Sunday, August 16, 2015

North Shore trail passes century-old ruins

Crazy Bay with Corundum Point in distance.
Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.
Corundum Point Trail map.

Split Rock Lighthouse park
route heads through
old logging, mining camps

Day hikers can explore the history of a wild Lake Superior shoreline at Minnesota's Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

The Corundum Mine Trail runs 4.2-miles round trip. Besides being a back-to-nature hike, the trail passes ruins of old logging and an mining operations.

To reach the trailhead, take Minn. Hwy. 61 about 21 miles north from Two Harbors. At Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, park at the DOT wayside overlooking Split Rock River.

From the wayside, pick up the stem trail on the lot's west side, taking it under the highway to the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail, which runs between the highway and Lake Superior. There's a small sand bar beyond the stem and the main trail's intersection.

Split Rock Point
Go left/northeast on the main trail and cross the Split Rock River's mouth with Lake Superior. Keep an eye out for the remains of pilings, a wharf, and a dam that once was part of the Split Rock Lumber Company's logging operations from 1899 to 1906.

At 0.2 miles from the parking lot, you'll reach the actual Corundum Mine Trail. Go right/southeast onto the path, as it edges a forested side of Split Rock Point. A post office and other buildings where the lumberjacks resided used to sit inland on the point.

The trail reaches an impressive overlook of Lake Superior at 0.7 miles from the wayside. A young lake, Superior formed when a massive glacier during the last ice age scooped out the soft sediment and then melted in the massive depression.

From the overlook, the trail cuts inland than passes Crazy Bay. A small cobblestone beach separates the woods from the lake, where seagulls soar overhead as Corundum Point rises out of the northeast. It's a great location for a picnic lunch. The spot is popular with kayakers, and there's a campsite for them at 1.2 miles from the trailhead.

Corundum Point
The trail remains close to the lakeshore the rest of the way. At 1.5 miles from the trailhead, it reaches a connecting trail with the Gitchi-Gami; continue going straight/northeast.

A knoll soon appears on the horizon. This is the peak on Corundum Point. At the 2-mile mark, the trail reaches the knoll’s base. Despite that glaciers have covered the point several times, the highly-resistant anorthosite rock survived.

The two large concrete footings along the trail are the remains of a crushing house built more than a century ago by the North Shore Abrasives Company. Many mistook the anorthosite for corundum, the hardest mineral after diamonds.

A steep 0.1-mile spur trail heads to an overlook atop the knoll. After taking in the view, retrace your steps back to the wayside parking lot.

Learn about nearby hiking trails in Day Hiking Trails of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.