After years of exploration and digging the Keweenaw was shaping up to be a massive disappointment for miners and investors alike. Although copper was being found, it wasn't in large enough quantities to be profitable and most mines quickly exhausted their start-up capital without making a dime. In 1845 the district turned a corner, with the discovery of a highly rich copper vein within the massive cliffs along the Eagle River. One of the first mines to take advantage was the Cliff, which went on to become one of the most successful mines in the Keweenaw. With its success came the need for a convenient port, and fast. With the nearest natural harbor more than six miles away, a temporary solution was in order. That solution would be the town of Eagle River.
Though not ideal, Eagle River's location at the mouth of the Eagle River made it the best candidate for a shipping port. With the river dredged and long docks lining its banks, boats would unload their supplies and take on cargo within the river's mouth. In 1857 a lighthouse was constructed nearby, and the town quickly blossomed. Warehouses, hotels, and saloons were built up along the river's sandy banks. On the weekends miners from all across the regions would come to town to spend their week's earnings. Fights were common, and the regions first jail had to be built in response. Soon the town would supplant Copper Harbor as the peninsula's center of commerce, and in return was established as the Keweenaw County seat in 1861.
NOTES: With the closing of the Cliff Mine in 1870, Eagle River was no longer used as a port. Warehouses and docks were abandoned, the lighthouse was turned off and the river wall allowed to fill with sand. The town would of faded away to nothing as well if it wasn't for its status as a county seat. Today the town is a quiet retirement community - consisting primarily of summer homes and cabins. The once busy lake and river front is now a public swimming beach.
DIRECTIONS: Follow US41 north out of Houghton for 24 miles until arriving at the M26 junction at the small town of Phoenix. Turn left onto M26 and continue along it for another 3 miles. Just after crossing the Eagle River, make a left turn to enter the town's main street.