America · eServices · Historic Towns · Logistics · Maritime · Mobility · museums · Travel

Chicago Illinois and the Maritime Museum

Chicago Illinois is on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. The Chicago Portage connects the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Watersheds. The city’s history and economy are closely tied to its proximity to Lake Michigan. While the Chicago River historically handled much of the region’s waterborne cargo, today’s lake carriers use Lake Calumet Harbor on the South Side. When founded in 1837, most of the early buildings were around the mouth of the Chicago River and the original 58 blocks.

The Loop is the City’s Central Business District but Chicago is also a City of Neighborhoods

Chicago River ferryThe Chicago waterfront comprises twenty-four public beaches across 26 miles (42 km); most of the city’s high-rise commercial and residential buildings are close to the waterfront.

The Great Chicago Fire led to the largest building boom in American history. In 1885, the first steel framed high-rise building signaled the start of the skyscraper era. The city became an important transportation hub between the eastern and western United States; the Illinois and Michigan Canal allowed Great Lakes sailing ships and steamboats to reach the Mississippi River.

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Chicago’s history and development stem from its axis at the foot of the Great Lakes. This strategic location gave the city access to the St Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Ocean as well as the rivers that lead to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Chicago is one of the busiest ports in the world.

chicago riverThe Story of Chicago’s Waterways and their Impact on America’s Economy

The Chicago Maritime Museum collects items that commemorate Chicago’s maritime history.  More than 6,000 items have accumulated, including watercraft, models, articles, books, displays, art, images and artifacts.  The collection makes historic materials accessible to scholars or anyone seeking to understand Chicago’s unique historical connections.

Native American Watercraft Lifesaving Rescue Craft and Schooners

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Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society

Milwaukee lies along the shores and bluffs of Lake Michigan at the confluence of three rivers: the Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic, and the Milwaukee. Ideally situated as a port city, and as a center for collecting and distributing produce, Milwaukee shipped more wheat than any place in the world.

Milwaukee MarinaThe Menomonee Valley has historically been home to manufacturing, stockyards, rendering plants, shipping, and other heavy industry because of its easy access to Lake Michigan and other waterways.

Breweries once the home to four of the world’s largest breweries, the city was the number one beer producer in the world for many years. The city is now in the middle of a resurgence in microbreweries, nanobreweries and brewpubs with the craft beer movement

Historic Milwaukee Brewery in Miller Valley is the Oldest Functioning Brewery in the United States

Milwaukee Intermodal StationThe Intermodal Station near downtown and the Third Ward provides Amtrak riders access to Greyhound Lines, Jefferson Lines and other intercity bus operator;. the Amtrak Hiawatha line connects downtown Milwaukee and downtown Chicago daily.

The name Milwaukee comes from an Algonquian Word meaning Good Beautiful and Pleasant Land

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The Wisconsin Marine Historical Society is a self-supported, nonprofit organization that collects, preserves, archives and makes available to the public materials related to Great Lakes marine history. The Society and its members are affiliated with the Milwaukee Public Library.

Milwaukee Art MuseumThe Great Lakes Collection is maintained at the Library, one of the most important repositories of Great Lakes marine materials in existence. The collection contains more than 11,000 vessel files, 32,000 vessel index cards, and over 50,000 photographs and graphic images, along with books, nautical charts, manuscripts, journals, nineteenth century newspaper stories, and ship artifacts.

Downtown Milwaukee from the Milwaukee RiverEmphasis is on collecting and archiving materials involving commerce and industry of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway with a focus on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, and the Upper Mississippi River System, as well as the lakes and rivers within Wisconsin. Included are records of shipwrecks, nautical charts, diving discoveries of lost ships, lighthouses, shipbuilding, storms, ports, and power- and sail-driven vessels, some going back to 1679. The Society sponsors events involving vessel, shipyard and lighthouse tours, river and lake excursions, and historical ship seminars.

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Marquette Michigan Maritime Museum

Marquette is a major port city on Michigan’s Lake Superior, known primarily for iron ore shipping. The land around Marquette was known to French missionaries of the early 17th century and the trappers of the early 19th century. Development of the area did not begin until 1844 when iron deposits near Teal Lake west of Marquette were discovered. In 1845, Jackson Mining Company, the first organized mining company in the region, was formed.

Marquette, MI - Front Street 1909The village of Marquette began on September 14, 1849, with the formation of a second iron concern, the Marquette Iron Company. The village was at first called New Worcester; the name was changed to honor, the French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette who had explored the region.

During the 1850s, Marquette was linked by rail to numerous mines and became the leading shipping center of the Upper Peninsula. The first ore pocket dock was built by the Cleveland Iron Mining Company in 1859. In the late 19th century, during the height of iron mining, Marquette became nationally known as a summer haven. Visitors brought in by Great Lakes passenger steamships filled the city’s hotels and resorts. Marquette continues to be a shipping port for hematite ores and enriched iron ore pellets, from nearby mines and pelletizing plants.

Transportation Marquette has daily flights to Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. The city is served by a public transit system which runs buses through the city and daily intercity bus service to Milwaukee.

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The Marquette Maritime Museum Association began in 1980.  The Museum was opened in the old City Waterworks building in the summer of 1984. The building is a one story, stone, hipped-roof Richardsonian Romanesque style structure. Area school kids learn their local maritime history as well as guests from all over the United States and around the world.

The Edmund Fitzgerald Shipwreck launched in 1958 on the River Rouge from the Great Lakes Engineering Works, the Fitzgerald set out on her final trip from Superior, Wisconsin in 1975, heading for a routine trip to Detroit, Michigan.  During the day, the weather had gotten vicious causing 90 mph winds and 30-foot waves; the ship was lost with all hands. The wreck site was later found in 530 feet on the lake floor.

The McClintock Annex focuses on the story of US subs Darter and Dace and their role in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest sea battle in history. The Annex is named for Captain David McClintock, USN, Retired, a Marquette native and commander of the Darter.

MMM1Stannard Rock Marquette Coast Guard Station provided the support necessary for Stannard’s Rock Lighthouse. The 110-foot sandstone tower was built on a desolate reef first discovered in 1847. Located 44 miles due north of Marquette, its lightkeepers called it the “loneliest place in North America” since it is the most distant lighthouse from land on the entire continent. The old Stannard’s Rock lens is now on display in the Marquette Maritime Museum.

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The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum on Lake Superior

Minnesota’s small towns are delightful. From well-known small towns like Ely, Pipestone and Nisswa, to the truly tiny towns there’s nothing quite like exploring a small Minnesota town with family and friends.

The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile-long hiking trail that follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. Access the trail from many points from Jay Cooke State Park, through Duluth, and along Hwy 61 from west of Two Harbors to north of Grand Marais. Great for both day hikes and backpack camping, enjoy scenic overlooks, waterfalls, forests and wildlife. 93 free back country campsites spaced every 5-8 miles.

lake superior hikingTofte is one of the many small communities dotting the North Shore. It’s a popular jumping-off point for kayakers paddling through the beautiful sea caves found on the shore.

The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum on Lake Superior’s North Shore is a unique experience of the maritime heritage engrained in the landscape and people who call this country home. Governed by the Tofte Historical Society, the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation and dissemination of historical knowledge in commercial fishing and the early lifestyles on the shore and waters of Lake Superior.

twin-fish-house-paintingMaritime Objects, artifacts, photographs and images are at the heart of the museum’s collections. The museum is a replica of the twin fish house in Tofte. In the upstairs rooms, safe from the rain and snow, old nets were dried on net reels and new nets were seamed during slow periods. The second floor had a porch away from the lake that was used to oil and dry corks. In good weather, rope and cord were hung over the porch railings to dry.

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Museum Exhibits from the fjords of Norway to the isolated, rugged shoreline of Lake Superior, the Museum’s exhibits take you across the cultural landscape of North Shore commercial fishermen and their families. From the stories about surviving the raging seas of the Lake to the details of traditional North Shore boat building techniques, you can hear the stories directly from the fishermen themselves.

Steamships were crucial to the development of tourism on the North Shore and Isle Royale

steamships and tourismCommercial Fishermen began to take in overnight guests in the 1920’s to supplement their income. Rustic, cold water cabins and luxury hotels have proven to be a lasting part of the economy of the North Shore. Steamships helped this fledgling industry by promoting the resorts and transporting potential guests. The steamship captains, representing a link to the outside world, were important personalities along the North Shore. They are remembered as nearly inseparable parts of the ships they commanded.

