Tours of the Cliff start this weekend
Here is a brief announcement about the tours we’ll be giving each weekend (Saturday and Sunday) for the next three weeks.
Weekend Tours of Cliff Mine Start Saturday
HOUGHTON–Industrial archaeology faculty and students from Michigan Technological University are inviting the public to view their excavations at the first commercially successful copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.
Tours of the Cliff Mine ruins and the nearby town of Clifton will be held on Saturdays and Sundays in June, starting June 11. Tours start approximately on the hour beginning at 10 a.m., leaving from roadside signs near the parking area at the northeastern end of Cliff Drive, near the small town of Phoenix. Phoenix is about 33 miles north of Houghton on US-41.
Tours will continue all day until about 4 p.m., weather permitting. Visitors are advised to wear clothing appropriate for hiking, boots or sneakers, carry water and be prepared for the weather. The site is not improved and has no toilets.
The Cliff Mine, the Copper County’s first profitable copper mine, opened in 1845 and mined “native” copper until the 1870s. After mapping the site last year, faculty and students from the Department of Social Sciences are now conducting excavations in one of the mine’s stamp mill buildings. The research teams discovered substantial remains of the building, including floors, stairs and machine footings, that allow them to reconstruct daily life for workers at the mill.
Faculty members Timothy Scarlett and Sam Sweitz lead the field teams, and PhD student Sean Gohman is the project archaeologist.
The Cliff Mine was owned and operated by the Pittsburgh & Boston Mining Company. Discovered in 1845, the Cliff Vein produced over 38 million pounds of refined copper over a 40-year period and paid dividends to its investors totaling $2.5 million.
From 1846 to 1858, no other copper mine in the region could match the production of the Cliff Mine. After the Civil War, however, as miners followed the vein as it dipped 1,000 feet underneath the basalt Cliff face, the depth made the operation increasingly difficult. By 1870, the company decided the mine, though still producing, was not worth further investment, and sold it for $100,000.
Activity at the Cliff continued for the next 60-plus years under various managements, but it never regained its earlier success. In the 1920s and ’30s, the new owners of the Cliff, the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, were still hoping a new vein would be uncovered and drilled dozens of holes throughout the property. Nothing of promise was found, and by the 1950s all interest in the Cliff as a producing mine ended.
To learn more about the excavations, visit the Cliff Mine blog, https://cliffmine.wordpress.com.