For those attempting to travel westward across Lake Superior the rugged and windswept shore of the Keweenaw peninsula was a perilous route that was best avoided. The safer and preferred route was through the peninsula, using the natural waterway that already bisected the peninsula’s base. This route followed the winding and shallow Portage river as it made its way inland from Keweenaw Bay to Portage Lake, before cutting across the lake to its far western shore. From there it was a two mile portage over land to the sandy shores of Lake Superior, passing along the way a small marshy pond brimming with water lilies known as Lily Pond.
As the copper mines along the Keweenaw prospered the Portage waterway became an important shipping passage, prompting the government to cut a ship canal through the final 2 miles of land separating Portage Lake from Lake Superior. This new canal would allow ships of any size to utilize that old portage route favored by early explorers, this time passing directly through Lilly Pond instead of alongside it. In the process the old pond was widened considerably, becoming a Harbor of Refuge were ships could ride out severe storms on the big lake.
More than a century later both the canal and Harbor of Refuge continue to bear the Lily Pond name, although the original marshy pond no longer exists. Today Lily Pond is also home to a DNR public access site, allowing boaters access to the Keweenaw Waterway as well as Lake Superior herself. A generous sized boat launch is provided which allows for two boats to be put in at once. Besides the boat ramp, Lily Pond’s most prominent feature is its 170 foot long concrete fishing pier accessorized with several benches and pole holders along its length. A covered shelter stands at the piers north end.
NOTES: Lily Pond’s generous boat ramp is paired with an equally generous amount of trailer parking. The fishing pier is wheelchair accessible along its entire length as is the modern toilet that also sits on the site. Terrain is level and even and is topped by concrete paths. The road to the site is dirt but in good condition. *Caution: low hanging wires sit over the site’s entrance*
DIRECTIONS: From the Portage Lift Bridge follow US41 north through Hancock. At the end of Quincy Street continue straight onto M203 instead of turning up the hill. Follow M203 west for about 7 miles, the road to Lily Pond will be on the left.