Duluth, the city on the greatest of the lakesRising from the shore of the greatest of the Great Lakes to rocky heights crisscrossed by trails and parkways, stretching from the meandering St. Louis River to the beginnings of the fabled North Shore, Duluth’s varied terrain reflects the many facets of the community. With more than 100,000 residents in the city and surrounding area, it’s a regional hub for health care and business.
By: Forum Communications Staff, The Jamestown Sun
DULUTH, Minn. — Rising from the shore of the greatest of the Great Lakes to rocky heights crisscrossed by trails and parkways, stretching from the meandering St. Louis River to the beginnings of the fabled North Shore, Duluth’s varied terrain reflects the many facets of the community.
With more than 100,000 residents in the city and surrounding area, it’s a regional hub for health care and business.
The city is a mecca for vacationers from across the Midwest and beyond — both as a destination and as a favorite stop en route to the North Shore, the Boundary Waters, the Apostle Islands or beyond.
It’s an internationally known port, seeing millions of dollars in goods — iron ore pellets, coal, grain, wind turbine parts and other cargo — pass in and out of its harbor.
It’s a center of education and scientific research, with the University of Minnesota Duluth, the College of St. Scholastica, Lake Superior College and, across the bay, the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
It’s a college sports title town, with the UMD men’s hockey team winning its first Division I national title in 2011 to go along with the five Division I national titles won by the UMD women’s hockey program over the years, and the two Division II national championships won by the UMD football team.
And above all, it’s a showplace for the best nature has to offer, from wicked winter storms and raging waves on Lake Superior to placid summer days on the beaches of Park Point, from spring wildflowers carpeting the forests of city parks to brilliant displays of fall colors along the ridgetops.
The heart of any visit to Duluth is Canal Park, home to the city’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, under which pass massive freighters carrying assorted cargo to and from ports both in the U.S. and overseas. Be sure to catch one of these big boats passing under the bridge, with the captain calling out to the bridge operator with one long and two short blasts of the ship’s horn.
Venture around Canal Park to explore the many shops and restaurants, and see the finish line crossed by thousands of runners during the annual Grandma’s Marathon.
From Canal Park, you can spend a few minutes, an hour or an entire day walking or biking on Duluth’s Lakewalk, which now extends several miles along the shore and into the city’s eastern neighborhoods. The Lakewalk passes Leif Eriksen Park, home to the scenic Rose Garden and host to Movies in the Park at dusk on Friday evenings in the summer. Going the other direction, cross the Lift Bridge and head out onto Park Point to walk its miles of sandy beach. Wade into the chilly waters of Lake Superior if you dare.
Also within walking distance of Canal Park is the retired ore boat William A. Irvin, now a floating museum. It’s berthed alongside the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center — the DECC — home to countless conventions, trade shows and concerts. The DECC Auditorium is home to the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, and the newest addition to the complex is the state-of-the-art Amsoil Arena, home to the title-winning University of Minnesota Duluth men’s and women’s hockey teams.
Also nearby is Bayfront Festival Park, home to concerts and festivals in summer and the massive Bentleyville holiday lighting display in winter; the Great Lakes Aquarium perched alongside the harbor; and Vista Fleet tour boats offering cruises around the harbor and out onto the big lake.
Duluth’s downtown district is bookended by the growing entertainment district on the east side — including the Zeitgeist Arts Building, Fond-du-Luth Casino and the historic Fitger’s Brewery complex — and the arts and culture hub at the Depot on the west side.
The Depot — a restored and repurposed train station — is home to many organizations, including the St. Louis County Historical Society, Veterans Memorial Hall, Duluth Playhouse, Lake Superior Railroad Museum, North Shore Scenic Railroad, Duluth Art institute and Duluth Children’s Museum. It’s a great place to learn more about the history of Duluth and the region. For more information about the Depot and its many tenants, go to www.duluthdepot.org.
Across the street is the main branch of the Duluth Public Library, and one more block up the hill, past the News Tribune building, you’ll find the massive Civic Center complex, home to city, county and federal government offices.
Scattered in between the east and west ends of downtown are countless shops and restaurants, many of them connected by the city’s skywalk system — a welcome reprieve from the cold and snow in winter.
From downtown, head west on Interstate 35 past the new Duluth Heritage Sports Center and Clyde Iron retail, restaurant and recreation complex and under trestles upon which rail cars bring in iron ore pellets from mines to the north. You may catch a glimpse of historic Wade Stadium, home to the Duluth Huskies summer collegiate baseball team, before you pass through the historic hub of West Duluth and up Thompson Hill to reach the year-round sports and recreation destination of Spirit Mountain.
While Spirit Mountain may be best known for its skiing — on hills with a stunning view out over the St. Louis River and the Duluth-Superior Harbor — extensive terrain park and new snow-tubing park, it also is home to year-round attractions including the Timber Twister alpine coaster, Timber Flyer zip line and a new mini-golf course.
Spirit Mountain also hosts the Amsoil Duluth National Snocross each November.
At the foot of the hill, the Lake Superior Zoo occupies a scenic creekside site and is home to hundreds of animals from both near and far. Also in the vicinity are the Willard Munger and Western Waterfront trails, and parts of the Superior Hiking Trail — some of the city’s many hiking, biking and ski trails.
Developed over decades, with much of the work completed in the 1920s and 1930s, Skyline Parkway weaves along the top of the ridge in Duluth, affording views of the city, the harbor and Lake Superior.
It starts on the southwest side of the city, passes Spirit Mountain, and snakes its way along the heights above West Duluth. Just past the city’s Enger Park Golf Course, the parkway offers access to historic Enger Tower. The tower, first opened and dedicated by Norwegian royalty in 1939, underwent a major renovation in 2011, and received a new LED lighting system. It was rededicated by the King and Queen of Norway in October 2011. It offers stunning views of the city and at night can be seen shining like a beacon over Duluth. The surrounding park, with its big shade trees and Japanese Peace Bell Garden, is a great place for a picnic lunch.
Farther east, the parkway skirts the campuses of the University of Minnesota Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica, and traverses the verdant ravine of Chester Creek, which reaches into the heart of the city and is preserved within Chester Park, one of dozens of city parks.
At its eastern end, Skyline Parkway climbs to Hawk Ridge, a famous birdwatching destination. Thousands of hawks and other raptors fly past the ridge each fall as they follow the Lake Superior shoreline on their annual migration south, with the peak in mid-September.
From Hawk Ridge, the parkway concludes its long route by linking into Seven Bridges Road, which winds its way back toward Lake Superior over a series of scenic spans.
For more information about Duluth, its events and attractions and its history, visit these websites:
Duluth News Tribune, www.duluthnewstribune.com
Visit Duluth, www.visitduluth.com