mile south of the M-107 intersection on the South Boundary Road.

An observation tower sits atop one of the highest points in Michigan.  Most of the Porcupine Mountains can be seen from this promontory, as well as Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin.  Another observation deck along the way to the tower offers a splendid view of the Little Carp River Valley and the beaver meadows along it.  The walk to Summit Peak is a bit of a climb, but a short one, and well worth the view.  The parking area can be found 13 miles from the M-107 intersection down the South Boundary Road.

This is a gem of a place where time stands still.  An interpretive trail leads through virgin hemlock forest along the cascades of the Little Union River and tells the story of mining efforts of days gone by.  This very special place can be found 2 1/2 miles south of M-107 on South Boundary Road.

Only a ghost town remains of the efforts of 1890’s miners and their families.  Ruins of exquisitely hewn masonry of the mine buildings remain on the banks of the Little Iron River.  Located about 4 1/2 miles south of M-107 on the South Boundary Road and best found with the aid of a State Park map.  The area is slated for future development.  It’s safer to walk the road into the area rather than drive due to poor road conditions.

Highway M-107 winds along the Lake Superior shore at Union Bay.  Miles of beach provide an area for swimming, sunsets, and agate hunting.  Inquire locally to find out just what an agate looks like.  Copper specimens can also be found among the pebbles, broken from rock brought in to prevent erosion of the highway.

About one mile east of Silver City, just past the Mineral River, on Highway M-64 is the best sandy beach for swimming and sun bathing.  A shipwreck poking just above water level can be seen from here.

Ineresting shale formations make the Big Iron River one of the most scenic in the area.  There are rapids and waterfalls in higher water.  The Big Iron is a favorite with salmon fishermen in the fall.  A Boat launch and picnic area is located at the mouth, at the intersection of highways M-107 and M-64 in Silver City.

With truly unique rock formations and set in virgin timber, these falls are really something special.  Their character changes with the seasons of the year.  On the west edge of Porcupine Moutains Wilderness State Park, 26 miles down South Boundary Road.

Ontonagon County was organized in 1843 by James K. Paul.  Ontonagon is the oldest permanent settlement on the south shore of Lake Superior.  The port was used extensively by the copper and silver mining industries until the turn of the century.  The famous Ontonagon Copper Boulder was removed by James K. Paul and is now at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

The Lumbering Industry was a major employer in the early 1900’s with the Diamond Match Company located at Ontonagon being one of the more well known.  The Lewis Genson Company of Ewen became one of the biggest users of hardwood in Ontonagon County.  During that time, Ontonagon County’s population was more than 12,000.

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers an interpretive guide along  the Union Mine Trail.  The Union Copper Mine, established in May of 1846, was on the leading edge of our nations first mining rush.  Along this 45 minute trail you will have occasion to visit the site of the historic mine.  As you walk along the trail, you need to draw upon your imagination.  Picture yourself as one of the early miners in this rugged and remote land to working for $40 per month in dangerous conditions.  Your breakfast would have been bread and pork with home made corn coffee.  From the corner of the cabin you would retrieve your pick and shovel and head down to put in a shift at the “diggins”. 

 Like most claims in the Porkies, the miners who worked the Union excavated numerous shafts and pits in their search for copper.  There were crude ways of excavating for copper like a wooden dam and water wheel.  Early in 1848, the Union mine was abandoned along with a large amount of machinery.  Hundreds of tons of rock had been removed from the mine, but little copper was discovered.

  The property lay idle until 1864, when record Civil War copper prices inspired new owners to reopen.  The old number 1 & 2 shafts were enlarged and two more shafts begun.  Some Shafts were dug quite deep.  All work underground was done by hand labor using pick, shovel, sledge, steel drills and black powder.  Ore was hoisted up to the surface in large buckets called kibbles”. 

Most travel was done by foot, but oxen were used to transport wagon loads of supplies and machinery.  A stamp mill, blacksmith shop and pine dwellings were also located nearby.  There was also a boat landing on Lake Superior.

It was no accident that many early mines were located alongside a river or stream.  In the rugged land, miners quickly learned that the exposed rock of a riverbed made for easier prospecting.  Once a copper vein was located, the flowing waters would prove valuable for power and washing the ore.

There were 40 copper claims made in the Porcupine Mountains, but only a handful commenced serious mining work.  They were the LaFayette 1845, Union 1846, Carp Lake 1858, Cuyahoga 1859, Porcupine Mountain 1860, Lone Rock 1859, Miscowabic 1859, Nonesuch 1867, Halliwell 1985 and White Pine Extension 1914.  None of these ventures. however, profited on the small deposits of copper flakes and grains they found in their Porcupine Mountain Mines.

Some of the county’s many historical attractions include Old Victoria Restoration Site, Ontonagon Museum, Harbor, Lighthouse and Marina, Rockland Museum, Bergland Museum and Bond Falls Flowage.

The Bergland Museum is located on the western outskirts of Bergland on Hwy-28.  (www.berglandmuseum.com).  Its like walking into someone’s home during the early 1900’s.  Each room has its own dedication to certain like items.  There is also a Military room,  US forest Service displays, as well as the CCC camp.

Ontonagon County Tours of the Ontonagon Lighthouse are available during the summer or by appointment on Sunday or the off-season 906-884-6165. The 5th Order Fresnel Lens and keeper logs are on display at the museum. Climb the tower to the lantern room for an outstanding view of the area. Tours begin at the Ontonagon Museum at 422 River Street.

The Ontonagon County Historical Museum (www.ontonagonmuseum.org) is located at 422 River Street in Ontonagon. Enjoy their mining, logging, farming, marine, and social memorabilia displayed in room settings and cases. There is also a very interesting museum on US-45 in the library in Rockland. They host a unique collection of artifacts dating from 3000 B.C. to the early 1900’s, and the switchboard used by the first telephone company in the state of Michigan.

Historic Rockland, site of the famous Minesota Mine, has a fine museum, and nearby Old Victoria Restoration, a mining camp brought back to life, is open to public tours. Be sure to visit the highest hydroelectric dam in the Midwest. The Victoria Hydro is on the nearby West Branch of the Ontonagon River.

The Old Victoria Restoration Site  (www.oldvictoria.net) is located on the Victoria Dam Road, 4 miles southwest of Rockland on Hwy US-45.  The historic town of Victoria was built in 1899 by the Victoria Copper Mining Compnay, which operated until 1921.  Old Victoria now offers visitors a unique look at copper mining history.  Its isolated setting helps to create an appreciation for the harsh conditions and many trials faced by miners and their families.

Experience a little of the supernatural: visit the Paulding Mystery Light located in Robbins Pond Road just north of Watersmeet. Visitors from “Unsolved Mysteries” and NASA attempted to unravel this phenomenon with no results.

Ontonagon County is a great destination for any four-season vacation plans.