Highlights of the Landscape
visible from Duluth's Enger Tower
Welcome to Duluth’s Enger Tower! From this vantage point -- 451 feet above Lake Superior -- we have a great view of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior. I’m Cathy Wurzer from Minnesota Public Radio and Minnesota’s North Shore is one of my favorite places in the world.

So let’s take a whirlwind tour of the highlights of the landscape that we can see from up here.

If you’re standing at the top of the stairs in Enger Tower, look out one of the left windows towards downtown Duluth.

 The most impressive building there has to be old Central High School with it’s pointed clock tower, gargoyles and brownstone walls. It’s been there since 1892 though the students of Central High School moved to a new modern building in the 1970s.

Now look off to the right of the clock tower...there’s a big grey building over near the lake shore. That was once the luxurious Hotel Duluth. It’s an apartment building now, but when it was built in 1925, it was THE place to stay and party in Duluth. Norway’s Crown Prince Olav stayed there when he came to dedicate Enger Tower in 1939. And when President John F. Kennedy visited in 1963, he and his staff took over the entire top floor.

Now follow the shoreline down to the tall white AT&T tower. The part of the city between there and the Aerial Lift Bridge is called Canal Park. Since the 1980s, rundown warehouses in this area have turned into tourist shops and restaurants. Duluth’s convention center, arena and aquarium are there, too.

But the biggest tourist draw of all is the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge itself. It connects Canal Park with Minnesota Point, the longest fresh-water sandbar in the world.

The story of the bridge begins with the canal. The city dug it in 1871 to attract more ships to Duluth’s harbor. But that left residents of Minnesota point stranded. So the city put up a bridge with a hanging gondola in 1905 to ferry 350 people at a time across the canal. But by 1930, it was time to add a real road deck...completing the bridge you see today.

In the busy season, the Aerial Lift Bridge goes up and down as many 30 times a day to let ships into the harbor.

Look down the 7-mile stretch of Minnesota Point now. You might see seaplanes taking off from Sky Harbor Airport down there. Or you might see a ship headed for the Superior Entry -- the natural entrance to this harbor.

Go over to the window at the top of the stairs if you're not there already.

You’ll notice lots of narrow flat strips of land throughout the port. Some are empty -- waiting for a ship to come offload its cargo. Others have huge piles of gravel, sand, limestone or salt waiting for pickup. There are 20 docks in this harbor along nearly 50 miles of shoreline.

The large point of land directly in front of Enger Tower is called Rice’s Point. Its left side is dominated by grain elevators, waiting to ship Midwestern wheat to ports around the world.

The C-N rail yard dominates the right side of Rice’s Point. Trains still carry 90% of the cargo coming to and from the port of Duluth. Other U.S. ports rely much more on semi-trucks. But the grain, coal and ore that still dominate shipping here are easier to haul by train.

Down at the end of Rice’s Point is the Blatnik Bridge. It’s named for Democratic Congressman John Blatnik who represented this area for 28 years. Locals also call it the “high bridge”.

Follow the bridge across to Superior, Wisconsin now. There are more huge grain elevators there and, off to the right of those, you can’t miss the huge black pile of coal. Most if it comes from the coal fields of Montana and Wyoming. The Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior can hold up to 5 million tons of coal at a time...all waiting for ships to carry it to other Great Lakes ports.

Across from the coal dock, back here on the Minnesota side of the bay, are the silver domes of the region’s waste water treatment plant. Since the late 70s, the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District is credited with helping clean up a seriously-polluted St. Louis River and making it suitable for fish again.

Further on up the shore are Duluth’s biggest industrial icons. The two C-N ore docks jut like massive metal arms out into the lake. They hold thousands of tons of taconite from Minnesota’s Iron Range as it waits for shipment to steel plants in Chicago, Cleveland and other Great Lakes cities.

That long long bridge out beyond the ore docks is the Bong Bridge. It’s named after Richard Bong, a fighter pilot from Superior who shot down 40 planes in World War Two.

The big smokestack just beyond the bridge is a power plant that burns bark and wood chips for fuel. A lot of that wood comes in as waste from the big New Page paper mill that you can see just to the right of the power plant. It’s usually easy to spot because of its characteristic plume of white steam.

Finally, look way out beyond the paper mill and you’ll see the mouth of the St. Louis River which carved out this whole natural harbor over the course of thousands of years.

Those are just some of the highlights of the Twin Ports landscape in front of you here at the Enger Tower. If you have questions about other points on the landscape -- or comments about this audio tour -- leave them after the beep or on this tour’s mobile web site. I’m Cathy Wurzer and I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit to Duluth’s Enger Tower.

This tour was produced by Minnesota Public Radio with support from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
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