Michigan Roadside Attractions: Marquette Ore Dock at the Upper Harbor
Michigan Roadside Attractions is a periodic feature on Travel the Mitten that will explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to unusual.
One of the best places to view Great Lakes freighters in Michigan is at the Marquette ore dock at the upper harbor. Here, millions of tons of iron ore pellets are loaded onto ships that reach 700 to 1,000 feet in length each year. Also known as the Presque Isle Dock, this dock was constructed in the early 1900s when Michigan was the leading producer of iron ore in the United States. Today, visitors can get an up-close look at the loading process here in Marquette from Presque Isle Park or a smaller parking area on Lakeshore Blvd.
According to Travel Marquette, “Each year approximately 9.5 to 10 million tons of ore are shipped from this dock. The dock is owned and operated by the Cliffs Natural Resources. This steel-framed dock is 1,250 feet long and 60 feet wide, with the top deck sitting 75 feet above the water level. It contains 200 pockets, each of which has a capacity of 250 tons of ore, for a total storage capacity of 50,000 tons. Supporting the dock is a foundation of 10,000 wooden piles enclosed by a 12-inch thick timber sheet plank wall filled with sand.”
Some of the freighters that visit Marquette most often include the Kaye E. Barker (Interlake Steamship Co.), Hon. James L. Oberstar (Interlake Steamship Company), Michipicoten (Lower Lakes Towing), Lee A. Tregurtha (Interlake Steampship Company) and Herbert C. Jackson (Interlake Steamship Company). The best spots for watching freighters enter the harbor and load are at Presque Isle Park near the breakwater, the small parking area next to the historic LS & I Railroad train car display, and from the small parking area across from Cliffs and just south of where the railroad crosses over Lakeshore Blvd. Depending on weather, the shipping season typically runs from late March/early April through early January – find traffic updates at http://www.boatnerd.com/ or https://www.marinetraffic.com/.
An additional, smaller dock was constructed in Marquette’s lower harbor in the 1930s. This dock is 970 feet long and is an easily recognized Marquette landmark, though the railroad was removed many years ago. Ore Dock Brewing Co. (114 W. Spring St.) draws its name from these historic structures that played a huge role in Marquette’s history.
Be sure and check out some of our other Marquette features: