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history north shore mn

north shore historic sites

People have been heading up the shore for more than 12,000 years. When they begin writing back home about it, more folks were enticed to come explore. One of the first Europeans to mention his travels was Etienne Brule, who is reputed to have noted and named Lake Superior in 1623. He chose the name because the translation of the Anishinaabe name for the lake, Kitchigummi, converts to Great Water, and because the lake is the largest and highest of the five lake tributary to the St. Lawrence Seaway.


Included here are Historical centers and museums, which may charge a fee, followed by a list of historic sites.

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mile 26.1 + 0.9 miles

The society opened its first museum operation in the Duluth and Iron Range Railway Depot [D&IRR] in 1960; within this building are over 4,000 square feet of interpretative exhibits highlighting the chronological historical development of the Region and is home to the administrative offices of the Lake County Historical Society. On permanent display outside the depot are D&IRR Locomotive #3, Ore Car #251, Caboose #22 and the DM&IR Mallet #229 Locomotive. The Society's collection of artifacts includes almost 3,500 separate items. There is a collection of almost 5,000 photographs, mostly from pre-1930 and over 150 feet of manuscripts and archival material. The Society operates 3 seasonal historic sites in Two Harbors:


520 South Avenue | Two Harbors
mile 46.0


The horrific shipwrecks of November 1905 fuel the demand for a lighthouse along Superior's not sure. The amazing construction process was completed in 1910 and the light at split rock shown until 1968. The history centers superb displays, exhibit, and video presentation showcase the evolution of the lighthouse.

The visitor center includes a museum store with mementos, Split Rock memorabilia and hand-picked gift items.

Note - the Lighthouse is owned and operated by the MN Historical Society which offers three tour options:

Grounds Pass :: self-guided tour to visitor center and historic grounds
General Admission :: self-guided tour of Visitor center, historic grounds and all buildings [lighthouse, fog-signal building, oil house and light-keeper's home
Keeper's Tour :: Guided tour of historic grounds and lighthouse; 9am daily in the summer and 5pm as available

Attend the annual Edmund Fitzgerald Commemorative Beacon Lighting every November 10th


3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road | Two Harbors
mile 54.6 + 0.1 miles

Open seasonally; a small collection of local artifacts and exhibits; acts as the Silver Bay Visitor Center, too.

Hours Memorial Day to early October :: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm


80 Outer Drive | Silver Bay
mile 65.3 + 4.6

Orchard, gardens, hiking trail, picnic tables, museum, one-room schoolhouse, sauna, original homestead, and Visitor Center with gifts. events include guided tours mid-May through September and the Annual Finnish Tori Marketplace and Music, the second weekend in August.


5653 Little Marais Road | Finland
218- 353-7380
mile 78.9

The building, with its distinguishing Tudor-style architecture, was originally built in 1929. Over time it has become a landmark, known by both tourists and local residents alike, as the heart of Schroeder. Now home of the Schroeder Area Historical Society, the Center houses a collection of oral histories, photographs and memorabilia. Displays of fine art and craftwork by several local and regional artists can be enjoyed and purchased at the Cross River Heritage Center.


7932 West Highway 61 | Schroeder
mile 82.9

The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum welcomes tour groups, the culturally curious traveler, families and children of all ages and even the virtual visitor from across the globe. If you're on Lake Superior's North Shore, you don't want to miss out on the experience of the unique maritime heritage engrained in the landscape and people who call this country home. Summer Hours (mid-May to mid-October) Closed Sunday and Monday Tuesday - Thursday :: 9am - 3pm Friday & Saturday :: 9am - 5pm Winter Hours (mid-October to mid-May) Friday & Saturday :: 10am - 5pm $3.00 Adult and $1.00 Children 6-16, under 6 free


7136 Highway 61 | Tofte
mile 109.5 + 0.1 miles

The nonprofit Art Gallery features local, regional, and national artists in revolving exhibits, as well as featuring a permanent collection of original art by Anna Johnson, an early 1900s artist.


115 W Wisconsin Street | Grand Marais
gunflint mile 53.8 + 0.2 miles from Gunflint Trail

Housed in the historic Chik-Wauk Lodge on beautiful Saganaga Lake, Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center presents the area's cultural and natural history through interpretive and interactive exhibits. Learn about the Gunflint Trail's prehistoric beginnings and people who helped shape today’s unique, rural community, including Native Americans, Voyageurs, miners, loggers, resort owners and current residents.


28 Moose Pond Drive | Grand Marais
mile 144.8 + 0.9 miles

Learn Aniishinaabe art, culture and history. Directions: from Highway 61 MM 143.3 turn right onto Mile Creek Rd, and at the first cross street, turn left and continue 0.7 miles on Mile Creek Rd.


170 Mile Creek Road | Grand Portage
view of Grand Superior Lodge from above Lake Superior shoreline

Historic Sites Along the North Shore

Listed from the southwest [Duluth] end of shore, to the northeast.

mile 0.0
1000-foot iron ore ship sailing up lake superior of scenic highway 61

Scenic 61

Scenic 61 Drive, follows the path of the original 1929 North Shore road

mile 11.5
modern interpretive display panels at french river with lake superior in the background

French River Wayside Rest Area

The interpretive panels at French River Wayside Rest give a snapshot of the creation of Scenic 61/Congdon Boulevard plus local commercial fishing history on Lake Superior. The site has an easy walk down to a gravel swimming beach making it an ideal place to cool down on those 12 hot days of the year.

A fish sanctuary from the mouth of the French River to the four-lane freeway is in place. The MN Department of Natural Resources traps adult rainbow trout, sometimes referred to as steelhead. The big steelhead run happens from late October into November, with a smaller spring run in April.

Eggs are removed and sent to a Minnesota hatchery, where offspring are raised and returned to Lake Superior. The hatchery fish have their adipose fin (the one on the back between the dorsal fin and tail) clipped. Unclipped fish are native and have naturally reproduced.

steelhead, rainbow, kamloops trout – what’s the difference?

Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species. Steelhead live in saltwater and spawn in freshwater streams, while rainbows live in freshwater.

Pacific steelhead fish were introduced to Lake Superior in the 1890s. Rainbows raised in a hatchery and released are also known as Kamloops or ‘Loopers. Unclipped/native fish can never be harvested when fishing.

mile 16.7
hand formed stone and bronze plaque at buchanan wayside on scenic 61

Buchanan Wayside

1856 Buchanan Wayside, site of the 1st north shore post office and an early community on Scenic 61

mile 26.2

This global business started in the leased space of one of the founders, John Dwan, which now houses the 3M Birthplace Museum. The original concept in 1902 was to mine corundum, a very hard crystallized mineral, and sell it to grinding wheel manufacturers out East. But the mineral turned out to be something softer and the business was sold in 1905 and moved to Duluth. Stop by the museum to find out what happened.

Open 11am-4pm, Friday – Sunday, May 27- October 22.

mile 26.2
historical brick two harbors train depot building museum on lake superior

Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Depot

1907 Duluth & Iron Range Railroad Depot, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a waterfront museum featuring exhibits that reflect the development of Lake County with special emphasis placed on the big three industries; iron mining and the railroad, timber, and commercial fishing. Adjacent grounds showcase the 3 Spot and Mallet train locomotives.

Open 10am-4pm, May 27 – October 22, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Open alternating Saturdays 11 AM to 3 PM beginning November 4.

mile 26.2
across harbor at 1000 foot ship at ore docks in two harbors

Ore Dock #1

1883 Ore Dock #1, the ore dock closest to shore on the waterfront [on the left in the photo]. For reference, the ship shown the Edgar B Speer is 1004′ long!

mile 26.2
close up of train engine 229, the mallet, at two harbors minnesota

3 Spot train & Mallet Engine

1883 Duluth & Iron Range 3 Spot locomotive, iron ore car and caboose, and the Duluth Missabe & Iron Range 229 Mallet Locomotive [pictured here]; on display outside the Lake County Historical Museum.

2023 is the centennial of the 3 Spot train!

mile 26.2
Lighthouse tower and keeper home two harbors mn

Two Harbors Light Station

1892 Two Harbors Light Station, oldest continually operating lighthouse on the North Shore, is open for tours and the lightkeepers’ quarters are now a B&B.

Open 10am-4pm, May 27 – October 22, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  The Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast is open year round!

mile 26.2
historic great lakes tugboat edna g docked across from an iron ore dock in two harbors mn

Edna G. Tug

1896 Edna G. tug, in service through December 1980, can be seen at the Two Harbors waterfront.

mile 26.3
three-masted schooner historical phto

Sunken Ship Samuel P. Ely

1896 Sunken ship Samuel P. Ely, [ok, not the easiest to see, but interesting] in Lake Superior near the western breakwall

mile 26.6
rj houle visitor center two harbors mn

R.J. Houle Visitors Center

1930s R.J. Houle Visitors Center, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC] as a fire station on Cloquet Lake, now on the northeast edge of town on Highway 61

mile 31.5
virgin white pine encampment forest north shore minnesota along highway 61

Virgin Pine and Cedar at Encampment Forest

Virgin Pine and Cedar at Encampment Forest, on Hwy 61 northeast of Two Harbors [drive by only, this is all private property]

mile 43.5
pilings poking out of lake superior at split rock river north shore minnesota

Pilings at the mouth of the Split Rock River

1900s Pilings at the mouth of the Split Rock River, from the Merrill & Ring Lumber Company’s railway

mile 50.1
entrrance gate and arched sign beaver bay cemetery

Beaver Bay Cemetery

Beaver Bay Cemetery, final resting spot of some of the original settlers of beaver Bay, the oldest [1856] community along the shore

mile 50.5 + 0.15 miles
concrete grave marker of chief john beargrease set in the woods

Grave of Chief Makwabimidem, John Beargrease

Grave of Chief John Beargrease, who ran the mail up and down the shore via dogsled [the Beargrease Sled Dog Race is named after him]. The site is a Native American burial ground; leave [or add to] the tokens of remembrance and respect.

To access, drive north 0.15 miles on Lax Lake Road, then take a left on Old Towne Road and park on the south shoulder. The short path is on the north side, up the hill.
path through green underbrush up hill to john beargrease grave

mile 58.1
old log cabin for rent at tettegouche state park

Tettegouche Camp on Mic Mac Lake

1910 Tettegouche Camp on Mic Mac Lake. The state park received its name from the camp, which was started by The Tettegouche Club, a group of businessmen from Duluth who created and stayed at the camp until 1971. Tettegouche became a state park in 1979. The site is 3.5miles in the woods with no road access. Walk-in/ski-in , bike-in. The main lodge is a picnic shelter AND you can rent the four cabins, too!

mile 65.1

Set on the 1890 John ‘Pine’ homestead, area residents have restored, furnished, and replicated several buildings on this 40-acre homestead – home of the Finland Minnesota Historical Society – to preserve the history of white settlers to eastern Lake County. An old log structure from an adjacent homestead now serves as a sauna museum. The restrooms are housed in an old cabin from a nearby resort. The Park Hill School is back home after being moved to Finland in 1930 where it served as a town hall, and later as a teen center, and a gift shop. Lots to see and learn.

mile 78.7

From 1929 roadhouse, to manifestations as a general store gas station, post office, and sausage market, the Cross River Heritage Center now houses historical exhibits, a gift shop and visitor information, and many wonderful photos and details of logging in the area. One of the original Stickney Inn rooms has been preserved and is open to the public, too.

mile 79.2
concrete father baraga cross on shore of lake superior

Father Baraga’s Cross

Take a moment to be grateful for safe travels. In 1846, Father Frederic Baraga set sail from La Pointe Michigan to an outpost on the North Shore. The wind picked up and waves battered the small boat. After a harrowing on the big lake, the missionary and his companions safely beached the boat at the mouth of the Cross River. In gratitude for their safe arrival, the priest erected a wooden cross on the beach. The current  symbolic cross has been placed in remembrance of his journey. It is a quiet stone beach.

mile 109.1

The 35-foot fishing tug Neegee, or “friend” in Ojibwe, was completed in 1936 in Grand Marais and used in Lake Superior through the 1950s. To learn about commercial fishing in that era, take the self-guided tour of the boat and fish house.

mile 109.6

Those who have traveled and lived along the North Shore have been reliant on Lake Superior for food and – for many years – for transportation. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, lighthouses were built to mark treacherous reefs and to mark spots of refuge, like the Grand Marais Harbor. The lighthouse was built in 1884 and the Lightkeeper’s residence in 1896. Now home to the Cook County Historical Society, it is a museum with exhibits and archival storage.

gunflint mile 4.5
arts on north shore

Maple Hill Church

Picturesque and charming Maple Hill Church sits center stage surrounded by its namesake maples. Visitors appreciate the peaceful beauty of the grounds, especially during fall colors. A gathering place for over a century, the church is now home to Spirit of the Wilderness Episcopal Church which has services Sunday mornings. Otherwise, it is pretty quiet.

