Champion Mine

The Baltic Mine’s discovery of a highly rich copper lode along the southern range prompted an avalanche of prospectors and companies descending upon the region to claim their own piece of the Baltic prize. One of the first to do so was a small start-up company known predominantly for its nearby railroad – the Copper Range. Working in partnership with the St. Mary’s Land Company – which already had control of a great deal of southern range land – the two opened up a small mine along a section of lode a mile south of the Baltic Mine’s rich outcroppings. This small mine was known as the Champion, and over the next 60 years would grow to become the region’s predominate copper producer.


It was in 1899 that Michigan’s former state geologist and subsequent Copper Range employee L.L. Hubbard first discovered the Baltic Lode along the Champion property by means of a shallow exploration trench. Within the next three years the company worked feverishly to establish a set of four shafts – labeled alphabetically from north to south – to exploit the lode. The mine’s third shaft would end up being sunk just south of that first exploration pit dug by Hubbard years earlier. The shaft would continue to produce copper for the next 40 years, closing down for good at the end of the Second World War but not before reaching a depth of over 2300 feet.

The Copper Range Consolidated Company, under the direction of John Stanton and William Paine (of Paine & Webber fame), had gained majority ownership of a series of mining interests along the southern range including three mines, a smelter, and a railroad. One of those mines was the Champion sitting on the end of the Baltic lode. While the other mines along the lode managed operations only into the 30′s, the Champion continued to be mined right up to the end – September of 1967.”

The Ruins of the Champion Mine

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The Champion Mine began operations at the dawn of the 20th century, sinking four shafts along the southern end of the copper-rich Baltic Lode. The mine was a success and would become one of the region’s longest operating producers, extracting copper into the late 1960s. Yet the mine’s exceptional longevity …

The F Plant (p2)

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In the beginning the Champion Mine was built not unlike most mines of the time – in distinct slices centered around each shaft. Infrastructure such as boilers, hoisting engines, and compressors were scattered all across the property, with each shaft usually sporting its own private collection. But as the mine …

The F Plant (p1)

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The Champion Mine was one of the longest operating mines of the old empire, and was one of the last to close its doors for good. It was started in 1899 as a joint venture between the Copper Range Company – who was opening up large swaths of the southern …

The Champion Trestle

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When the Copper Range railroad first blazed its right-of-way through the southern range its route was far to the west of where the region’s main population centers are now located. That’s because at the time of its construction, the only mines in operation in the region was the Atlantic, its …

Gone But Not Forgotten

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After the discovery of the great southern copper lode – the Baltic – companies rushed into the once remote and undeveloped region to cash in on the newly discovered riches. One of those pioneers wast the Champion, first established in 1899 before becoming part of the Copper Range empire a …

A Hoist of Champion’s (p2)

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From where it stood, the Champion hoist we were looking at appeared out of place with the rest of the mine’s surface plant. Its location along the road put it almost smack dab in the middle from the C and D shafts (the No.2 and No.3), and rather far from …

A Hoist of Champion’s (p1)

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When it comes to the grand buildings of the old empire, very few have managed to survive intact to this day. This is especially true when it comes to any building that once housed any type of steam powered equipment – hoists, compressors, boilers – as these were often the …

Another Champion Powder House

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In what has become a trend as of late, the Champion Mine had not just one powder house to store its explosives, but in fact had two placed no more then a few hundred feet of each other. While the first building was of a more modern design, the second …

A Champion Powder House

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I have heard many rumors about the Champion’s powder house and its apparent “in plain sight” location that manages still to keep its location quite secret. After some more specific information from a local resident in the know, I finally gave it a whirl a few weeks back while in …

A Peek Inside…

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Yesterday we gave you a sneak peak inside the Champion No. 4 shafthouse in the form of a large panoramic image taken on it’s rockhouse level. Today we continue that peek inside with a few more hard-to-find images. Champion No. 4 is one of the last shafthouses still standing across …

Loose Ends…

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As we wrap up our exploration of the Champion Mine, a few last things to take a look at. One of them is this old concrete trestle, which runs behind the No. 4 Hoist building. The once held the Copper Range Main line, and extends a good distance to the …

More Hoist Views

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As we have seen time and time again, copper country engine houses and the foundations that remain share very similar. Looking at what remains at the No. 4 hoist today, we can clearly see evidence of the hoist engine that once sat on top of it. The “H” shape so …

New Becomes Old

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As we take a walk behind the old hoist building and underneath the concrete trestle atop which the main line for the Copper Range Railroad once ran, we find ourselves in view of a large ruin just up the hill. It was a ruin that we had seen before, in …

Hoist and Pulleys

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The No. 4, like all shafts of the Champion Mine, were serviced by two hoists during it’s lifetime. As the shafts became deeper, larger and more capable hoists were needed. The hoist building that currently stands at the No. 4 is in fact the original hoist, built around 1902. The …

In Support of No. 4

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keeping the Champion Mine safe from fire… Most of the time at Explorer we deal with “the big three” when it comes to ruins: the shaft house, the rock house (sometimes combined), and the engine house. Lately we have become accustomed to finding more and more ruins from buildings that …

Oil House

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We haven’t yet come across too many ruins of oil houses in our explorations. I’m not sure why that is. Oil was used as a lubricant in almost all machines and equipment used at the mine, and was essential to its smooth operation. Oil houses were buildings that stored and …

The Last of Her Kind (p3)

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the no. 4 (e shaft) while still in operation The Champion Mine, and specifically the No. 4, was Copper Range’s last hope. As the other mines in the companies arsenal closed one by one and the shafts of the Champion started closing as well – only the No. 4 remained. …

The Last of Her Kind (p2)

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The “E” shaft was built originally in 1902, making it the oldest shaft house still standing in the Keweenaw beating the Quincy #2’s steel shafthouse by five years. But unlike Quincy which saw steadied improvements in technology and procedure over the years, the Champion #4 is still much the same …

The Last of Her Kind (p1)

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the last shafthouse standing Once she was one of dozens, scattered up and down the spine of the Keweenaw. They were symbols of a prosperous land, tamed and civilized by its industrious hand. They represented the great copper empire that ruled this land for over a century. But now she …

D Shaft

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there’s something real familiar about this…. Lately I have had a strange sense of familiarity fall over me during my excursions. Hoist foundations, old buildings, shafts; they have all started to look the same to me as if I’m just finding the same ruin over and over again. Sometimes thats …

A Depot and a Hoist

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the Copper Range RR main line – now a snowmobile trail – runs past the platform to the old depot that once served Painesdale Today’s Copper Country relies on the highway to connect it to the outside world and to supply it with goods and services. But the Coppper Country …

"C" Shaft

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a pillar of concrete peaks out of the trees signaling the location of Champion #2, or “C” shaft Leaving the steam pipes behind and walking out of the trees we found ourselves standing below the high tower of another shaft – this one the “C” shaft. Identical to “B” shaft …

Steam Pipes

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Sitting just outside of “C” shaft along a overgrown ridge lies this interesting discovery. It looked to be a large pipe suspended up in the air by a series of metal frames. Upon closer inspection we found out that it was in fact two pipes (a large one and a …

Up Close & Personal

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the still grand looking front entrance to the Champion Dry – over a century past its prime It was an amazing site – that first glimpse of the dry house sitting up on the hillside. Mostly engulfed by trees and brush, its striking front entrance quickly garnered our attention. It …

The Champion Dry

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the stone walls of the Champion’s Dry House Before the advent of air-powered drills, mining was a much more laborious and physically demanding job. (although even with the modern drills it was no walk in the park). Using heavy sledgehammers, two-person mining teams would take turns banging away at bits …