Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunset, Channel, and Late Winter Woods

Yesterday was a gorgeous late winter - early spring day here in Grand Marais. Temperatures were in the upper 30s, which made the skiing a little slushy. But today's posting starts with several shots of the beautiful sunset we had last night.

Earlier in the day I snapped off a couple of photos showing the channel, pier, and breakwater from the top of Airport Road. As some of you know, the town of Grand Marais was originally situated on East Bay, since the west bay was originally land locked. After the Soo Locks opened in 1855, the channel was dug to open up the west bay in Grand Marais. In 1859 in a gale, the ship MANHATTAN, a pioneer lake passenger steamer, was wrecked at the entrance trying to gain shelter into the bay. The 330 ton ship, plotted by Captain John Spaulding, foundered in the channel, partially blocking it for 20 years. On July 29, 1871, it was reported in the Marquette Mining Journal: “This beach is strewed with wrecks from the Pictured Rocks to Whitefish Point, and we venture to say that for want of a harbor on that line of coast, there has been more money value of shipping lost than would suffice to pay the cutting of a proper ship channel from the lake to the harbor at Grand Marais five times over.” Soon thereafter, the Federal Government inspected the site and recommended that a channel to the west of the natural entrance be dug, to be protected by timbered piers. By 1880, lake traffic had reached such a volume that Grand Marais harbor was made an official harbor of refuge and improvements recommended a decade earlier to Congress began. A new channel 75 feet wide and 10 feet deep was cut cross the extreme eastern end of Coast Guard Point in 1883. The dredging wad done by C.S. Baker of Sault Sainte Marie, and J.S. Gillette of Marquette had the contract for furnishing lumber and stone for cribbing. The big blocks of red sandstone and crib fills came from the quarry of John Thoney near the Little Garlic River north of Marquette. In June 1883 the Mining Journal noted “…the cribwork will extend 650 feet into the lake and as soon as a fine harbor is available, it will become the seat of extensive lumbering operations as a vast body of pine lies along tributary streams.” Then, in 1894 a mile long pile dike of breakwater was built from the east pier, across the old harbor channel to Lonesome Point.

For the heck of it I plugged in key words regarding the channel into Grand Marais bay into a search engine to see what I could find out. The following came up on what I think is a current Army Corps of Engineer web site. It has been a while since they dredged our channel, but maybe they are planning on doing so again.

Grand Marais Harbor, Michigan is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, 93 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, MI. The project was authorized by the River and Harbors Acts of 14 June 1880, and 17 May 1950. Provided for are parallel timber crib and cellar steel sheet piling piers 500 feet apart which have an aggregate length of 4,407 feet and extend out to the 22-foot depth contour in the lake; for closing the natural entrance channel by a pile dike 5,770 feet long; and for dredging a channel 300 feet wide and 18 feet deep between the piers, and 500 feet wide and 20 feet deep in the lake approach. The harbor services primarily recreational navigation interests.

During the late afternoon I skied the fields and woods over by Sable Falls. Although it was slushy, skiing was still possible.

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