The Delaware Mine is among the oldest in the Keweenaw, having begun operations in 1847. Although it isn’t one of the larger mines in the area, it still managed to yield about 8 million pounds of copper in its 40 years of operation. The mine went down a total of 10 levels, reaching a depth of 1,400 feet. There were 3 major shafts to access the mine, which was built at a 24 degree angle.
The mining company was made up of a group of investors, the most prominent being Horace Greeley. When he advised young men to “go west,” he was actually referring to the Keweenaw, as this was where the first major mining boom in the country occurred. Consequently, virtually every ethnic group imaginable came here to start a new life. The Delaware, along with Central Mine and other early operations, attracted Cornish miners who already had a background in mining. Because of their mining expertise, they became the bosses at the newer mines.
The Delaware, after closing in 1887, sat for 90 years, when local mine enthusiast Tom Poynter bought the property with the idea of developing it into a tourist attraction. Tom’s dream since childhood was to own a mine that he could show to people. In July of 1977, he opened the first shaft and a small portion of the first level to the public. Since then, he has periodically expanded the tour to its current length, which includes the entire first level. The depth remains the same, since everything below level 1 is flooded. The mine tour introduction video even shows SCUBA divers going to the 4th level!
Visitors can now take a self-guided tour of the Delaware’s first level, where signs explain the mining procedures used over 100 years ago. After seeing the underground portion of the mining operation, tourists can walk up scenic trails past the remains of the Pump House and Hoist House, as well as some mining equipment, antique engines and trains. There are also picnic facilities both above and below ground, for a truly unusual experience.
Coming this summer, the Delaware will be adding a new attraction, Lore of the Lakes Maritime Museum! Since shipping played an integral part in the mining history of this area, Lore of the Lakes will add another dimension to the already rich Keweenaw history. Hand made displays, local artifacts and an area devoted to steam power will be included in this new, must-see facility.
The next time you visit the Keweenaw, make sure you visit the Delaware Copper Mine Tours and Lore of the Lakes Maritime Museum at Delaware Mine, for a most unique combination of entertainment and education. You can even meet Oreo, our resident pet skunk! And…don’t forget your dog. Delaware is pet friendly!
Visit our website, www.delawarecopperminetours.com and visit us on Facebook. Watch for our postings about next years celebration of our 40 years of mine tours, making us the oldest attraction in the Keweenaw!