It was the towering peak rising up over the highlands south of the Portage - known today as Whealkate Mountain - that first attracted attention to the Keweenaw's southern range. Prospectors theorized the mountain's existence was due to a copper rich interior immune to the glacier action witch ground down the surrounding landscape. The first mine to test this theory would be the Wheal Kate, which opened a shaft along the mountain's slopes around 1851. It turned out that the mountain was not made of copper after all, and the mine was quickly abandoned. No other attempt would be made along the southern range for over a generation.
It wasn't until the discovery of the Baltic Lode in 1897 that the region once again attracted attention from mine prospectors. Quickly several mines opened along the newly discovered lode's length, and the Wheal Kate Mining company was given a second lease on life. With the newly opened Baltic Mine nearby, the old mining company began to sell off its considerable land holdings, platting out the small town of South Range in the process.
Unlike every other community along the southern range, South Range was uniquely independent of any mine company influence. In response the town developed a vibrant commercial district including meeting halls, banks, general stores and several saloons. Helping matters further was the presence of the Copper Range Railroad, along which a small warehouse district developed. Quickly the little town became the most populous in the region, and handily won the role of commercial center of the southern range.
NOTES: While not tied directly to any mine, the town of South Range was large dependent on their survival for its own. As mine after mine closed its doors along the southern range, the town suffered as well. With the demise of the Copper Range Mining Company in 1967, the town was left stranded and alone in a newly abandoned wilderness. Today only a few businesses remain along the town's main road.
DIRECTIONS: Follow M26 south from Houghton for about 6.5 miles. Turn right at the blinking light onto Trimountain Ave to enter the downtown.