Friday, August 28, 2009

Where it all began

The North Shore as we know it today, from Duluth to Taconite Harbor, began in a little cleft in the side of a hill in Soudan. I saw that cleft today, and it sent chills up my spine.

It was from this spot in the late 19th century that the first load of iron ore was shipped to the bustling town of Agate Bay (now Two Harbors). Just about everything we know about the Minnesota North Shore today is related to that event. The ore docks in Duluth. The Aerial Lift Bridge. Two Harbors. Silver Bay. The width and speed of Highway 61. Tourism supported by IRRRB, IRR, and taconite taxes here and gone. Bob Dylan. Milepost 7 and the rise of modern environmentalism in Minnesota.

I stood at the loading chute and could see down through where millions of tons of Iron Range iron ore flowed into the chutes and into the waiting rail cars. I saw the train tracks headed south and east to the Lake. But the huge crusher and the conveyer belts were quiet, and the rail tracks ended, replaced by shrubs and aspens just around the corner.

Western Lake Superior was built on iron. It all started here. And now the area is moving on.

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