Lake Superior South Shore, 2016, Part 22 Gooseberry Falls State Park

We took a short drive up the North Shore from Duluth to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park. this is one of Susan and my favorite State Parks.  There is a nice campground (with no hookups), great hiking trails, access to Lake Superior, a nice visitor’s center with a gift shop and of course the falls.


The Visitor’s Center is a welcoming place, open all year.  On the other side trails lead down towards the Falls, the Bridge over Highway 61 and to the handiwork of the many CCC workers who worked here for many years.



The Upper Falls are inland from the bridge.



Rudy and Carolyn..


Here we are. A very familiar place for us.

The Middle Falls of the Gooseberry River spills out onto a flat rocky area that is a favorite place for kids to run around on. The river then goes over the Lower Falls and the river winds through a wide valley towards Lake Superior.



The mouth of the river is just beyond the rock outcrop. Beaches on the North Shore are gravel to rocks.


The slope across the water is from ancient lava flows that make up most of the North Shore. The CCC built stone columns along the edge.  These were about four feet square and four feet high. They strung ship’s anchor chain between them as a fence.  Out on the flat sloping lava flow they built picnic tables. Susan and I have been up here when storms drive giant waves crashing most of the way up the rock shelf.

The campground is down by the lake as are several picnic areas.  Some have CCC built shelters.

b-shelter3I came up here in the early 1970’s in the middle of the winter with several young Boy Scouts in tow.  It was minus 30 degrees or so, really, and we figured we could stay in the stone buildings, start a fire and be nice and toasty.  Well there wasn’t much wood around for a big never-ending fire and after a day we abandoned the building for tents. It was colder in the building than it was outside.  We survived!

On our way back to Duluth we stopped at the Rustic Inn for a nice lunch.


That brings us to the end of this epic exploration of the South Shore (and a sneak up the North Shore).  We had a very nice time travelling with Rudy and Carolyn and Amanda and Douglas. It was a new experience for all of us to travel in a group. I think it worked pretty well.

Susan and I and Rudy and Carolyn left the Lakehead Basin Marina and RV Park on Friday.  We had a four-hour drive. Rudy and Carolyn had a few days to get to Houston. It actually took them almost two weeks with a stop in Nacogdoches for some service work and a delay waiting for parts. Rudy reports all is running perfectly now.

Douglas and Amanda have been going to several local weekend and week-long festivals where there sell the handmade jewelery that Amanda makes.  So they are very busy.

We will be home for a couple of weeks and then back up to the Temperance River on the North Shore in October.

More later,

Roger and Susan




Lake Superior South Shore, 2016, Part 21 Duluth, MN Duluth Ship Channel

Duluth’s Canal Park leads out to the Lift Bridge over the Duluth Ship Channel. Over the Lift Bridge and you are on Park Point, a long sand bar that is between Lake Superior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor.  The Harbor is really the mouth of the St Louis River that flows down to the lake. In the 1800’s Park Point was connected to Duluth and ran out along the side of the harbor for about five miles. The only way into the harbor was at the Superior end so the Duluth folks banded together to dig through Park Point and make a new channel into the harbor.  Of course that meant they needed a bridge as well.


The first bridge had a suspended trolley contraption that went across the channel. The trolley bit was removed and more structure was built around the old structure to make the lift bridge.

img_6174If you look closely you can see the old vertical parts inside the newer ones.  The entire center section is lifted with the help of counterweights to allow the big lake boats to come into the harbor.


Or just a sailboat to get out.  The Presque Isle was on its way in so we walked down to see it come in.


These boats are very large and move surprisingly fast, faster than a brisk walk. The Presque Isle is a unique lake boat.  It is over 1,000 ft long but unlike any other lake boat it is made up of two parts.  The cargo part is more like a giant barge with a notch in the back-end for the power part, sort of like a tow boat to push in and get secured.

img_5991Hardly any wake.

img_5983And with the lift bridge all the way up, just enough room.   I found this picture of the power end of the pair.


It is a boat all on its own, kind of oddly shaped but very powerful.

Rudy and Carolyn are from Houston and see ships all the time but these are much bigger. Carolyn  was showing us the size of the one she saw.


The Blue Heron is a University of Minnesota research boat that does lake studies of all sorts.


And the U.S. Coast Guard was well represented as well.  This is a buoy tender.

Just across the bridge is a Corps of Engineers Maritime Museum. It has a lot of interesting displays inside like a Fresnel Lens


and outside a harbor tug boat.


It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun was out, boats going by.  A nice day by the Canal.



But some days are a bit more challenging.

