Highway 61

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Winning Nomination

I would nominate the completion of Highway 61 along the north shore in the 1930s. First of all, it was a substantial engineering feat, involving blasting tunnels through solid rock, building roadways along steep precipices above Lake Superior and handling the logistics of a major construction project in what was substantially wilderness. It opened up the North Shore to tourism, making Minnesota a major destination for vacationers from throughout the midwest and the rest of the country. In the late 1980s it was named the second most beautiful drive in the country, after coastal route 1A in California. It effectively linked Minnesota to Canada, with benefits for people on both sides of the border. And it was essential in building an economy in a part of the state that -- after the lumbering and mining bottomed out -- had virtually none.
~Doug Wilhide, Minneapolis, MN


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King of the roads

"I nominate the completion of Highway 61 along the North Shore in the 1930s," writes Doug Wilhide of Minneapolis. "First of all, it was a substantial engineering feat, involving blasting tunnels through solid rock, building roadways along steep precipices above Lake Superior, and handling the logistics of a major construction project in what was substantially wilderness. It opened up the North Shore to tourism, making Minnesota a major destination for vacationers from throughout the Midwest and the rest of the country. It effectively linked Minnesota to Canada for motorists, with benefits for people on both sides of the border. And it was essential in building an economy in a part of the state that--after the lumbering and mining bottomed out in the 1960s and 1970s--had virtually none."

Hugging the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior for more than 150 miles, Highway 61--also known as the North Shore Scenic Drive--winds through spectacular and varied scenery, from wooded hills to dramatic waterfalls, from Split Rock Lighthouse to Glensheen Mansion in Duluth. The drive has been named an All-American Road, along with twenty-eight other roads, including the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway in Oregon and Louisiana's Creole Nature Trail, and it is considered not just a way from Point A to Point B, but a destination in itself, a road worth traveling for the sheer pleasure of it.

"Glaciers have marked and grooved many of the rock formations of the area. In earlier geological periods these were gigantic ranges; today only a few precipitous slopes remain...boulders are scattered over much of the area.
"This region is the most rugged in Minnesota. The rough topography is the result of complicated geological processes; a huge fault (slippiing of rock masses) left the depression now filled by Lake Superior."
From Minnesota: A State Guide, written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, 1938

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