It’s National Manufacturing Day! These 6 Attractions Showcase Michigan’s Rich Heritage

Today is National Manufacturing Day! Home to nearly 14,000 manufacturing establishments, 61 top automotive suppliers, and more engineers per capita than any other state, Michigan is a leader in making things and making things work.

Interested in exploring Michigan’s rich manufacturing history? You’re in luck! We’ve compiled this handy list of just a few attractions that showcase Michigan as a manufacturing maven.

Quincy_MineQuincy Mine Tours
Explore Michigan’s historic mining industry with a visit to the Quincy Mine located on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mining operations have been closed for many years, but the site is preserved as a cooperating site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The Quincy Mine Tour offers three unique tours for all visitors: Surface Tour only, Surface Tour with Tram Ride, and Full Tour. All tours include a visit to the museum, a video-tour of the No. 2 Shaft-Rock House and a guided tour of the enormous and complex Nordberg steam-powered hoist engine and the building it is in. On the Full Tour, you will take a ride on the cog-rail tram car down the hill to the mine entrance and then ride by tractor-pulled wagon into the mine, seven levels underground. If you’re looking for some family-friendly adventure, a tour of the Quincy Mine is your ticket.

Adventure Mining Company Copper Mine Tour
No visit to Copper Country can be considered complete without a tour through the historic Adventure Copper Mine. Walk through part or all of the tunnels on the first level or try your hand at rappelling to the second level of the mine…the choice is yours! Boldly go where no underground mine tour has gone before - descend an 80′ shaft with a rope and harness, learn how the miners worked to extract copper from deep underground, and listen to the history and stories of the miners that worked there. So, strap on your hard hat for an adventure enjoyed by guests of all ages.

Soo Locks
Did you know that between 7,000 – 10,000 boats pass through the Soo Locks each year? This man-made marvel is the busiest lock system in the world, by cargo tonnage.  Built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond. The Locks consist of two canals and four locks that allow vessels of many types/sizes to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation. Every season, repeat visitors who call themselves “Boat Nerds” flock to watch ships from all over the world use this free lock system.  The locks are open 24 hours a day. You can even take your personal boat through the locks – as long as you have permission from the lockmaster!

See the Soo Locks in action in the video below, or check out these nine things you might not have known about Sault Ste. Marie’s great engineering marvel.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour at The Henry Ford Museum
The Henry Ford boasts four one-of-a-kind attractions and 200 acres, including the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.  Put yourself at the center of sheer manufacturing when you take this unique walking tour. Beyond the awe-inspiring sweep, scale and action of the real-life factory floor where the Ford F-150 is made, get set for some eye-opening encounters with the technology of tomorrow—today. The tour is a self-guided five-part experience. Visitors can expect to take a 360-degree look at how automobiles are made, see five historic vehicles made at the Rouge or hop in a new F-150.

gristmillTom Walker Grist Mill
Tom Walker’s Grist Mill is a Michigan Historic Site. This 136 years old cider mill is a fall favorite among visitors to Livingston County and is one of the few remaining water-powered mills in Michigan. Grist Mill also has a rich history as a flour mill. It eventually became a grist mill, grinding grain for animal feed. These grains are still listed on the mill wall today.

The mill offers guided tours during the week – visit the press room and learn how delicious freshly squeezed cider is made, immerse yourself in a history lesson history, enjoy a quaint nature walk by the Ore Creek,  see the mill’s bakers creating delicious homemade pies in the Pie Shoppe, and of course, end your tour with a glass of cider and a spiced donut!

Michigan Iron Industry Museum
The Michigan Iron Industry Museum (MIIM) in Negaunee tells the story of iron ore and how its discovery in 1844 impacted Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, both in the massive investment made in the business of mining and the people who came to the region to work in the mines.

Photo courtesy of MIIM and Michigan DNR

Photo courtesy of MIIM and Michigan DNR

The museum is nestled in a wooded ravine overlooking the Carp River, which once was home to the area’s first iron forge. The exhibits, which include some outdoor interpretation areas, give the visitor a good overview of the history of iron ore production in the region and how that led to the rise of area communities, the waves of immigrants who flocked to the area for work and how the work in the mines evolved from a dangerous, very physical job done by hand to today’s more modern mining techniques that rely on technology.

MIIM is also becoming a popular spot to take in the Upper Peninsula’s spectacular fall colors. The museum is connected to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a 47-mile multi-use trail in Marquette County that connects to several historic sites throughout the area’s iron range. The museum grounds also have two shorter interpretative paths that provide breathtaking views of fall foliage. In either instance, a fall color walk or hike is ready-made at the MIIM. In the summer, the museum offers bicycle tours on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, with stops at various historic mine sites. 

Have you visited a Michigan manufacturing attraction? Tell us about your visit. 

Uncover History with Iron Ore Heritage Bike Tours in the Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is full of rich history to uncover. And with heritage bike tours available throughout July, there’s no better time to explore the area. Troy Henderson, a historian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, gives us an inside look at what bike tour attendees will discover.

The iron industry on the Marquette Range is a big story to tell. There are museums like the one I work at, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, which exhibits the iron industry in Michigan from its pioneer roots to the present.  There are also many physical historical sites connected to the iron industry that you can actually stand in front of and observe.  We are offering iron ore heritage bike tours that give visitors the best of both worlds.

In July, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum will host several iron ore heritage bike tours along the new segment of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.  We will start each tour at the museum with an orientation of the Carp River forge site, where the first ore was smelted on the Marquette Range in the 1840s.

From the museum, we will bike westward on a crushed limestone aggregate trail toward the Jackson Mine in Negaunee, where miners broke up and transported the ore that was smelted at the Carp River forge.  This forested portion of the trail grades uphill to Negaunee.

Before reaching “Old Towne” Negaunee, a segment of town that was once abandoned and relocated due to the caving potential of the underground mine shafts, we will see some good examples of the iconic sandstone architecture of the Lake Superior region.

Today the trail from “Old Towne” Negaunee westward toward Ishpeming looks like a park, but it was once a mixed residential and industrial landscape.  We will pass by foundational remnants of that landscape on this segment to the tour, including a stop at the historic Jackson Mine pit.  Here, drill markings can still be seen on the walls of iron ore that were bored over a century ago.

Before the turnaround point we will pass an old stone hoist house, the curious circular foundation of a railroad turntable, and Jasper Knob.  Within view of Cliffs Shaft, the iconic pyramidal shaft head frames that dominate the Ishpeming landscape, we will turn around for the return trip.

Bikers will have all earned a delicious lunch on the return trip from Negaunee’s Midtown Bakery and Café, where we will have a chance to explore “Old Towne” Negaunee in a little more detail.  After lunch, it is downhill back to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum.

The Iron Ore Heritage Bike tours will take place July 11, 18, and 25.  Each tour will start at 10 a.m. and the total route is approximately 15 miles.  The fee is $20 per participant, which includes lunch and a Michigan Iron Industry Museum souvenir.  Pre-registration is required, and space is limited per tour.  Find the registration form at michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum and view the online calendar for July.

For more information about the tours or the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, contact the museum office at 906-475-7857 or e-mail Troy Henderson at hendersont7@michigan.gov.

Troy Henderson is a DNR historian with the Michigan Historical Center.  He is the site historian of Fayette Historic Town Site and his headquartered at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum.