Thursday, August 12, 2010


Duluth vista Two long blasts, followed by three short ones, deep and rumbling, awoke us at 6:30 am.  I hopped out of bed in time to see an 800 foot long freighter enter Duluth Harbor under the Aerial Life Bridge.  What a sight!  What a great start to the day!

Duluth is the largest port on the Great Lakes, and it shows in the activity of the bridge.  From our site at the Lakehead Boat Basin, we have a front row seat. 

Lakeside Boat Basin is across the Lift Bridge from downtown Duluth.  Arriving or departing, you have to cross the bridge.  In summer, the bridge goes up and down as many as 40 times a day, since only the smallest boats can pass underneath without the bridge lifting… even a small sailboat has a mast too tall to pass underneath.

The Mighty GottWhen we arrived in Scoopy yesterday, the bridge was just going up and we stopped at the end of a block-long line of vehicles.  I got out and walked a block to see what was passing through the canal: the mighty Edwin H. Gott, one of the Great Lakes 1000+ footers.  Yowza!

I wonder… how long does it take to become blasé about these big boats?  I think it would take me a long time! 

Odel turned off the engine and sat, generator running and both a/c’s on, in a line of traffic – along with buses, cars, delivery trucks, even a taxi – that grew longer and longer as the big ship glided under the bridge, through the narrow canal.  Twenty minutes later, the bridge bells sounded its descent, I hurried back to the Scoopy, and we headed across the bridge to our new site.

The Lakehead Boat Basin (click here to read our review and see photos) is something else – always something to watch!  Thirty sites are situated in two narrow asphalt parking lots that are used for boat dry-dock storage in the winter.  We have a water hookup and a solid 50 amps of electricity, a picnic table, and an endlessly fascinating view. 

As I write, I can look out the front window at the small pleasure boats in the marina, then directly across the neck of the harbor to the waterfront park where tents are being erected for the Blues Festival.  Beyond that, the steep forested hillside of Duluth rise abruptly.   Out the window to my right, I watch the Lift Bridge move up and down.  Right now, it is all the way up – that means a freighter will materialize shortly.

Daytime view from the marina…

… and the nighttime view of the same scene.

Life bridge daytime Bridge at Night

In some ways, Duluth seems like a smaller Portland, Oregon.  Water plays a big part in the ambiance of the city, we see lots of joggers, walkers, and bicyclers, and there is plenty of attention paid to being “green”.  The city has done an superb job of rehabbing the Canal Park area – where big, old, unused, harbor-side factories and warehouses have been “repurposed” into retail and office space.  The parks and walkways along the shore of Lake Superior are inviting, with a pedestrian boardwalk separate from a bicycle path.  The green grass of the park space is busy with folks enjoying the lively scene; swimmers enjoy the small beach. 

We pass this lovely garden each time we walk to and fro. After the early morning wakeup call, we headed out before the heat and humidity of the day for a walk.  As we left the marina, the owner, Joel, told us he had 20 rigs leaving today, and 24 arriving.  Wow, that’s a busy day in a 30 site park!  It’s all due to the Blues Festival; Joel says many campers reserve for next year after the festival ends, so campers who hadn’t made reservations far in advance were forced to clear out this morning. 

When we got back from our outing, the RV sites looked almost deserted.  Wonder who our new neighbors will be?


  1. hope to hear the review about the Blues Festival...

  2. Only a smaller Portland for about 4 months and then it's under ice and snow the the other 8. Nice in the summer though.

  3. Answer to the question, "I wonder… how long does it take to become blasé about these big boats?" NEVER! I find it fascinating and I appreciate your appreciation of it!
    Much appreciation, K

  4. How nice to see summer pictures of Duluth. I've only been there when the Badgers and Duluth played hockey for a "road trip" when I was going to school at UW. It looks a little different in winter!!
    I'm with you, Laurie, I would never get tired of watching the boats!

  5. Two long, three short. The Master Salute I haven't heard that for years. Takes me back to when I was just a kid working as a River Rat on the Detroit River, worked for a small tug boat company for a few years.
    It was a great job until the winter set in and we had to do the ice breaking on the river (that got mighty cold)also got a chance to ride a few of the big freighter from Port Huron to Toledo.
    I can still sit under the Blue Water Bridge and watch them for hours on end. Memories

  6. Did you guys make reservations? If so, how far out did you make them?

    -- jcw

  7. In October, the top of the hill behind Duluth is the place to be. What a fantastic raptor migration view from there! :)

  8. @heyduke50 - It starts today, but the weather might have something to say about it - big storm last night, more forecast for today - but at least the heat is gone. We plan to go tomorrow and/or Sunday.

    @jcw3rd - May 16th of this year. I wanted to come for either the Blues Festival or the Tall Ships (2 weeks ago). No spaces available during the Tall Ships when I called in May, but ONE SPACE LEFT (W/E) for the Blues Festival, so we snagged it. Joel says mid-July through mid-August is his busy time, after that it's not too hard to get a site.

  9. @PalmsRV - The Master Salute - I love that! So the freighter salutes the bridge; the bridge salutes the freighter. It always happens as the freighter slides under the bridge. Thanks for the info.

  10. I got your blog address from a friend, Gypsy. She thought I would enjoy it and I think she is right. I just started a blog on blogspot,but have been writing on mytripjournal for over 2 years. Your site looks very interesting and I hope to get to know you folks better through your blog. I have added your site to my blog list, if you would rather I didn't, Please let me know. Pidge

  11. Sounds like you have a prime front row seat for all the action! Been through Duluth once and loved the ambience of it...We hope to get back someday...Thanks for the great pictures!

  12. What a nice trip around Duluth! We have been there a number of times too, and have relatives there. We might head over that way in a couple weeks. Will keep reading your blog for ideas of new things to see. Thanks!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard