Field Trips Part 2: The Carp Lake Mine and Stamp Mill
After a few hours of hiking around the Norwich Bluff, the students began their next leg of the first week’s field trip to Ontonagon County mining sites related to stamp mills. The Porcupine Mountains State Park is at the western edge of the Copper Country, and the area’s industrial past is often forgotten now in favor of the natural beauty aspects of the landscape. A telling example of the change from its grittier past to its “wilderness” present is the fact that Carp Lake is now known as “Lake of the Clouds.”
The lake’s original name did lend itself to the Carp Lake Mining Company. Operated primarily in the 1860’s-70’s, the Carp Lake MC worked the south face of the bluff as well as drove an adit on the north side (an adit visitors to the park can walk inside today). The mine was situated at the top of a bluff that forms part of the State Park’s Escarpment Trail. Rock piles, house foundations, and a couple caved in adits are still easily identifiable along the trail. When one hikes down the steep bluff towards the valley that hold Lake of the Clouds, something you won’t see anywhere else in the Copper Country slowly presents itself amidst the trees.
The Carp Lake MC contracted with the Hodge Foundry on Portage Lake to build them a stamp mill. The building was most likely timber-framed, but the machinery it housed was all built of ????. At this time, mines were just beginning to transition from wood/iron stamping machinery to all iron or even steel. New materials and a growing industry required technological expertise, and installing machinery of this kind was a big job that often needed an engineer to assemble. The man chosen to install the Carp Lake MC’s stamp machinery was Joseph Rawlings, the same man who built the Cliff Mine’s man-engine and overhauled their own stamp mill just a few years prior (and one of my personal faves).
One can try to imagine the effort it took to bring this equipment in to such a remote area. The weight of the stamp machinery and the remoteness of the site is a blessing for those interested in mid-nineteenth century copper mining technologies. This is the only place where you can still see the original stamp machinery in place. The field course students were able to examine the equipment and recreate how they would have operated. The hike is a long one (uphill both ways in fact), but again the students felt it was more than worth it to be able to touch artifacts that we hope to find similar traces of at Cliff this season.