Iron mining was once one of the Midwest’s most lucrative economic endeavors. During the mid-to-late 19th century, mines were established throughout the region — including several in Michigan. While iron mining is certainly no longer a major source of employment for workers in the Great Lakes State, Michiganders and tourists can still experience remnants of the mining boom with a visit to the Iron Mountain Iron Mine.
Located near the aptly named town of Iron Mountain, the Iron Mountain Iron Mine is a popular tourist attraction that allows visitors to explore iron mining as it existed during its peak years. It can be accessed off of Highway 2 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Iron Mine attraction was established in 1956 after three local businessmen were inspired to offer tourists a glimpse into what was once a top exportation operation in the region. The East Vulcan mine was “re-discovered,” thus jumpstarting the creation of a public tour service. The first photo above shows some of the mine’s earliest shift miners, circa 1892, while the second captures the construction of mine tour routes.
Between Memorial Day and mid-October each year, visitors can take tours of the underground mine seven days a week. Whether you’re visiting independently or organizing a school trip, you’ll be enthralled with your visit to the mine.
During its operating years, the mine produced an incredible 21,624,000 tons of iron ore for the Midwest’s steel mills. During your tour, you’ll ride a small train car 400 feet underground for a firsthand look at the mine’s series of tunnels and drifts.
Geology enthusiasts will enjoy perusing the mine’s rock shop, which prides itself on being the largest of its kind in the Upper Peninsula. Check out a variety of gems, minerals, and stones or enjoy the wide selection of souvenirs.
Iron Mountain is also home to what it has dubbed “The World’s Largest Miner.” He’s tough to miss: Big John, as he’s affectionately known, towers above the entrance to the mine site, mining pick in hand. Don't leave Iron Mountain without posing for a photo with this local landmark.
Visitors from across the country consistently rave about the educational experience offered by the mine. If you’re looking to learn more about the methods, dangers, and rewards of iron mining and have a little fun along the way, make Iron Mountain your next stop in beautiful Michigan.
Does your family have any connection to Michigan’s mining and exportation history? We’d love to hear your story in the comment section.