More later,

Roger and Susan






Lake Superior South Shore, 2016, Part 20 Duluth, MN Wm A Irvin

After the Railroad Museum Rudy and I needed something bigger to look at.  Just across the road closer to the harbor is the Wm A Irvin.  It is a 1938 vintage iron ore boat, the flagship of the US Steel Great Lakes fleet now permanently moored in a slip next to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC).  This lake boat hauled iron ore from 1938 until it was decommissioned in 1978. By then it was too slow, too small and too expensive to operate. It was 610 ft long and had a capacity of 13,000 tons.  Today’s bulk carriers are 1,000 ft long and can carry 60,000 tons. She could move at just over 11 knots while the newer bulk carriers move at 14-17 knots.  Most of the newer boats are self unloaders.  The Irvin was not and so it was limited to destinations where compatible unloading systems were available. The Irvin sat (floated) unused for 10 years until the DECC bought it and made it into a tourist attraction, gift shop and tour destination.  The tours last about an hour and cover the entire boat.  In the fall they convert a couple of the holds into a haunted house sort-of-thing.  Our tour leader said that the Haunted Ship event is the second biggest funding source for the DECC behind parking.

img_6838This old style lake carrier had the controls at the front and the engines and crew quarters in the rear. The ship is getting a new paint job.


The Irvin was named for the William A. Irvin who was the President of US Steel from 1932 to 1938. It is sort of amazing that they would be building a ship like this in the middle of the depression.

On 27 August 1940, the Wm A Irvin set a record by unloading 13,856 tons of ore in 2 hours 55 minutes using Hulett unloaders. This record still stands today and is unlikely to be broken, because all ships today use automatic self unloaders in the bottom of their cargo holds.


The Irvin had a traveling crane to open each one of the hatch covers except for the two at the front of the boat which were opened using a small hoist. the travelling crane wasn’t able to get up that far.

The Irvin burned 1.2 tons of coal an hour to make steam.  The locomotive we saw earlier burned 12 tons per hour.


There were two steam turbines which turned a single shaft and propeller. Rudy is down there somewhere looking at gauges.  Lots of brass to keep polished.  There were also steam and gasoline powered generators.  The crew’s quarters, the main galley and crew dining room were all at this end.  To get from this end of the ship to the other meant a trip outside.  Everything on this ship was first class. As the flagship of the fleet it was the showcase for US Steel.  There were frequent visitors and passengers from one port to another.  They stayed in the front end.


There was a very elegant oak paneled dining room including custom silverware and china. (The table was bolted to the floor.)   There were four nice state rooms, each with its own bathroom.


They all had fire places as well.


There was a complete galley and staff just for the passengers. At the very top level on the front end of the ship was the state of the art control center.


Radar wasn’t added until the late 1940’s.  There were two steering wheels, one for in port and one for on the lake. The in-port steering was much quicker for maneuverability when the boat was moving slowly. There were typical of the day engine controls and signals, very old-fashioned looking phones and a radio that looked like it was from the 50’s, it probably was.  There were also eleven voice tubes where someone on the bridge could yell into the tube and be heard somewhere else.

The Captain’s office and quarters were just behind the bridge.  Very Spartan by today’s measure. Absolute luxury compared to the rest of the crew’s quarters.


Susan and I have been on the Irvin Tour before.  It is only $5 on Tuesdays and well worth the time. Rudy and I liked it.

Next up the Duluth Ship Channel and the Lift Bridge.  The Marina where we are staying is only a couple blocks away.  The 1000′ Presque Isle is inbound.

More later,

Roger and Susan



Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 19 Duluth, MN Railroad Museum

Rudy and I went to the Railroad Museum at the far end of Canal Park.


It is Duluth’s old railroad depot. There is a rich railroad history up here with the iron ore mines to the north and east. Millions of tons of iron ore was hauled from the mines to loading docks at Duluth and Two Harbors for decades. Today the iron ore is processed into a concentrated form called taconite which is about 95% pure iron and then hauled to the loading docks. A common bulk carrier today hauls 60,000 tons of taconite which is many, many trains full. A ship can be fully loaded in the automated loading docks in as little as five hours. The storage yards of taconite ready to ship hold as much as 5 millions of tons of taconite ready to load.


The Wm Crooks was the first steam locomotive in Minnesota.  It originally burned wood and was later converted to coal.  The William Crooks was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Perhaps the best thing in the museum is the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Number 227, a 2-8-8-4 “Yellowstone” locomotive which was among the largest steam engines to ever operate.  the 2-8-8-4 configuration had two sets of eight drive wheels led by a two wheels and followed by four. These engines were so long that the entire front drive wheel assembly was articulated.  While it was going around curves this set of drive wheels would actually turn towards one side while sliding under the boiler.  The four 32″ x 26″ powered the sixteen 63″ drive wheels to put 6,250 HP to work providing 141,000 pounds of drawbar force.


