CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES #3: MEMORABLE MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN

In between our visits to Mackinac Island and Marquette (and on the day before Mackinac), we had two days cruising.  Normally, ships refer to this as being “at sea,” but since we were on the Great Lakes, Bruce and I joked about being “at lake.”

Our first day “at lake” had us cruising by Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes:

Before arriving in Marquette, we cruised what is reputed to be one of the most turbulent bodies of water in the world—Lake Superior.  As I mentioned in my first post, we were very fortunate to have such calm waters!

This is how calm it was while we were cruising!

The Great Lakes (Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) are the largest group of freshwater lakes by total area and are second largest by total volume, containing 21% of the world’s fresh water by volume.  Bordering both Canada and U.S.A., they connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River, making them a major source for transportation, migration, trade, and fishing.

A note to all my swimmer friends who might be thinking the Great Lakes would be a great vacation spot for open water swimming:  Bring your wetsuit!  Lake Superior averages 40-42 degrees, topping out at 62+/- degrees in the summer!  It’s a very deep lake, too, reaching a depth of 1,332 feet.

Marquette (population 20,629), located on the southern shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was most memorable for two reasons:  An interesting water feature (for lack of a better word!), and a beautiful lakeside park and beach.

Upon our morning arrival, before heading up to the River Grill for breakfast, I had stepped out on deck to snap a few photos.  This was the first thing I saw:

What the heck is THAT thing?  I hadn’t a clue, but I knew I would find out during our included tour.

Having done no prior research on Marquette before our cruise (very uncharacteristic of me!), I hadn’t realized the port was known primarily for shipping iron ore.  The first mining took place in the mid-1800’s, and by the 1850’s, Marquette was linked by rail to several mines.  Docks were built to transfer the iron ore from rail cars to the freighters below for transport to other cities to be made into steel:

This photo was at the Marquette Regional History Center

Over time, the railroad companies merged and bigger docks were needed.  Those docks were located in the upper harbor, and the Marquette Lower Harbor Ore Dock 3 B W, built in 1931-1932, was dismantled in 1971.  Ever since, the dock has been a source of great interest and inspiration for the community.

A working iron ore dock at the upper harbor

Our included tour took us along Presque Isle State Park, which was a gorgeous 323-acre park featuring sandstone cliffs with outlooks to take in the views as well as beautiful beaches below.  I was impressed by the natural beauty as well as how nicely it was designed for locals and tourists to enjoy for walking, hiking, cycling, picnics, and beach-going.

We also visited the campus of North Michigan University, passing the Superior Dome stadium along the way.  The campus has an excellent art museum, and I found a few pieces that piqued my interest:

This was a painting! The subject matter– collections of a world traveler and letter write– reminded me of me.

Other stops were made at Marquette Regional History Center and Marquette Maritime Museum, as well as the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.

The Maritime Museum was located in the old City Waterworks building. I loved the color of the local sandstone bricks!
The Maritime Museum had a wonderful collection of lighthouse Fresnel lenses, including this beautifully restored lens from one of the lighthouses that had been destroyed by a fire.
This view was from the lighthouse. North Michigan University’s Superior Dome is off in the distance.

Following our tour, we enjoyed strolling through downtown, which was quite attractive with its hanging baskets of flowers, historic buildings, and gift shops.

Next up:  HOOFIN’ IT AROUND HOUGHTON

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