Iron Mountain Bat Mine & Vista
|On up the hill from the mine air shaft vent a path leads through a grove of tall white pines to a wonderful vista of downtown Iron Mountain and beyond.|
One of the world's largest congregations of bats - an estimated one million - winters in the abandoned Millie Mine between downtown Iron Mountain and the north side. Usually in late September big brown bats and their small brown cousins gather here from a wide area. For a few days they hang on the awnings and overhangs of downtown buildings. When a cold spell kills off flying insects, the bats head for the mine.
|The 360-foot deep air shaft for the old Millie Mine now serves as winter home for hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats. Michigan has 7 species. Surrounding benches allow visitors to watch hordes of these nocturnal mammals enter the shaft from September to early October and leave beginning in April.|
The mine shaft drops 360 feet, creating a grand cavity for roosting. Most bats aren't seen until spring, when they emerge and fly off in short order. When the mine was closed, local officials had started to seal up the mine. An amateur spelunker, Marquette firefighter Steve Smith, alerted them to the presence of so many helpful bats. A grate was installed to keep people from falling in, yet let the bats fly in and out.
Kids used to hurt and kill bats until successful bat education projects in elementary schools counteracted the practice. Today local people are quite well informed about the bats and their beneficial effects in eating mosquitoes. Now the Michigan DNR's Natural Heritage Program, in cooperation with Bat Conservation International - www.batcon.org - has installed bat-friendly entrance grates on some 30 Upper Peninsula mines. The Millie Mine has become an official DNR interpretive site.
Bat Conservation International says that mines have become extremely important in protecting bat populations. Caves are not evenly distributed throughout the U.S. (Michigan has only one natural cave, outside Buchanan in southwest Michigan, close to the Indiana state line.) Also, human caving activity spoils bat refuges. The BCI web site includes advice on which commercially produced bat houses are really effective, and gives a Small Economy Bat Houseplan.
For interesting details on bats here and elsewhere, take the time to find the Michigan Wildlife Viewing Guide, a most interesting and useful guide to 130 statewide wildlife viewing sites You could buy the book to keep in your car, thus contributing a bit to the state's important Nongame Wildlife Fund.
To see the bat mine take the East Side Cutoff from Third Street on the north end or from downtown take A Street up the hill and turn left onto Park Ave. Behind the Chapin Pit is a cement block building and a state police radio tower. Park there and follow the signs up the hill.
Return to Iron Mountain
POINTS OF INTEREST
Menominee Range Historical Museum. In a handsome 1901 Carnegie Library, museum focused on Dickinson County's history, based on local individuals' collections, from tin soldiers to Indian curios ... more
Cornish Pump Engine & Mining Museum. A huge 1893 steam-operated pump with 40-foot flywheel used to dewater the Chapin iron mine and displays on mining techniques and geology---mining equipment, historical photos, and geological specimens, plus displays about the WWII wooden gliders made nearby ... more
Pine Mountain Resort. Developed by Milwaukee brewer Fred Pabst, this 1938 ski resort has developed into a beautiful, year-round facility with pleasant indoor pool and 18-hole championship golf course ... more
Lake Antoine Park. Popular large spring-fed Lake Antoine lies just beyond Iron Mountain's north side. On its northern shore lies this pleasant county park with its large oaks, campsites, swimming beach, nature trail, and fishing pier ... more
Northwoods Wilderness Outfitters & Adventure Store. There are lots of outdoor expeditions in this region, so the well-stocked store here is a welcome destination. Kayak, canoe, and fishing outings are also offered ... more