If you’re walking along the shore of Agate Bay in Two Harbors near the lighthouse, you might stumble upon something strange, the Agate Bay Railroad Tracks that begin at the edge of the water and lead into the harbor. It’s a strange sight that will immediately make you wonder about the history of the tracks and why they lead into the water.
No, there is not an underwater train that you can ride. Instead, this set of railroad tracks once served the booming commercial fishing village of Agate Bay, and now it sits eerily disappearing into the depths of Lake Superior. The railroad tracks were used to transport boats to and from the water and led into a boathouse that sat in the middle of the Scandinavian fishing village.
What happened to the fishing village and the industry that once thrived in the area? The invasion of the sea lamprey in 1935 led to the downfall of commercial fishing on the Great Lakes by 1955. The sea lamprey, originally from the Atlantic Ocean, entered the Great Lakes through the locks and canals, and eventually led to the demise of Great Lake commercial fishing.
The sea lampreys latch onto fish such as lake trout and whitefish and live off of their blood and bodily fluids. A lamprey kills approximately 40 pounds of fish throughout its life time and grows up to 20 inches long, giving it a slimy eel-like appearance.
Since the invasion, biologists have been able to deplete the sea lamprey populations by 90% throughout the Great Lakes by securing the canals that they once traveled freely through.
The Great Lakes fisheries are alive again, valued around 4.5 billion dollars per year. However, the Agate Bay fishing village has not made a comeback. Regardless, the village played a large role in the rise of the fishing industry on the great lakes.
Though little is left to remind visitors of the vibrant fishing village that existed many years ago, it’s an important piece of history that many people take pride in keeping alive.
Travel 25 miles north of Duluth on Hwy 61 to Two Harbors, take a right onto Park Rd and continue for 1.1 miles. Park in the parking lot and begin following the paved walking trail to the north (the opposite direction of the lighthouse). The railroad tracks and a marker will be on the left side of the trail.