These are extraordinarily huge. The railroads transporting iron ore to the loading docks during World War II  operated several of these.  There is another on display in Two Harbors MN and another in Proctor, MN.  Eighteen of the Yellowstone Class locomotive were built for the DM&IR.  During the winter months when production in the mines was slower some of these were leased to other railroads notably the Denver and Rio Grande Western to help get trains over the Tennessee Pass in Colorado. The D&RGW destroyed one of the these locomotives after an air-brake failure caused number 224 to wreck on the Fireclay Loop.

img_6056The coal and water tender rode on seven axles and carried 28 tons of coal and 25,000 gallons of water. There was an automated feed system to supply coal to the huge firebox under the boiler.  These locomotives consume 10 to 12 tons of coal an hour and evaporate water into steam at the astounding rate of 12,000 gallons per hour. The “amount of coal used in one hour would be enough to heat a home for two winters.”  a local report stated. And Minnesota winters at that, one supposes.

Yes, the cab was open and Rudy scampered up like a four-year old.


Pretty much looks like he belongs there. You can see the open doors into the boiler grating where the coal was burned.  No computers on these big boys just an experienced operator and a close eye.


“Quick, turn down the valve with the red handle”. “Not that one, the one with nine spokes!”  Yikes!   You should have seen the batteries in these things.


After Rudy was done Choo Choo-ing we wandered on. This really is an amazing indoor railroad museum.  And out doors too.

An exact replica of Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Car is here as well.From the Display … Lincoln’s legacy; that “all men are created equal”, was carried with him to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois where the 16th President of the United States was laid to rest following his assassination 151 years ago. The pallbearer for this solemn procession was a railroad coach called the ‘United States’ that has become known as ‘The Lincoln Funeral Car’. Built as the first ‘Air Force One’, but never used by the President while he was alive, the car ended its own life in a funeral pyre of sorts on a hot afternoon in July of 1911 in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, a Twin Cities Suburb. An out of control wildfire burned the car to the metal and half of Columbia Heights to the ground.

Using photographs, written descriptions, pieces of charred metal, and a single wood frame window removed from the car before the blaze, an exact, full-sized replica of ‘The Lincoln Funeral Car’ was constructed. This colossal effort took over five years and was completed in time for the 2015 Sesquicentennial of the original train ride from Washington to Springfield.


We managed to get through many other cars as well from Post Office Railway cars where mail was sorted to fancy dining cars to a wide variety of working cars for logging, rail maintenance and giant crane cars for returning cars to the rails after a mishap.

The Post Office Railway car reminded me of an old friend, Paul Schoberg (Chief Many Moons), who spent much of his working life riding back and forth between Minneapolis and Fargo sorting mail. I knew Paul from my Boy Scout days. By then he was retired and was a dedicated teacher of all things outdoors to hundreds of young folks along the way. He was an accomplished classical guitar player and did his best to teach me. That abruptly ended when I cut off the tip of my finger with an axe.  When I think of Paul, I remember a quiet, patient and gentle man, someone who gave much to many.  You won’t find him on Google or Facebook but in the hearts of his many followers.

Next we go to see an even bigger machine, the Wm A Irvin, the 1938 Flagship of the US Steel Great Lakes Fleet.  Right here in Duluth.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 18 Duluth, MN Lakehead Boat Basin and RV Park

Our next and last stop on the Lake Superior South Shore Expedition is the great city of Duluth, MN.  This is where Susan was born and raised as a youngster. We manage to get up to Duluth and the North Shore at least once a year.  Three times in 2016.

We stayed at the Lakehead Boat Basin Marina and RV Park.

Really, it is a marina. Where they store boats over the winter gets used for RV parking during the rest of the year. Full hookups with 50 amp service. Reasonable sized sites but it is still just a parking lot.

The best part of this place is the location. It is straight through Canal Park, over the Lift Bridge and out on Park Point about four or five blocks.  So it is an easy walk back to the Lift Bridge, to the ship channel from Lake Superior into the harbor, to the Maritime Museum and all of the other attractions, shops, eateries and people watching in Canal Park.

The first time I drove over the lift bridge with the coach I was a bit nervous. It is very old and narrow with an open metal mesh deck. The speed limit is 15 mph.  After a few times and especially after watching full-sized semis driving over it, no problem.



The fellow to our right had a brand new custom-built Prevost. He was up this way from Florida.  They had some pretty snazzy electric bikes for getting around.  he was telling me about all of the things on his coach. It was his fifth Prevost and he thought he finally got it figured out.  He basically stayed away from all the fancy computerized stuff. If he wanted to turn a light on or off he had a switch for that, things like that. It was a really nice coach but for the $$$ he had in it he could have bought a dozen coaches like ours.



This is the fellow from Florida. Rudy is very good at finding something to talk about with just about anyone.


Rudy and Carolyn were two sites down from us. Every morning we informally planned our day – or at least the next ten minutes or so.

The day before we left they started hauling boats out and filling in spaces where RVs had been. These were not your average boats either.  This one was probably close to 60 ft long.  The painted lines there are 24 ft apart and 45 ft long.


That is what I have on the Lakehead Boat Basin.  It is all about location here. Best RV spot in Duluth.

More later,

Roger and Susan