union mine trail - ontonagon, Michigan

 

waterfallDon't let the name put you off. This isn't a dark and damp underground path through an old abandoned mine. This is an easy trail, about one mile, that loops back to the parking area. The winding trail through the towering trees is shady and cool. Along the way are interpretive signs, old ruins, and waterfalls, and there is no steep climb back to the top. While it isn't paved or groomed, the trail is in good condition and can be walked by most anyone.

The beginning of the trail, is clearly marked, with an informative sign and a giant shovel. Along the trail are more of these interpretive signs describing what a casual hiker might not notice. The trail is pleasant, though it seems unremarkable at first. Then you come to the stream that tumbles down the slope, sparkling in the sunlight. The pathway follows the cascading stream leading to ruins and artifacts of the mining activity that took place here. There is a rectangular cut in the bed of the stream, that creates a small waterfall. That cut is man-made, and had a water wheel mounted in it. The water wheel only produced a couple of horse power, but the miners wanted to use it to hoist waste rock and ore up out of the mine shaft. There is a long trench that was dug out of the living rock to locate the vein of copper, numerous mine shafts, and the remnants of the old Nonesuch Road. The Nonesuch, was the first road into this region. They called it a road, but it was so rough and full of holes, that it was suggested you lash yourself to your wagon, to avoid being pitched out onto your head.

Fortunately, the Union Mine Trail is nothing like that. Most of it is a natural trail, but it is smooth and easy to walk. The mine shafts are fenced off, so the puppy dog won't fall in, and even the way back is pretty easy. Rather than a steep climb back up, the trail rises gently with a few short sets of stairs to help along the way.