I ended my night of hanging out with Dave by swinging back up to Calumet so I could return Tricia’s snowshoes. As I was cruising along past Torch Lake and absentmindedly gazing out the window, I saw the famous old Quincy Dredge out there in the darkness, half submerged in the frozen lake. I had driven this stretch of road several dozen times since 2005, and had seen the dredge boat every time. But this time I thought to myself, "why not walk out there on the ice?"
It was far too dark to bother attempting tonight, and I was far too tired, but this was a perfect candidate for a morning assault. I woke up and moseyed down to the Soumi Bakery one more time. I knew I would need a lot of energy for this, seeing as I likely had a mile-long hike through four-foot-deep snow without snowshoes. As such, I ordered and consumed a heroic amount of food. I devoured the nisu toast, eggs, sausage, an order of potato pancakes, and something else I can’t remember because it vanished from the plate before its light could escape my stomach’s black hole-like gravitational pull.
The drive to the dredge’s location was a mere few minutes. Dressed in my Carhartt coveralls I leaped headlong into the unforgiving snow. I walked along a snowmobile trail for almost a mile to where I had seen an opening in the fence. There I cast about momentarily for any cops or nosy motorists, and began the hellish slog across the open fields of drifting snow and biting wind. It was extremely slow going, and I was soon sweating balls. Oh, did I mention it was snowing?
As the copper in the mines dried up, this method was concocted to recover trace amounts of lost copper thrown out as waste during the days of less efficient milling. The recovered material was sluiced through a pipeline that went all the way back to shore where the mill would “re-refine” the tailings. I had explored the nearby Quincy Stamp Mill #1 a couple times already on previous adventures.
It required a terrific effort to move forward, but I forged ahead. My face was so cold it felt like I was wearing a mask, yet every other part of me was sweating with exertion. I took one last look back over my shoulder toward the ruins of the stamp mill:
Nearly hyperventilating, I hooked a right so as to approach the dredge’s business end first. I took a breather here.
According to Mike's writing on CopperCountryExplorer the reclamation idea got underway in 1920 when copper prices began to drop after WWI--the great Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. built the first dredge here on Torch Lake, yielding 423 million more pounds of copper from their waste tailings. Author Lawrence J. Molloy says the dredge was built in 1913.
This dredge however remained in operation for Quincy until 1967, at which time it too swamped and assumed this restful position. By that time the entire Michigan copper industry was moribund, and there was little else for it to do but commune permanently with the fading Copper Country landscape.
It was time to leave the Copper Country for the Iron Range.
CLICK for part six
A Guide to Michigan's Historic Keweenaw Copper District, by Lawrence Molloy, pg. 20
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites, HAER (1978), pg. 73