schroeder / Tofte
Schroeder and Tofte are side-by-side small towns. In 1895 the Schroeder Lumber Company settled on the Cross River, cutting trees, shooting logs down the river and rafting them to Duluth and Ashland, WI. Meanwhile just up the road in 1893, twin brother John and Andrew Tofte and brothers Torger and Hans Engelson arrived from Norway and settled down to commercial fish.
Both towns are clustered along Highway 61 with Temperance River State Park in between, connected by the bike trail, and bisected by backcountry roads ideal for a driving forest tour, a way to inland camping, boating, and berry picking, and nice fall color tours.
Mileage starts at the Duluth Lift Bridge
Take a leg-stretcher along the 1-mile interpretive nature trail that departs from the parking area and includes a stop at Sugarloaf Cove on Lake Superior. The Interpretive Center has exhibits and artifacts from early logging operations in the area.
For thirty-one years Taconite Harbor was home to families working the adjacent Erie Mining loading dock and power plant. When mining took a downturn in the 1980s, the company cleared the town for a new venture. Follow the road south of Highway 61. On the right you will see the remnants of main street, including a few street lights and the basketball court. The end of the road takes you to an outdoor exhibit explaining the taconite operation, a public boat launch, safe harbor, and views of the rusting ore docks.
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.
Highway 61 spans the Cross River mid-waterfalls. While the drive-by view is nice, stop and walk the pedestrian bridge, an ideal vantage point for photos. Back in the day, the John Schroeder Lumber Company would dam the headwaters of the Cross River until spring, then shoot logs downriver to Lake Superior, where they were bound into rafts and floated over to Ashland and Superior, Wisconsin.
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.
Amazing river gorges that start a few feet inland from the highway, waterfalls, two foot-bridges, hiking, a cobblestone river mouth, camping and hiking. Hike a short way upriver to the amazing gorges, then return south of the highway and walk across the foot-bridge. During spring runoff or after rainy days, the river spray will mist you. Back in the day, this was the only river without a [sand] bar at the mouth, hence the name, Temperance.
Heartbreak Ridge is a top-notch fall color drive, and lovely drive through the woods any other time of year. Drive north on the Temperance River Road for 5.1 miles, then head east on the Six Hundred Rd [you’re on Heartbreak Ridge] 4.9 miles. Stop at the roadside sign and see how the ridge got its name. Return 5.5 miles down the Sawbill Trail to Tofte.
Get info about everything to do in the woods at the Tofte Ranger Station. Get permits and maps, ask about camping and trails, find out where inland lakes are located, see if any berries are in season, and ask about that bird you saw on the way by.
See the Handmade Cobblestone Well and Bridges
Located on a quiet piece of Lake Superior shoreline, Tofte Park is a lovely spot for a picnic, a party (you can rent the space!), or hanging out watching the waves. Tucked behind the Tofte Post Office and Firehall, the park is noted for its two cobblestone bridges and a cobblestone wishing well that once was offered spring fed water. Take a closer look: the bridge has red, white and blue-grey cobblestones, brought in by fishing boat from nearby Schroeder in the early 1900s.
The park has a short paved path, an open log pavilion, picnic area, small playground and access to Lake Superior. Park land was donated by Elizabeth Tofte, the eldest daughter of original European settlers John and Cecilia Tofte. As she was still a minor, her father had to act as her legal representative. Her mother donated land for the nearby Zoar Lutheran church. And now we all get to enjoy it!
And how did they do it 100 years ago? Learn about commercial fishing, past and present, at the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum, where many artifacts from families of the original Scandinavian settlers are on display. Continue your education via plaques along the lake walk edging Bluefin Bay.