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Porcupine Mountains: Nonesuch Mine Trail
The Nonesuch Mine site includes an abandoned copper mine and the remains of a small ghost town in the southeast corner of the Porcupine Mountains State Park, just off South Boundary Road. The mine was rather aptly named, as the extremely fine character of its copper deposits was unlike any other vein found in the region and made traditional mining techniques incredibly inefficient and costly.
Ed Less is given credit for discovering the Nonesuch on the Little Iron River in 1865 and within two years the Nonesuch Mining Company was extracting copper from a pair of shafts. But as a mining operation the Nonesuch sputtered at best over the next 45 years, opening and closing five different times, each under different ownership.
The only time the Nonesuch vein produced a profit was from 1879 to 1881 after a tram road was completed to Union Bay on Lake Superior. By the early 1880s 150 men were employed at Nonesuch mine which resulted in a company town of more than a dozen homes, warehouses, a store, boarding houses and a hotel. During the summer the town had a population more than 300, featured a uniformed baseball team and was connected to Ontonagon with weekly stage coach service. When the mine ceased operations for good in 1912 the total recorded production of the mine was 390,000 pounds of copper.
Today what's left of the Nonesuch Mine provides an easy outing to explore the ruins of an abandoned copper mine, the adjoining company town and even a scenic waterfall when there is enough flow in the Little Iron River, not always the case in July and August. It’s a half mile trek to the waterfall along a two-track and then a foot path at the end. This can be a quick hike to stretch the legs or an outing that lasts several hours exploring the area.
Step around the vehicle gate and follow the two track south to a “Do Not Climb Rock Foundation” sign at Mile 0.4. A spur trail will split off to the east (left) and leads to a number of foundations and stonewalls, the ruins that remain from the mining operation in the 1880s. As signs clearly indicated do climb the foundations or walls as the rock is unstable! The first ruins appear on the right, the foundations of the mine’s hoist house. A 100 feet or so from the main trail is the first crumbling wall, what is believed to be the structure that housed the mine’s boilers. More walls and remains can be seen further down the spur.
From the junction the main trail continues south another 200 feet on foot path to the Little Iron River. Just upstream are Nonesuch Falls at Mile 0.5. The cascade is small but scenic in spring and early summer. When the water is up in the Little Iron River Nonesuch is a 10-foot drop that tumbles down a a series of small red rock ledges into a pool at the bottom. Near the falls is a pile of rocks on the south bank of the river, the caved-in remains of Shaft No. 3 and the spot where copper was first discovered at Nonesuch in 1865. Just to the east of the rock pile are the concrete footings of a stamping mill that was erected in 1906.
There is no source of safe drinking water or other facilities at the Nonesuch Mine trailhead.
A state park Recreation Passport or daily vehicle permit is required to enter the park and leave a car at the trailhead. Passes can be purchased from the park's Wilderness Visitor Center.
The trailhead for Nonesuch Mine Trail is on South Boundary Road but easily missed. From M-107 follow South Boundary Road for 4.2 miles and after the sign warning of a sharp curve in the road look for a dirt road veering off to the left. You’ll immediately enter a parking area with an interpretive sign about the mine and gate across a two-track.
For more information call the park headquarters at (906) 885-5275.
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