Cliff Mine

The first rush of copper prospectors to the Keweenaw found nothing but struggle and failure. Millions of dollars worth of investments were whittled away by the high costs of shaft sinking and the erection of necessary infrastructure. Resources often ran dry before copper in any significant quantity could be mined. Investors out east were loosing faith in the notion of making any money from Lake Superior copper, and began pulling out of the endeavor all together. With mine after mine closing its doors and investors calling it quits, the future of the Copper Country looked bleak. That is until the arrival of the Cliff Mine in 1845.

The Cliff Mine became the first copper mine in the Keweenaw to make a profit, paying the district’s first dividends in 1849. For the next 20 years the mine continued to pay those dividends, paying back investors a total of over $2.5 million dollars – 22 times their initial investment. The secret to the mine’s success was due to a highly rich fissure vein consisting almost entirely of large pieces of mass copper, some weighing as much as 50 tons and measuring over 100 feet across. In fact these large pieces of copper became the mine’s most costly obstacle, as cutting them down into more manageable sized was time consuming and costly. Even so, the Cliff went on to become one of the riches mines ever opened in the Keweenaw.

The House on the Hill

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It stands alone and secluded atop a low hill like a medieval European castle. A large expanse of manicured lawn sprinkled with trees and a few flower beds encircle its wood framed walls. A large sturdy fence lines the outer perimeter, a moat built to discourage trespassing livestock and men. …

In Memory of Hays

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If you drive along Cliff Drive enough you’re bound to discover a large boulder sitting along the shoulder just west of the Cliff Mine itself, a boulder that has etched in its face a distinct rectangular depression. The depression is no doubt for a plaque of some type, no doubt …

A Cliff Ruin Map

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The Cliff Mine is probably the most explored ruins in the Keweenaw, for good reason. The sheer awe of finding towering rock walls and smoke stacks rising up within the thick forest here is something most of us never forget. Though hard to do it justice here on these pages, …

Drifts and Shafts

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In the Cliff’s infancy almost all the ground was opened up through a series of drifts that had been driven into the hillside. At the time it was believed that the copper was incased in the soaring cliffs themselves, and the copper-rich ground that the drifts were encountering were just …

A Hoist and Boiler

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The Cliff may have been the first successful copper mine in the district, but it didn’t happen without a few stumbles along the way. While the first drift into the rocky cliffs found great amount of mass copper in the beginning, those fortunes quickly dwindled as the drift was deepened. …

The Cliff Stamp Mill

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The Cliff Mine, several decades after closing The Pittsburgh and Boston Company had the distinction of sinking the very first copper shaft in the Copper Country, into the hard rock along Hay’s Point in Copper Harbor. This early venture was a disaster, costing investors over $20,000 in the process. But …

Two Mines in One

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a road sits on a large rock pile which fills in an old valley on top of the cliffs Moving away from the cliff face we walked deeper into the woods until coming across a small road cutting through the woods. We followed it around a corner and came to …

Along The Cliffs

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the shaft(s) atop the cliff at the Cliff Mine, as seen here in this early photo. The rock pile seen in the photo can still be seen today. Most of the buildings, however, have long since disapeared The Cliff Range was home to many mines, one of which was the …