Come along with us as we explore Keweenaw National Historical Park and the Quincy Mine & Hoist, located in a remote region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Learn the story of copper and the miners who searched for it. Witness how mining transformed this once nearly uninhabited land. Enjoy history come to life as you explore both above ground and underground, what it was like to be a copper miner in one of the most productive copper mines of it’s time.
Historical Quincy Mine – Setting the Stage
The story of Quincy Mine begins nearly 170 years ago, amidst the mining rush of the 1840’s. Miners by the thousands flocked to this remote region of Michigan with hopes of striking it rich. Most didn’t find wealth. What was found, though, was rich deposits of native copper buried deep beneath the surface.
The Quincy Mine was born out of this quest for wealth and native copper in 1846. The mine quickly became one of the most successful copper producing mines in it’s hey day, earning it’s nick-name, “Old Reliable.” And for 99 years, the mine went strong.
Sadly, falling copper prices spelled the beginning of the end of Quincy Mine, and in 1931, it briefly stopped production. The mine surged back to life during World War II, but once again fell into disuse when the war was over. Finally, in 1946, the mine shaft fell silent, never to return to it’s former glory.
All Geared Up To Go Underground!
Today, a tour of the Quincy Mine & Hoist provides a window into the hey day of copper mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula. It was a time when mining dominated this landscape, and the miners who worked them eeked out a living in this remote region. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to score your tickets into the past, taking time to wander through the informative museum before heading underground.
Ready to take this adventure underground, to go inside a real-life copper mine? Then don your hardhat, put on that canvas mining jacket, and let’s explore Old Reliable. Get ready to go deep into history, right straight into a mine shaft that once produced some of the world’s finest, purest native copper of it’s time.
All aboard! Brace yourself for the steep down-hill ride in the cogwheel tram to the mine’s eastern entrance. Soak in the views of nearby Portage Lake and the twin towns of Houghton and Hancock along the way. This adventure into historic Old Reliable is about to begin!
Entering A Real Copper Mine Shaft
As the tram makes the steep climb down to the shaft opening, imagine yourself one of the copper miners who also once entered this mine over 100 years ago, lunch boxes in hand instead of backpacks and handbags. Imagine the hard work that was required to mine copper, and spending entire days within this dark environ, day light not to be seen for hours on end.
There it is – the entrance to Old Reliable. It’s time to enter this underground world, to explore a 2400 foot section of the seventh level of this now silent copper mine. Learn about life underground, in search of copper veins snaking through the rock. Listen along as your guide tells the story of the miners that spent so many dark hours deep inside this copper mine, mere candles lighting their way.
Feel the chill in the mine air. No matter the temperature above ground, it’s a constant cool temperature this far beneath the earth’s surface. In fact, you are now so far beneath the ground, you are actually standing beneath U.S. Highway 41, the road that brought you here. It truly is the history of a bygone era brought back to life!
Walk Beside Mine Ruins & Historical Trains
Did you enjoy the underground mine tour? Great! But that’s not all there is here at Quincy Mine. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the surrounding grounds. It’s free, and well worth the walk above ground through the remains of this bygone mining era.
Meander across the field to the No. 2 Shaft House for a self-guided tour. Built in 1908, it was in use until 1931. Don’t miss the historical film showing how the men used to ride down into the mines in the man cars. Then stroll over to the actual man cars and imagine riding in these tight, narrow cars. Now that’s a ride I don’t want to take!
Wander past other Quincy Mine buildings, some in ruins, and others in near pristine condition, like the 1918 Hoist Building. Here you’ll come face to face with the Nordberg Steam Hoist, the world’s largest steam-powered hoist engine. It was so powerful that it enabled the mine to extend the No. 2 shaft nearly two miles further down into the earth!
Train aficionados will especially love this part of the walk! Step right up to two turn of the century steam locomotives strategically placed along now-dormant rail road track.
Climb aboard the engine, as if you are the train conductor, waving to all who pass by. Just be careful, and be respectful when exploring these historical pieces. They are windows into our past!
Planning A Quincy Mine Adventure
The Quincy Mine and Hoist is located within the Keweenaw National Historical Park, just outside Hancock, Michigan, and is open for tours from May into October. The grounds surrounding Quincy Mine are free to explore, and the fee-based underground mine shaft tour should not be missed.
Learn more about the Quincy Mine & Hoist, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and how to plan your own adventures to this area with these links:
- Keweenaw National Historical Park – Quincy Unit
- The Quincy Mine Hoist Association
- Keweenaw Heritage Sites – Quincy Mine Tours
Though a bit off the beaten path, a road trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula, and this marvelous gem of an historical park, is well worth it. Stick around for future posts about other fun activities perfect for a summer road trip through this remotely wonderful region of Michigan.
Do You Enjoy Exploring Historical Sites?
Upper Michigan, and the Keweenaw Peninsula remain one of my most favorite destinations. Despite travels far and wide, it is a region I long to return to year after year. Perhaps it’s because I grew up not far from this area. Perhaps it’s because there is just so much to do, so much to enjoy, in this vast, beautiful region of Michigan.
How about you? Do you enjoy exploring historical sites? Have you explored mine shafts deep beneath the earth’s surface? Have you been to Quincy Mine? Do share!
All images by C. Biederman.