Top 12 Marquette Co. Attractions

Whether you’re a visitor or longtime resident, Marquette County has much to see and do. We can’t include every favorite location, but we’ve narrowed it down to twelve we guarantee will please you.

In Marquette

Presque Isle Park: The Jewel in the Queen City’s Crown is Presque Isle Park. This natural park has been a favorite of Marquette residents and visitors since 1891. Presque Isle is home to the grave of Chief Kawbawgam, last Chief of the Chippewas. It contains great walking trails and stunning sandstone cliffs, a charming cove, and the unique geographical feature of the Black Rocks. It’s not uncommon to meet a deer in your path and the lucky visitor might even spot a moose. Don’t forget to stop at the Island Store for ice cream and to visit Moosewood Nature Center—a great learning experience for children and adults.

Sugarloaf Mountain: Just six miles north of Marquette on County Road 550 is Sugarloaf Mountain. This cliff towers over Lake Superior and has been a popular hike for Marquette residents for a century. Today, flights of wooden stairs help visitors climb to the summit, which can usually be reached in about twenty minutes. At the top, a monument built by the Boy Scouts around 1920 pays homage to their leader Bartlett King who died in World War I. The view is breathtaking and includes Presque Isle Park and Marquette to the right and Partridge Island and Little Presque Isle to the left. After your hike, continue north on County Road 550; soon on your right are roads to Wetmore Landing and Little Presque Isle. Little Presque Isle is an island you can walk out to depending on the tide and songbird nature trails are nearby. Wetmore Landing is a popular beach with surfers.

Marquette Regional History Center: Marquette has had a historical society since the 1890s but in 2011 this phenomenal new history center opened. The entire history of the area of Marquette and its neighboring communities is depicted here. From early Ojibwa communities, to dioramas of local wildlife, the cultural history of the community, farming, military, and logging history—the Marquette Regional History Center has it all. Events are also regularly scheduled, including auctions, special exhibits, and cemetery and city walking tours.

Marquette Maritime Museum & Lighthouse: Located in the old sandstone Marquette Waterworks building constructed in 1890, this museum depicts the area’s long love affair with Lake Superior. A film and numerous displays tell the history of shipping on the lake, from early schooners to ore boats, and of course, shipwrecks. The museum also offers tours of the Marquette Lighthouse, built in 1866.

Downtown Marquette Shopping & Architecture: Marquette’s main streets, Front, Washington, and Third (“The Village”) offer a variety of Marquette originals for shopping, dining and live music. Enjoy ethnic specialties, fresh locally grown food, chocolates galore, all Michigan-made products; artwork by U.P. artists, unique gifts, fashionable clothing and a great selection of books. While you shop, be sure to admire Marquette’s fabulous architecture including the 1892 Savings Bank, Marquette’s first skyscraper, and Wells Fargo, originally the First National Bank of Marquette, the most expensive building in the world per square foot when it was built in 1927. Marquette’s Old City Hall with its prominent roof is a true original, and the movie classic Anatomy of a Murder was filmed in the Marquette County Courthouse.

St. Peter’s Cathedral: Built in 1881, St. Peter’s has been called the world’s most beautiful sandstone building. The original cathedral was a small church whose cornerstone was laid by founding bishop Frederic Baraga, known as “the Snowshoe Priest” and currently up for sainthood for his work converting the Ojibwa and serving the early mining communities. The cathedral contains beautiful stained glass windows and impressive marble columns and has been the spiritual home to generations of Marquette’s Catholics.

Northern Michigan University: Northern Michigan University is not just for college students. Several cultural and artistic venues include the Beaumier Heritage Center, which continually features exhibits about the people and history of Upper Michigan. The Devos Art Museum has hosted nationally known artists as well as the university’s own student artists. Finally, the Superior Dome—the world’s largest wooden dome—pays homage to NMU’s athletic past, including nationally known coaches Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucci. Don’t forget to stop at the NMU Bookstore in the University Center to get your green and gold gear. Go Wildcats!

Mount Marquette: By now you may think you’ve seen all of Marquette, but you haven’t really seen the Queen City of the North until you view it from Mount Marquette. Go south on US-41 and to the left you’ll find the road (if you pass the prison entrance you went too far). The road is a bit rough but the glorious view is worth the trouble, especially when the autumn colors are vibrant.

In Marquette Township

Dead River Falls: Locals sometimes keep mum about this relatively unknown gem hidden just a few minutes from downtown Marquette. You often can hike this series of waterfalls without seeing a soul. It has its challenges—you must cross a small creek over fallen trees near the start, followed by a steep incline; however, step-like spots similar to a twelve-foot ladder are helpful. Afterwards, you’re rewarded with an easy meander through several waterfalls. Walkable rock outcroppings bring you to the base of a thunderously beautiful thirty-feet plus of water rushing down, as well as to soothing views from above. Small but wide falls create pools swimmable if temperatures are warm or you are hardy enough.

