Sunday, July 8, 2012

Duluth, Minnesota

Went to visit Duluth on a bright, sunny day in July. Spent some time at the museum at Canal Point which told about the ships that sailed on Lake Superior. We walked a little along the walkway next to Lake Superior and let the dogs go swimming on a stony beach we found. 

 It is characteristic of north shore streams to form a sand bar across their mouths as they empty into Lake Superior. Minnesota Point (known as Park Point) at 7 miles in length and neighboring Wisconsin Point at 3 miles form the longest freshwater sand bar in the world. The natural entry to St. Louis Bay divides the bar on the Wisconsin side and is known as the Superior Entry. The Park Point Ship Canal is the man made access to the bay on the Minnesota side. The combined forces of eroded sand released by the waters of the Nemadji and St. Louis rivers and the wave action of Lake Superior continuously rebuilds the points which shelter the western most harbor of the Great Lakes.

Native Ojibway people made landfall on the points and used them as stopover sites on canoe journeys to the lower lakes. Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut may have been the first European to see Park Point when he landed here in 1679. He was only the first of many explorers, trappers, traders and settlers who passed through here and into the interior of the western territories. Many of those went no farther than Minnesota Point which became a village in 1854 and was not annexed to Duluth until 1889. It has played a vital part in the history of the port.

Prior to the completion of the ship canal in 1871 docks jutted into the lake itself and were vulnerable to the winds and storms of Lake Superior. The 300 foot wide canal gave Duluth access to port traffic which had previously gone first to Superior Wisconsin. Transportation between the Point and Duluth was by ferry and row boat until 1905 when the first Aerial Bridge was constructed. The suspended cable car could carry ten automobiles and foot traffic and required about 10 minutes to make a round trip crossing. The present Lift Bridge was built in 1929 when increased vehicle traffic demanded faster access.

The "Park" on Park Point was developed in the 1930's. This WPA project included the present beach house and playground area. The park has undergone redevelopment and now volley ball courts, softball fields, a boat launch and picnic grounds add to the attraction of this area. Until 1954 the Oatka Boat Club was one of the centers for social gatherings and rowing regattas until the building burned down. Recently the Duluth Rowing Club has constructed a new boathouse at 3900 Minnesota Ave.

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