McQuade Harbor, about halfway between Duluth and Two Harbors along Old Highway 61, celebrated its grand opening today. After decades of planning for North Shore harbors, and after some intense civic disputes in the last ten years, the finished product is there, very solid, large and real.
I walked away from the big white tent with all the muckity-mucks and the speechifying to tour the site. There is serious engineering at McQuade... not only does the boat ramp go under Old 61, there's also a pedestrian tunnel under the road. The parking lot is huge and was nearly full today with cars for the big event. The bathrooms even have running water.
I'm not a boater. I opposed this project in print when I used to do a monthly environmental column. But now that it's here, how can a non-motorboater make the most of it?
Two guys I knew were already out in sea kayaks...those are my people. Dudley said the kayak launch was a little rough and he was glad they had plastic boats. But there was a ramp just for walk-down launches like kayaks. I recall that the kayaking along this stretch is rather unspectacular, with mostly low beaches and mini-cliffs. For me, it's a nice stretch to paddle close to shore. A walkway rings the eastern half of the harbor, out past some docks and then out into the breakwall. Not a hike, but not a bad place to get out of the car before hitting Lakeview Castle, Nokomis or the Scenic Cafe for dinner. The tunnel under Old 61 reminds me of the underpass in the Harry Potter movie "Order of the Phoenix" where the dementors came after Harry and Dudley. Just needed some flickering lights, and a good cold depressing fog off the lake.
So it's a nice spot for a stop on your way up the shore. There are cool cement benches along the outside of breakwall for shorecasting that could be spectacular (and very wet) in a good northeast blow. But it's worth a stop on a sunny or stormy day to see the lake from another perspective. Check it out!