In Chocolay Township

Lakenenland: This sculpture park features countless works by local artist Tom Lakenen, including dinosaurs, bears, alligators, UFOs, ships, flowers, and pigs riding bicycles. Everything imaginable is here in one of Marquette County’s favorite tourist destinations. The park is just east of Harvey on M-28 heading toward Munising.

In Negaunee

Michigan Iron Industry Museum: Marquette County was developed because of the 1844 discovery of iron ore near present-day Negaunee. The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is devoted to telling the story of that discovery and all that resulted from it. Learn the history of iron ore production and shipping, watch how a pocket dock works, and enjoy regular educational programs.

In Ishpeming     

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum: Ishpeming, the birthplace of organized skiing, is proud to claim this national landmark. Complete with a ski slope roof, the museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts and archives relating to the history of skiing. Displays include over 375 Honored Members, trophies, clothing, and equipment, as well as a library on skiing, a theater, and soon a ski film institute.

By now, you understand why Marquette County has been voted one of America’s favorite destinations. But we’ve only scratched the surface. Here’s our runners-up list: in Negaunee: Antique Shops; in Ishpeming: Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum and the Tilden and Empire mine tours; in Marquette: historic homes of Ridge and Arch streets, McCarty’s Cove, the Children’s Museum, the Peter White Public Library, and the Lake Superior Theatre. We hope you visit and enjoy them all!

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2012

Gifts from Nature: Older Than The Hills

by Robert Regis

Having grown up in the U.P., I was intrigued by the rocks and minerals and the spectacular rock outcroppings seen in my nearby travels.  One such place is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  There you see rusty red and orange sandstone rising abruptly from the deep blue waters of Lake Superior, making a dramatic visual contrast.  Beautiful indeed, but the young scientist in me asked where did those sandstones come from? And what makes them so red? Why are the cliffs so dramatic?

Turns out the sandstones are quite young, compared to other rocks around the U.P. They are a mere 500 million years old! They were deposited along an ancient shoreline, with streams depositing sand across a gentle, rocky plain. Except at that time, the PRNL was located just south of the equator. That’s right, the equator. There were no palm trees lining the beach, though, for land plants had not yet made their appearance on Earth.  It was a barren scene.

The rocks tell a story of change over time, like pages in a book. At the base of the cliffs, right at or below water level, is the Jacobsville Sandstone, named for sandstone quarry owner John Henry Jacobs. There, the rock was quarried for building stone, and may be seen in many buildings around the U.P. (Marquette Courthouse and the Cathedral, etc).  Above the Jacobsville Sandstone is the Munising Formation, which forms most of the vertical cliffs.  The lower member is the Chapel Rock Sandstone, and above it is the Miners Castle Sandstone. Although similar, the sediments that make up the Chapel Rock Sandstone came from a different source than the Miners Castle, and hence have a slightly different appearance.  The structures and minerals in the rocks show the sediments first came from highlands to the south (Chapel Rock) and later from the east (Miners Castle) as seas encroached on the land and became  deeper and deeper.  The red color comes from hematite, which stains the sediments.  Above the sandstone cliff is a bed of dolomitic sandstone, which indicates that the deepening ocean was warm but still shallow.  Dolomite forms a resistant layer that is difficult to erode, and is the “caprock” that protects the layers below. It is responsible for the many waterfalls and abrupt topography in PRNL because streams have difficulty eroding through the layer.

Moving west toward Marquette, you can see the Jacobsville Sandstone again at Presque Isle Park. In some places, the sandstone has lost its red hematite coloration by chemical leaching and is now white.

The name Presque Isle means “almost an island.” In fact, not too many years ago (to a geologist) the park was an island.  You can observe the old shorelines of glacial Lake Nipissing (pre-Lake Superior) from about 5,000 years ago at the bandshell and the gazebo near the entrance to the park.  The bluffs were formed by waves eroding into the island when the lake was about twenty-five feet higher.  An underwater ridge of sand developed between the island and the mainland, and when the lake lowered, the ridge became a land connection which geologists call a “tombolo.” The road to the Park is on the tombolo.

Underneath the sandstone is rock that locals refer to as “Black Rocks.” The Black Rocks are a metamorphosed igneous peridotite about 1.7 billion years old! The rock was exposed previously, because the Jacobsville Sandstone rests directly on top of that ancient erosional surface (called a nonconformity). You can see this nonconformity at many places in the Park, but probably best along the west side, south of “Sunset Point.”

Robert Regis has been a geology Professor at Northern Michigan University for over twenty years. His degrees are from NMU, Indiana State University, and Michigan Tech University. He has published and presented numerous articles on the geology of the U.P.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2012.