Lake trout and herring were the two predominant commercial fish on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Whitefish, important on the south shore, lacked proper habitat along this rocky coast. The increasing population of sea lamprey in Lake Superior in the 1950’s greatly harmed the trout populations, and effectively ended their commercial harvest. Lampreys were originally prevented from reaching the Great Lakes by Niagara Falls. With the construction of the Welland Ship Canal in 1835, lampreys began to make their first inroads into the eastern lakes, and steadily moved west. They first appeared in Lake Superior in the 1940’s.

fishFishing Techniques gill netting and hook line were the two primary techniques used by North Shore fishermen. Although gill nets were used for both trout and herring, the hook line was used only for trout. Nets were set in the beginning of the season and moved several times; new anchors were needed with every move. Attached to a coil of strong rope, the anchor was slipped overboard very carefully as the rapidly descending line could entangle and pull a person overboard. Many fishermen used local rocks for anchors. When rocks with suitable natural shapes were unavailable, grooves were chiseled in rocks of the appropriate size.

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Alexandria Minnesota and the Legacy of the Lakes Museum

The Village of Alexandria was settled in 1858 and named after brothers Alexander and William Kinkead from Maryland. The form of the name alludes to Alexandria, Egypt, a center of learning and civilization.

W.E. Hicks was pivotal to the early development of the town. He purchased the townsite in 1868 and established a mill, hotel, newspaper, and store. He donated property for a courthouse, jail, and two churches: Methodist and Congregational.

In 2013 Alexandria was picked as a Top 10 Best Small Town

Big_Ole the VikingAlex is a hot spot for tourism, due to its many lakes and resorts. Tourism events include a Grape Stomp hosted by the Carlos Creek Winery every September, an Apple Fest in October, the Douglas County Fair every August, and Art in the Park every July. The city has a museum housing the Kensington Runestone, which is thought by some to indicate that Vikings had visited the area in the 14th century. Outside the museum stands Big Ole, a 25-foot-tall statue of a Viking built for the World’s Fair in New York City.

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minnesota boat buildersThe Legacy of the Lakes Museum originally known as the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum, it promotes lake traditions and legacies as well as preserve Minnesota history.

The Legacy Gardens project was completed in the Fall of 2012; a second phase added plantings, walkways and structures. The Museum and Gardens play a significant role in completing a community dream of developing the north end of Broadway into a people-friendly destination.

The Boat House, an indoor event center, was added to the campus in 2018. This refurbished building has an indoor event hall, bathrooms, and bridal suite/greenroom. The space is available for rent for weddings, corporate events, family gatherings, and more. It is also a space for the Museum to host educational programs.

Minnesota is home to skilled watercraft builders since Native Americans first fashioned birch bark canoes hundreds of years ago. The museum boasts the most complete collection of Minnesota-made boats from Larson to our own Alexandria Boat Works.

wooden boatsWooden Boats few museums offer as wide a range of rare boats including Chris-Craft, Gar Wood, Century and Hacker Craft, as well as the ultimate collection of made-in-Minnesota craft.

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Dubuque Iowa National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Dubuque is located along the Mississippi River at the junction of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It serves as the main commercial, industrial, educational, and cultural center for the Tri-State Area. One of the few cities in Iowa with hills, it is also a tourist destination featuring unique architecture and river views.

A Center for Culture with Five Institutions of Higher Learning

History the first permanent settler was pioneer Julien Dubuque, who arrived in 1785 to mine the area’s rich lead deposits. After the lead resources were exhausted, Dubuque became a center for the timber industry because of its proximity to forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other major businesses included boat building, brewing and railroads. Diamond Jo Line established a shipyard at Eagle Point in 1878. Industrial activity remained the mainstay of the economy until the 1980s followed by diversification away from heavy industry towards tourism, high-tech and publishing in the 1990s.

Dubuque Aerial ViewDowntown Dubuque is the center of the city’s transportation and commercial sectors, and functions as the hub to the various outlying districts and neighborhoods. An area of special note is the Port of Dubuque which has seen a massive amount of new investment and new construction. The downtown area includes significant buildings, many of which are historic, reflecting the city’s early and continuing importance to the region.

