Located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Houghton lies along Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway. Native Americans mined copper here thousands of years before European settlement. The later discovery of copper lodes between 1855 and 1870 resulted in an economic boom that lasted until after World War I. Many Cornish and Finnish immigrants arrived in the area to work in the copper mines, and Houghton today has the largest concentration of Finnish/Americans in the country.
The last copper mines closed in the late 1960’s, and Houghton is currently a distribution center for wood materials, and for dairy and poultry farming.
Houghton is small; just 8,000 residents. They must be hearty souls, because winters in Houghton are frigid. Some years have seen snow during every month! In 1978-79, the area logged in 406 inches, and it snowed for over 50 days straight.
American Queen Voyages organizes an included tour for every port, and the highlight of the tour in Houghton was visiting the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan Tech, which features specimens of copper and over 100 other metals and crystals. Neither of us have ever given more than a passing interest to geology; however, we were in awe of the natural beauty we saw in that museum! The vibrant rainbow of colors of many of the specimens were dazzling.
Outside the museum was a lovely garden and the most amazing specimen of all; a 19-ton tabular mass of native copper which was recovered from Lake Superior. It was discovered in 1991 by SCUBA divers at a depth of 30 feet.
Before the tour returned to the ship, we visited the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw. After a quick look around, Bruce and I opted to leave the tour and stroll the streets of downtown before walking back to the ship.
We were impressed with the attractive park along the lake— a wonderful place to relax, have a picnic, enjoy the flowers, and take in the views of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Connecting Houghton to Hancock, the bridge is the world’s heaviest and widest double-decked vertical-lift bridge. In the winter, the lower level is used for snow mobiles as a safer way to cross over the lake rather than on the frozen (or not so frozen, as the case may be) lake. More than one snowmobile has ended up breaking through the ice, due to its driver’s lack of better judgment!
Viewing the sail-away from the top deck was spectacular. It was a gorgeous day, and we had a perfect perch from which to enjoy the beautiful scenery as we cruised on to Duluth, Minnesota.
Next up: Delightful Duluth