On the western shore of Lake Superior, a town grew to be a major United States shipping port. Duluth, in the 1860s, was the fastest growing city in the country. A few years ago, my wife and I headed from our North Dakota home to visit the city on the big lake. Built on a steep, rocky hillside, the city’s elevation ranges from 605 ft (184 m) at the waterfront to 1485 (453 m) feet in the hills surrounding the city. Our visit to the hillside city took place in early July. We were fortunate not to have to negotiate the steep roadways in the middle of an icy Minnesota winter.
On this trip, we visited the Great Lakes Aquarium. The focus of their exhibits feature fresh water environments around the world. If you plan to visit the aquarium, they are open year round, except Christmas Day. Plan to spend a good portion of your day there. Our other excursion for the day was an evening cruise on the Vista Star. Vista Fleet Cruise Lines is one of a handful of cruise companies offering Lake Superior cruises. All of the images in this small gallery were captured on our evening cruise of the harbor and lake.
This lighthouse is one of many that protect shippers from natural and man-made hazards to navigation as ships negotiate the breakwater and enter Duluth’s large working harbor area. Nearly a thousand vessels visit the port annually carrying an average of 38 million tons of cargo. The almost 50 miles of waterfront are home to almost two dozen privately owned and operated docks. This freshwater seaport is at the western end of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Oceangoing vessels routinely travel from the Atlantic Ocean via the seaway’s 16 locks. The 2,342 mile (3769 km) trip brings ships no larger than 740 feet (225 m) long and 78 feet (23.8 m) wide can transit the system all but three months of the year. The ocean-bound ships, known as “salties” are not the common cargo haulers on Lake Superior. The largest cargo ships are over 1,000 feet (300 m) long and up to 105 feet (32 m) wide. They are too large to fit through the eastern locks and spend their time hauling on four of the five great lakes. Known as “lakers”, they are not strong enough to handle ocean voyages.
One of the major landmarks in Duluth is the aerial lift bridge. Connecting the Minnesota shoreline with a five-mile (8 km) sandbar known as Park Point; the lift bridge operates 24 hours a day, lifting out of the way for larger ships and tour boats to allow them to enter or exit the harbor. During the busy shipping season, the bridge raises and lowers an average of 26 times a day. When fully open, the 386 foot (117 m) long roadway is lifted 180 feet (54.8 m) above the water’s surface.
The bridge originally constructed as a ferry-bridge in 1905, was rebuilt in 1929 to provide a roadway and pedestrian walk. At one time, pedestrians were allowed to ride up with the bridge as it was raised. That practice was discontinued some years ago. Large electric motors raise and lower the bridge assisted by two large concrete block counterweights. The collection of images below is presented in gallery form for easy viewing. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.