Old Cable Elevator Dubuque Iowa




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The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium


Grand River Event CenterRiver Works Discovery® educates children and their families about the commerce, culture and conservation of the great rivers of America and their watersheds. An outreach program of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium and the National Rivers Hall of Fame. Curriculum is designed to engage the learner and encourage further exploration of our rivers. This multi-disciplinary program focuses on math, history, geography and mapping.

riverworks discoveryMathias Ham Historic Site explore Dubuque’s rich history at our unique historic site. Owned and operated by the Dubuque County Historical Society and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this historic property includes the Mathias Ham House, Iowa’s oldest log cabin, the Humke Schoolhouse from Centralia, and a historic granary. Costumed interpreters provide guided tours of the site, sharing the rich history of Mathias Ham, the city of Dubuque, life on the Mississippi River, and life during the Victorian era.

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Alton Illinois and the National Great Rivers Museum

Alton is located 25 Miles north of St. Louis amid the confluence of three navigable rivers, the Mississippi, the Illinois and the Missouri, as a river trading and industrial town whose waterfront features concrete grain silos and railroad tracks for the shipping of grains and produce. Once the site of several brick factories, Alton’s streets are paved in brick along with many commercial buildings located downtown. The Great Rivers Region is accessible from six interstates, an international airport and an Amtrak station.

Alton IL Melvin Price LocksHistoric Trails Alton’s Civil War and Lincoln Legacy Trail features costumed docents at sites throughout the city revealing Alton’s legacy through personal tales along with the Underground Railroad, where runaway slaves were hidden in caves, barns and basements. The Alton Museum of History and Art has special exhibits relating to Alton’s connection to the Civil War era.

River Trails where great rivers converge with great moments in history at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Confluence Tower; learn how they planned their journey west. Hartford is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and point of departure for Lewis and Clark. Elsah continuing up the Great River Road and marvel at the numerous buildings that still exist. Most of the houses and building in the village were built in the mid- to late 1800s.

The Entire Village of Elsah is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Grafton RiverfrontGrafton’s riverfront was packed with manufacturing companies, mills, quarries, loading docks, and riverboat traffic in the 1800s. Today, it is a tourist destination with its specialty shops and wineries.

Architecture Trails many blocks of housing in Alton were built in the Victorian Queen Anne style during the prosperous period in the river city’s history at the top of the hill in the commercial area, several stone churches and city hall.

The Middletown Historic District was the center of wealth in the early days of Alton with homes reflecting the wealth of families and their descendants that led Alton society for more than a century. Brick sidewalks connect a park with a Victorian playhouse.

Alton IL Lewis Clark InterpretiveUpper Alton Historic District a cultural and educational center, Upper Alton was once a separate town anchored by a former military academy and the oldest continuously used educational buildings in Illinois.

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melvin price lock and damThe National Great Rivers Museum and Melvin Price Locks & Dam feature the importance of the river system to America’s economy from her grand history and cultural significance, to her ecological importance and role as a transportation corridor.

The Mississippi River, over 2,200 miles long, is the second longest river in the United States and the third largest river basin in the world, exceeded in size only by the Amazon and Congo basins. The central portion of the river is known as the Middle Mississippi, a 300-mile reach from Saverton, MO, to Cairo, IL. Further defining the Middle Mississippi are the confluences of three major tributaries, the Illinois, the Missouri and the Ohio Rivers.
Early snagboat on MississippiIn the early 19th century, great forests lined the narrow river’s banks of the Middle Mississippi. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 marked the opening of the West, and river settlements began to grow. In 1817, the first steamboat arrived in St. Louis and the population soared. Steamboat arrivals had increased more than a thousand-fold by 1858, turning the river into a superhighway.
The timber resources lining the riverbanks were used to build rapidly expanding settlements and fuel the steamboat’s boilers. The riverbanks became less stable, the river-widened and trees impeded navigation, resulting in loss of life and vessels. In 1880, Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to correct, create and maintain a safe and dependable navigation channel.

Mark Twain put this effort in perspective: “The military engineers have taken upon their shoulders the job of making the Mississippi over again”

Wing dams Mississippi 1891The Corps of Engineers continually examines the biological impact of the navigational structures on the river’s ecosystem, balancing navigational needs with those of the environment.

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