During the early years of the copper boom, over two dozen shafts were sunk into the high ridge line atop Houghton from no less then thee separate mines: the Huron, Grand Portage, and Isle Royale. By the end of the century these mines had all been consolidated under the Isle Royale name and the company took another look at its massive holdings with renewed interest. Before long the new consolidated company would find itself working a highly profitable stretch of land, a rich deposit of copper that would continue to nourish the mine for another 30 years.
In terms of surface holdings the Isle Royale Mine was one of the largest single mines in the Keweenaw, stretching south of Houghton for over two miles, compassing over 3500 acres of mineral-rich lands in the process. At its peak the mine had a workforce of over 700 men, helping to grow the nearby city of Houghton as well as creating the mining towns of Dodgeville and Hurontown in the process. While successful, the mine would prove to be no match for the arrival of the great Depression. The mine was forced to close in 1932. Buoyed by high copper demand and government contracts the mine was re-opened shortly during the Second World War, but finally closed for good soon after.
At first the Isle Royale mine simply re-opened two of its original shafts along the lode, but as the copper accessible by these shafts began to diminish the company expanded southward in search of more copper. These new shafts – including the No. 6 – were sunk into the old mineral lands of the defunct Huron and Dodge properties. In the end the company had a total of six shafts working the Isle Royale Lode, and became one of the Keweenaw’s largest mining companies in the process.
NOTES: A scattering of old buildings that served the Isle Royale Mine can still be seen just south of Houghton, having been renovated for new modern uses. Most of the mine’s massive rock piles have been hauled away for construction material and the shaft-houses have all been torn down. At the No. 6 is that remains today is the massive concrete foundations to the rock house, along with the flat concrete cap to the shaft itself. The mine ruins are on private property and are not open to the public, though they can be seen from the road.
DIRECTIONS: The Isle Royale Mine sits to the south of Houghton, primarily along Superior and Gundlach Roads. From Houghton follow M26 south out of town until you come to the first stop light (Sharon Ave). Turn left and drive down the road for just over a mile until you come to a four way stop with a Fire Hall at the corner. Turn right onto Gundlach Road and continue down it. Some buildings from the mine can be seen on the right. When the road ends at a “T”, turn right and then turn almost immediately to the left onto Superior Road. Follow this road until it ends at Green Acres Road. Turn right and follow the road down into a valley. The concrete base to one of the mine’s rockhouses will be on the left at the bottom.