The 1897 cemetery is watched over by a thick-trunked, sprawling maple. Amble the grounds. The original church was built in 1902 and served the Scandinavian settlers. East and West Maple Hill were established by mainly by Swedes and Norwegians in the late 1800s. David Caribou, his family and two other indigenous families lived in the area at the time and shared their established pathways down to Grand Marais.

Arson destroyed the church on Christmas Eve 1986. Descendants of the original settlers rebuilt on the original footprint. Tucked on the backside of the ridge rising north of Grand Marais, it is four miles inland from Lake Superior making it an easy add-on to your day, or the perfect first stop on your way up the Gunflint Trail.

Why Stop

Close to Grand Marais | Serene | Historical | Fall Colors | Photogenic

Wait, There’s More!

All the Fall Color Drives & Trails | Fall Color Report | Lodging Specials

gunflint mile 27.4

In 1915 Clearwater Lake Lodge opened as the first resort on the Gunflint Trail. Originally, Charlie & Petra Boostrom set up tent platforms around a cabin and pitched tents for guests as they arrived. In 1922, Charlie began gathering logs for building Clearwater’s main lodge. In 1926 the lodge was completed, and included a dining room, a kitchen, a sitting area around a large stone hearth, and 14 rooms upstairs. The family occupied some of the rooms, while others were rented out to a steady stream of guests. Once the lodge was complete, Charlie began building smaller guest cabins around the property—four of which are still in use. Charlie built furniture during the winter months, creating many original pieces. The dining room tables and chairs, as well as the beautiful Diamond Willow furniture, are still used by the guests today.

gunflint mile 53.8 + 0.2 miles from Gunflint Trail
aerial view of stone chik wauk museum on saganaga lake gunflint trail

Chik Wauk

Housed in the historic Chik Wauk Lodge on beautiful Saganaga Lake, Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center presents the area’s cultural and natural history through interpretive and interactive exhibits. Learn about the Gunflint Trail’s prehistoric beginnings and people who helped shape today’s unique, rural community, including Native Americans, Voyageurs, miners, loggers, resort owners and current residents.

mile 111.3

St. Francis Xavier Church in Chippewa City is a beautiful reminder of a thriving village that was home to more than 100 families in the 1880s and 1890s. Famous artist, George Morrison, was born and raised here. The descendants of Chippewa City residents continue to honor their heritage and support the Historical Society in sharing the story of this village.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, known locally as the “Chippewa City Church” is one of the last physical remnants of a once vibrant community.

mile 124.1
naniboujou lodge bright and colorful interior of dining room

Naniboujou Lodge

Naniboujou Lodge, 1929 lodge with famous Cree-inspired painting in the 80-foot dining hall and domed ceiling

mile 143.3

Learn about the alliance between the Grand Portage Ojibwe and the North West Company during the fur trade boom in the late 1700s. at the Grand Portage National Monument. Explore the reconstructed stockade and great hall, the visitor center, garden and grounds, Mount Rose trail, and historic Grand Portage trail leading 8.5 miles inland to Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River.

mile 143.4 + 22 miles to Isle Royale via boat
ss america sinking near isle royale 1928

Sunken ship America

The America sank June 7, 1928 after leaving Washington Harbor on Isle Royale in the early morning. The vessel bumped across a reef tearing a hole in the bottom, then hit bottom in an attempt to beach the boat. The bow is in a few feet of water in the North Gap; you can view the ship if you take the ferry to Isle Royale.

view of Grand Superior Lodge from above Lake Superior shoreline
aerial view of grand marais harbor marina and campground
sparkling wintry lake superior and ice sheets stacked on north shore

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