Two Harbors Iron Ore Docks
Have you seen the strange man-made structures that tower over Agate Bay in Two Harbors and wondered what they were? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
The structures are docks located inside the bay offering protection via the two breakwaters located between the bay and Lake Superior. The breakwaters total about 2,500 feet and help stop prevailing waves from the south.
The docks, made out of steel, are over 1300 feet long and seven stories tall. The immense size of the docks allows ships to pull alongside some 112 chutes where the iron ore is then deposited into the hulls of the boats. The docks are operated by the Canadian National Railway (CN), which is Canada’s largest freight railway. Every year about 12 million tons of taconite are shipped out headed south to the lower Great Lakes where it is then unloaded, heated up to temperatures greater than 1000 degrees in blast furnaces, and eventually converted into steel.
The first dock was built in 1883 and by 1938 there were six fully operating docks. The docks were a major source of iron ore during World War II. In 1944 the docks set a loading record of 859,959 tons in 72 hours. By the mid-1950’s the docks were shipping out about 50 million tons annually, but this all came to an end in the 1960’s as the once rich source of iron ore was mined out.
Area miners then began mining taconite as their primary source of metal. The development of taconite lead to the reopening of three docks in Two Harbors, and two of them are still in operation today.
Visitors can view the docks anywhere along the shores of Agate Bay and get an up-close look at some of the massive ships that enter the harbor.
From Duluth, travel 27 miles north on MN-61 into Two Harbors, and then take a right onto Park Rd until you reach Agate Bay.