On Monday we left Wild River State Park and headed further northeast to Duluth. As we approached Duluth we had splendid views of Lake Superior. Duluth with a population of 86,000, is located on Lake Superior and the St Louis River. It is one of the largest inland seaports in the world and an important grain center. All along the busy forty-nine miles of dock waterfront, you can see grain elevators, ore docks and shipyards. Duluth has plenty of outside activities with more than 130 city parks, 178 miles of trails, and sixteen designated trout streams.
Duluth has a rich history. In 1869, due to the booming lumber and mining industries as well as the arrival of the railroad, it was the fastest growing city in the United States. We crossed the railroad tracks to get to the campground and we saw this strange sign.
When we arrived at the campground it was 80+ degrees and sunny. The next day it barely reached 50 degrees and was overcast with occasional rain showers.
Wednesday was more of the same with a heavy fog blanketing the area and we heard occasional fog horns in the distance. We didn’t want to spend another day at home missing all Duluth had to offer, so we bundled up and decided to visit two museums downtown.
The first was a very small museum called the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. It was a museum we probably wouldn’t have taken time to visit on a sunny day, but on a cold rainy day it was great. The library museum, housing one of the world’s largest private manuscript collections, is inside a former Christian Scientist Church. It had original manuscripts, documents and handwritten letters, including letters from the Wright Brothers, small collections of Egyptian carvings, old telephones, ship models, and Plains Indians Treaties. Currently they have a special collection on Bob Dylan. Dylan was born in Duluth and went to elementary school there. There is a 1.8 stretch of road in Duluth named “Bob Dylan Way”. The manuscript library had some of his personal handwritten letters, handwritten sheet music and a copy of his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. We found out he was born Robert Zimmerman and changed his name to Bob Dylan. They had a copy of the court order application to change his name.
We learned the owners of the museum, David and Marsha Karpeles of California, also own museums in Jacksonville, FL, Buffalo, NY, Newburgh, NY, Tacoma, WA, Charleston, SC and Santa Barbara, CA. The collections are rotated among the museums. The Karpeles think that once someone has mastered textbooks and reference books in their field, they can then verify, analyze and extend their knowledge by examining and consulting original manuscripts written in an individual’s own handwriting. The Karpeles see it as a way to see a person’s first thoughts since you can see on the documents thoughts and ideas crossed out, ideas added but left out in the final document, as well as additional thoughts added later between the lines.
Next we visited the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. Here they had informative displays on the history of Lake Superior shipping including replicas of ship cabins, an operating steam engine, scale models of ships and information on shipwrecks and bridges. They also had interesting displays on the history of the Army Corps of Engineers. We learned Congress authorized a Corps of Engineers in 1779 to support the Continental Congress. Its first mission was the building of fortifications to defend Boston at the Battle of Bunker Hill. After victory at Yorktown and peace in 1783, the Corps of Engineers was dissolved to save money.
In 1802 President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation to organize and establish a Corps of Engineers to be stationed at West Point and to constitute a military academy. They played a large role during the Civil War while building roads and railroad bridges, forts and batteries and destroying enemy supply lines. In the 20th century the Corps of Engineers contributed much to military construction in supporting the U.S. Army and Air Force as well as works of a civil nature. They helped with federal flood control, hydroelectric energy and the country’s leading provider of recreational facilities.
Corps of Engineers projects included:
- In Washington DC
- Construction of the Washington Monument
- US Capitol dome
- Lincoln Memorial
- Library of Congress
- Washington DC water supply system and subways
- Panama Canal
- Bonneville Dam
- The Manhattan Project
- Planning and construction of the Pentagon
- Everglades Restoration Plan
- Construction at the Kennedy Space Center
We decided to run to Walmart to get some supplies and it was actually faster and closer to the campground to cross the bridge to Superior, Wisconsin than go to the one in Duluth. The ports of Duluth and Superior are called “Twin Ports”. They are the leading bulk cargo transshipment ports on the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Seaway system. More than forty million tons of bulk cargo are shipped in and out each season, the most of the Great Lakes and one of the top twenty nationally.
On Thursday the temperature rose and the skies cleared so we decided to tour the Duluth lakefront area. We parked at Bayfront Festival Park and walked over four miles. Along the way we saw a replica of the Statue of Liberty,
We also found the Duluth’s Ten Commandments Monument. In 1946 a judge, who was a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, sentenced a sixteen year old boy to memorize the Ten Commandments. This led local chapters of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles to to finance construction of over 4,000 tablet shaped granite monuments to be dispersed around the nation. Two Minnesota granite companies produced the monuments and in 1957 the monuments were donated to public places around the country. This was done at the same time as the release of the movie “The Ten Commandments” and some stars of the film attended various monument dedications around the country. This monument was displayed in front of the Duluth City Hall for almost 47 years. Due to a threatened lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota it was removed in May 2004 and put up for auction. Local citizens rallied to raise money but the winning bid came from a church in Lakeville, MN. The church gave the monument to a group of Duluth citizens who placed it here on private property in late 2004.
After our walk we drove across the Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point which is the world’s longest freshwater sandbar, spanning seven miles. This area is popular for swimming and beach lovers. We saw a sign saying the water temperature that day was 51 degrees. Yikes!
On the way home we were held up at the Aerial Lift Bridge while we waited for the Mesabi Miner ship to pass under the bridge. We were thrilled because we were able to see this very unusual 386 foot long bridge in action. It is an elevator bridge that spans the Duluth Ship Canal. The support columns on either side have counterweights that balance the lifting portion of the bridge. The bridge can be raised to its full clearance of 135 feet in about a minute and has a 1,000 ton lift span. It was first raised in 1930 and is raised about 5,000 times a year. The Mesabi Miner is an American coal and iron ore carrier that operates on the upper four North American Great Lakes.
Next blog: More exploring along the Minnesota North Shore
- The company Target’s headquarters is in Minnesota.
- Famous people from Minnesota include Judy Garland, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Peanuts cartoonist Charles Shultz, Bob Dylan, Prince, novelist Sinclair Lewis, former wrestler, actor and governor Jesse Ventura, Loni Anderson, Richard Dean Anderson, James Arness (Gunsmoke) and brother Peter Graves (Mission: Impossible), Eugene McCarthy, former Vice President Walter Mondale, Harry Reasoner, Jane Russell, Marion Ross