Welcome to the far western portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known as the U.P. Nature, friendly folks, small towns – and a couple of only-here destinations worth seeing.
You’ll meet “Yoopers,” residents of the U.P. And they’re proud to be “Yoopers.”
This has been iron ore country. It was discovered in this part of the U.P. in October of 1871 when a geologist saw smoke on the horizon and climbed a hill to see what it was. It was the day Chicago burned in that infamous fire attributed to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, but the geologist’s smoke was from the Peshtigo, Wisconsin, forest fire that burned more than 1.25 million acres and killed more than 1,200 people. While on that hill, the geologist also saw yellow spots on a rock formation that turned out to be rich iron ore call hematite.
Thousands came to mine the ore. Eighteen underground mines would open in Gogebic County. At the time, Ironwood’s Newport Mine was considered to be the deepest, most productive iron mine in the world – and one of the most dangerous. Later, open-pit mines came along.
But by the 1960s, mining in Gogebic County was over. Now tourism is the No. 1 industry.
Some important info:
TIME ZONE: Gogebic County is on Central time. The five Upper Peninsula counties bordering Wisconsin are on Central time.
DRIVING: Most roads are two-lane and sometimes curvy, so driving fast is not an option. There are occasional passing lanes. U.S. 2, however, from the Wisconsin border to Wakefield is a four-lane highway.
MAPS: Get a local map. There’s a decent map titled “The Wilds of Michigan” that covers just Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, available at many businesses.
CELL PHONE SERVICE: Be aware that cell phone service can be spotty out in the country. Many lodging facilities provide WiFi, as do other public spots.
CREDIT CARDS: Some businesses do not accept credit cards. Some that do charge an additional fee. Have cash on hand. ATMs are available.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers a day of discovery in Gogebic County. Think nature to begin the day, with a drive to Lake Superior via the Black River National Scenic Byway. Stop at a couple of waterfalls on the way, then walk around the harbor area and take the pedestrian bridge to get out to the lake.
On the way back to town, stop at Copper Peak, the only ski-flying hill in the Western Hemisphere. From May through October, the Copper Peak Adventure Ride offers visitors a chance to view the scenery from the top of the hill which is a 26-story view. Going up only part-way is OK for the less adventurous.
Drive to Wakefield for a pasty lunch at Randall Bakery. These are the best in the whole county.
Be sure to get back to Ironwood in time for the 1:30 p.m. tour of the Stormy Kromer factory. Not familiar with the Stormy Kromer? Think “Grumpy Old Men.” Specifically, the red plaid hat which Walter Matthau’s character wears in that movie. That’s a Stormy Kromer. Made only in Ironwood.
Have dinner at Don & GG’s on U.S. 2 in Ironwood. Food and spirits never disappoint.
The scenery, the cuisine and the local products deliver a full day of treats only found in this part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.