Iron River a hidden gem

Town, region filled with fun activities

The Iron County History Museum was opened in 1968, and is Upper Michigan's largest museum, located on nearly 10 acres of a former mine site. (Courtesy photo)

IRON RIVER –The town of Iron River is a hidden gem tucked away in the south central part of the Upper Peninsula with approximately 3,029 residents.

If you are seeking adventure, culture and beauty, then look no further than Iron River. The community is welcoming, the recreational possibilities are numerous and the setting is absolutely enchanting.

“The land is recreational opportunity, whether you are into being outside and doing stuff in the beautiful outdoors or visiting wildlife or if your more indoorsy and you just want to do arts and culture there is something for everybody,” said Erika Lindwall, director of the Iron County Economic Chamber Alliance.

Iron River is located in Iron County, which is surrounded by many recreational opportunities. The Ottawa and the Chequamehon-Nicolet national forests are nearby. The county contains 250 lakes and five blue-ribbon trout streams. It maintains two ski hills, — Ski Brule and Spring Valley — the George Young Recreational Center and the Iron Heritage Trail. The possibilities are all but endless.

The Iron County Heritage Trail is a 36-mile-long bike trail that loops around 14 important historical sites. Each site uniquely reveals a part of the area’s history.

The interior of Contrat Coffee's Iron River location is shown. (Courtesy photo)

One such site is Pentoga Park, where one can find ancient Ojibwa Burial Grounds. This pre-European site still contains wooden structures that mark the grave sites of Ojibwa people.

Not up to riding the entire 36-mile loop? The Apple Blossom Trail is a 14-mile non-motorized section that runs along the banks of the Iron River. It starts in the nearby town of Caspian and ends at the Iron County Historical Museum in Iron River.

This trail was formerly a major passageway for iron ore goods to be shipped to Chicago and Indiana. It was here, on this section of trail, that Harvey Mellon first discovered iron ore deposits in the area.

The Iron County Historical Museum is a former mine site encompassing nearly 10 acres, making it largest local museum in Michigan. It has 26 buildings with more than 100 major exhibits and two art galleries.

The summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The cost is youth, ages 5 to 18, $5; adults, $10. Group races can vary.

Hungry after a long day of recreating? Iron River has many fine restaurant options. Whether you are looking for something casual or a more formal dining experience, it’s available here.

The Happy Trails Trading Post is a small cafe with the added bonus of an ice cream parlor. Order one of their many healthy options or just go with a double scoop of your favorite ice cream cone flavor.

If you are looking for a great cup of coffee, then look no further than Contrast Coffee. It offers the atmosphere of a big city coffee shop in the setting of a small rural town. At night, you can put your best dress on and go to Alice’s for a homemade Italian food in a fine dining setting.

The 50th annual Upper Peninsula Pro Rodeo takes place at the Iron County Fairgrounds July 14-16. This is the only Profession Riders Association Rodeo event in Michigan. Visitors will have the opportunity to see bull riding, cattle riding, bronco riding, steer wrestling, team roping and more.

“It’s really a family friendly event too, so it’s cool that you can bring kids and they love it too,” Lindwall noted.

End your summer and begin your fall with the Apple and the Harvest and Haunt festivals. The two festivals take place on the same day in different locations.

The Apple Festival & Craft Market will be held at the Beachwood Historical Society from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be different fall activities such as apple pressing and various crafts.

The fun continues at the Harvest and Haunt festival at the Klint Safford Memorial RV Park, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Campers are encouraged to enhance their sites with Halloween decorationz and kids are invited to trick-or-treat the decorated park.

Other activities include face and pumpkin painting, a bouncy house, a beer tent (for adults) and musical entertainment. A local band, Iron Land, and the Celtic act, The Crossing, are scheduled to play during the festival.

Iron River is a wonderful getaway destination. Whether you are interested in taking advantage of its recreational opportunities or want to delve into its arts and culture scene, it’s worth a visit.