On Sunday, November 4, Catherine and I decided to go hiking near the now abandoned National Forest Campground, at Lower Dam, southeast of Kenton in Houghton County. This is an area where I’d camped when I was younger and visited periodically throughout my life.
I was mildly anticipating the arrival, telling Catherine we could climb the rock bluffs, where the view is grand and simply spectacular in autumn with the colorful foliage. The leaves had long since fallen, but the view would still be worth the climb.
Approaching the area, I commented on the changes, and suddenly we noticed a yellow cable stretched across the surface of the gravel road and a truck with an Ontario license plate parked on the shoulder. The cable was similar to the ones we’d seen near Kennecott’s project on the Yellow Dog Plains. Exploration!! My heart sank.
Arriving at the campgrounds, we immediately parked at the dam. The water of the East Branch of the Ontonagon River was backed up, which was customary. Periodically the water is released and the river is left to flow unencumbered for a number of years and then restricted again. The roar of the water over the headwall was very loud.
The sight brought back good memories. Admiring the structure with the iced-up walkway, I explained where the natural channel lay and remembered how the beaver used to swim close to our canoe and slap their tails while my dad and I were fishing at night. It almost seemed like a game to the beaver.
We returned to my truck and I drove into the campground to point out my favorite places to camp, and found equipment connected to two yellow cables. A generator was supplying energy to the cables. Data was being collected and stored.
Trying to make the best of the excursion, we left the campground and headed for the bluff. As we approached the base of the bluff we noticed the cable extending up the face. We climbed, following the cable. Reaching the top, it continued on up the grade and we walked to another area to see the view. My mind was not on the beauty of the landscape but on exploration. Backtracking, we picked up the path of the cable again. It encircled the entire bluff.
We ventured to another outcropping. To my displeasure there were other signs of human activity. A 4-wheeler trail had made its way to the top of the bluff. A very well used trail. Trees were chain-sawed down. It appeared a rather weathered bench had been removed from a different historical site and placed on the top of the bluff. I can only assume the trees were hacked down to enhance the view. I was totally disgusted because the beauty of the place I had visited 20 years ago was so drastically changed. I think it would have been a good idea if this overlook had been constructed by the National Forest Service so people that did not have the ability to climb would have access, but I do not believe this was the case. There was no care or consideration for the trees that were cut.
Catherine noticed an Eagle feather on the ground. Tobacco was laid and I asked if she wanted to keep the feather. I passed it to Catherine, who asked that it be put back in place to protect the area. I am glad for her request. In my state of anger and frustration I was not thinking clearly.
I didn’t speak much except for occasional swearing and spouting off my disgust. During the descent, I thought of how the Native Americans might have felt about the land they called home being confiscated by the government and exploited. I also realized that my feelings could not possibly compare to what the Native Americans endured. Murder of men, women and children, starvation, restriction, their culture and way of life being suppressed. I was ashamed, and actually there is a part of me that hesitates to write this because I could never truly understand.
But I have experienced the way the government doesn’t listen, because of the greed fueling the new mining frenzy across the upper Great Lakes Basin. Politicians are drooling and stumbling over themselves, promoting jobs regardless of irreparable destruction. Regulations are being bypassed and laws are being broken because of this greed. This so-called government for the people is taking away the inherent right of the people to have clean water. The inherent right to have clean water is being stripped from all life.
Is this the future? It does not have to be.
Iron River, MI
The location is South 67 degrees East – 5 3/4 miles of Kenton, T47N R36W, Section 23, Longitude 88 degrees 46 minutes 57 seconds, Latitude 46 degrees 27 minutes 12 seconds.
The Ranger from the Kenton District returned my phone call several days after I inquired about the exploration at Lower Dam.
The Forest Service does not own the mineral rights; consequently, according to the Ranger, they are treated like any other citizen when it comes to mineral rights owners exercising their rights to explore for minerals. Trans Superior is exploring for the mineral rights owner. I was not told who the actual owners are.
It was explained to me if the time ever came a mine was being considered the Michigan DEQ would be overseeing the process. I assured the Ranger that that was not in the best interest for the environment. The Ranger did say though the Forest Service has worked closely with the DEQ in the past and it seems the DEQ does consider the Forest Service’s comments relevant in reference to wetlands, endangered species etc.
The FS has known for some time about the 4 wheeler trail, cut trees and bench at the outcropping at Lower Dam. Now that there has been public concern voiced the FS is in the process of deciding what to do.