The Barren Beach

It is a strangely off-worldly experience to step out from the stamp mill ruins and onto the barren landscape of the sands. Gazing out across its desolate expanse stretching towards the horizon, you can’t help but feel as if you are standing on another planet. In the far distance we can make out a blue sliver of Superior, but the stark gray of the sands encompass our vision. The sands roll like waves across the landscape, sculpted by the wind and water of generations. Short dunes line the horizon, and along the lake steep cliffs drop off into the water. And across it all, not a single tree, or bush, or even weed grows. Completely barren.

Unlike their Torch Lake brethren, these sands were never treated with a chemical leaching process and are relatively harmless. However, their impact is far from benign. Over the last century these sands have migrated from here, moving southward at about 200 feet a year. Now, those sands cover five miles of Superior shoreline, obliterating the existing beaches in the process. So far, the only thing saving the remaining white beaches further south from extinction is the break wall at the Traverse River mouth.

Even knowing this, it is hard not to look across the sands and not be in awe of the sight. There is an odd beauty in this barren moonscape that can’t quite be defined. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition between man and nature, and the comment it makes about the nature of the copper country. Beneath the natural wonders that surround you here, there lies an dark truth hidden in the shadows. It’s the heavy hand of man, and the scars and open wounds it left upon the land are still here. Wounds that will never be completely washed away or forgotten.

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  1. A dramatic illustration of just how encompassing these sands are, just take a look at the following Terraserver image. The sands are the large light gray blotch next the the black water. The town of Gay can be seen on the upper right of the picture. While this may seem like a lot, if you pan down to the south west you will see how far the sands actually spread down the coast.

  2. My camp is at Rabbit Bay, which had really white sand but it is a couple of bays over. That would be really odd if it had all that black sand. How interesting that its the wall that stops all that sand from blowing to the other bays.
    So was that black sand there from the beginning of time or did the sand get dumped there from the mining time??

  3. The sand here is stamp sand, and it was dumped here by the mine companies at the start of the last century. In fact it really isn’t sand as much as it is fine rock. Either way not as nice as a white sand beach for sure.

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