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Iron Ore Heritage Trail named Pure Michigan Designated Trail

A draft of the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority's 5-Year Recreation Plan is available for public review. Goals include trail upgrades and amenities like parking. (Photo courtesy of the IOHRA)

MARQUETTE — The Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a 47-mile-long, year-round multi-use pathway, was named a Pure Michigan Designated Trail.

The trail stretches through Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming and follows mostly abandoned railroad corridors that were once used to transport lumber and iron ore, according to the IOHT website.

Carol Fulsher, administrator for the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, went through the lengthy application process, with help from local DNR and Travel Marquette, to enter the trail for Pure Michigan’s inaugural trails and trail town designations.

“We felt it fit into their program of being a Pure Michigan trail,” Fulsher said. “We think it’s one of the best trails Michigan has to offer.”

The trail had to meet certain criteria to be considered, which included providing a quality trail experience; clear information for users; broad community support; and a sustainable business, maintenance and marketing plan.

Fulsher believes there are many aspects of the IOHT that set it apart from other applicants and made it the only designated trail chosen in the Upper Peninsula.

She noted the geography of the trail as one of its fascinating features.

“As a rail trail, we are very unique in that we are not just straight flat,” Fulsher said. “We have uphills, downhills, curves, you see lakefront, you get into wetlands…”

The trail also runs along old mining properties. The heritage one can learn of along the trail is another fun feature.

“We interpret that history of the Marquette Iron Range and a lot of trials don’t do that, they don’t have that interpretation element,” Fulsher said.

The trail passes by local historic sites such as the Cliffs Shaft Mine, the Ore Dock, old mining buildings, engine houses and mine pick that is now filling with water.

One of the greatest aspects of the trail is that it connects the communities, she said.

“You’re going into the downtowns of Ishpeming, Negaunee and Marquette,” Fulsher said. “So it’s showcasing the businesses, showcasing the neighborhoods as well because it does go through quite a lot of neighborhoods and then again you have the Lake Superior shoreline and we cross the Carp River six times between Marquette and West Ishpeming.

By becoming a designated trail, the IOHT is now featured on Pure Michigan and the Michigan DNR’s website and the IOHT will receive signage to put on the trails to mark their designation.

Fulsher encouraged tourists and locals alike to stroll down the trail and discover something new about the area.

“I think that they will see parts of the county that you won’t see in the car,” Fulsher said. “Even for many of the locals, they’re going to go to many places that they never would have gone to without getting on this trail, and they’re going to see some beautiful spots and wildlife and birds and water features through it. And of course we have the interpretative signs along the whole way so they can learn about the history in little snippets along the way.”

Executive Director of Travel Marquette Susan Estler also noted that the trail is good for those who wish to go for a short stroll or bike long distances.

“The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is great for any level of hiker or biker,” Estler said. “It certainly is family friendly and a great asset to Marquette County.”

Five other trails were recognized as the inaugural Pure Michigan trails: the Polly Ann Trailway, Oakland County; Trail 45 (Charcoal Grade Trail), Chippewa and Luce counties; Leelanau Trail, Leelanau County; Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, Leelanau County; William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park, Muskegon, Oceana counties. Trail towns designated were: the City of South Haven, the City of Charlevoix, the City of Houghton and the Village of Newberry.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.