Michigan Iron Industry Museum hosts guided bike tours

MARQUETTE — For those who wish to get some exercise while learning about the Upper Peninsula’s mining history, heritage and culture, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, located along Forge Road in Negaunee, will offer a guided bicycle tour along the Iron Ore Heritage Trail Friday, as well as July 20 and 27.

The tours, which start at 9 a.m., take participants on a 15-mile round-trip from the museum to Ishpeming and back, with stops along the way at historical sites.

“Along this stretch from Negaunee to Ishpeming, (we can) really cover the entire history of iron mining from its beginnings, to mining in small open pits, to going underground, then kind of returning to open pit mining on a large scale the way they’re doing it today,” said Michigan History Center historian Troy Henderson.

The ride begins at the museum, which is situated among several points of interest.

“We begin the tour at the museum where I introduce the Carp River Forge, the historic site the museum is on,” Henderson said.

Then, the tour proceeds to the site of the historic Pioneer Furnace, which was a large blast furnace in Negaunee. While the furnace no longer stands, Henderson said he brings historic photos and maps along to “illustrate the history” of the area.

Later, attendees have a chance to see the site of the old Jackson Mine, the first iron mine established on the Marquette Iron Range.

The tour also gives visitors an opportunity to see an unusual sight — an area where roads, foundations, stairways and other vestiges of a neighborhood stand in the absence of homes and the families that once inhabited them.

“We also stop at old town Negaunee, which is an area of town that was once a thriving community,” he said, adding, “The buildings and structures there were relocated because of potential cave-ins due to the Mather B mine.”

The area tells an “interesting story of the local community and the connections between the community and iron mining,” Henderson siad.

On the return trip through Negaunee, the group will have lunch provided by Negaunee’s Midtown Bakery and Cafe.

Back at the museum, interested parties can view a 25-minute documentary entitled Iron Spirits, which explores the social history of life on the iron ranges, Henderson said, adding that viewing the documentary offers a good opportunity to relax after the ride, while putting the sites visited on the tour into a large context.

For those who wish to explore the museum’s exhibits and learn more about the area’s heritage, Henderson said tour attendees are welcome to go through the museum after the ride.

Henderson recommends a mountain bike or bike with relatively wider tires for the ride, as the vast majority of the trail is paved, but some portions are crushed limestone.

While there are hills to navigate on the trail, Henderson said the ride moves at a leisurely pace with plenty of stops along the way.

The tour lasts about five and a half hours, including lunch, Henderson said. He recommends arriving at the museum by 8:30 a.m. for the tour. In the event of inclement weather, Henderson said he would contact all registered participants to advise them of the situation.

Advance registration for the tours is required. While the registration deadline for Friday’s tour has passed, Henderson said interested parties can call 906-475-7857 today and staff will try to make arrangements to accomodate them for Friday’s tour.

The registration deadline for the tour held on July 20 is Monday and the registration deadline for the July 27 tour will be July 23.

The registration form can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mhc/ii_bike-tour-regis_450409_7.pdf.