Ironwood / Black River navigation question

Dec 12, 2015
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Is anybody here very familiar with the Black River area, north of Ironwood in the UP?

I have a trip planned for February. We'll be staying near Black River Harbor -- that's on the west side of the Black River, just away from Lake Superior.

This year we want to experience 'Lake of the Clouds.' As near as I can tell, we will have to ride south to Bessemer, go east to Wakefield, and then ride straight north again, back up to the big lake. That's about a 45 mile 'detour' -- 45 miles of trails and road to go about 5 miles east. That will make our trip almost 70 miles each way, and that's a lot of riding for relative newbies.

My question: "Is there someplace that one can rationally cross the Black River without having to go clear down to Highway 2? By rationally, I suppose I mean "Without needing to be extensively airborne, and without having to ride on ice over a running river." And for guys as green as us, 'extensively airborne' probably means anything more than a foot. (Beside being rookies, a couple of us are old -- I'm 66, and I'm not the oldest in the group.) I do have 50 years of motorcycling in the midwest -- in recent years on a Sportster -- so I'm not unfamiliar with crappy weather, cold, monkeybutt, frozen glasses, numb butt, vibration-numbed hands, et cetera.

Any veterans know where we can find a shortcut? There's a suspension bridge -- a footbridge -- very near the mouth of the river. A guy might be tempted to cross there -- but the east side looks inhospitable.

Any and all advice that does not involve anatomically impossible acts is welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Paul in Wisconsin
 
Nov 28, 2007
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Pence, WI
Paul, I am just west of Hurley WI and have snowmobiled the area since the late 80' s I am 74 and predominantly a trail rider now.

You are probably aware from your research that there aren't any trails that take you that way. The shortest route would be on the lake assuming the ice is satisfactory. Personally never having done that there I AM NOT RECOMMENDING it.

The first river crossing I am aware of would be coming south on Black River Rd and going east through Copper Peak which will still bring you out in Bessemer.

Over the years we have always used that old 11N trail out of Bessemer to get to Silver City and then to Lake Of The Clouds. I assume you have a good reason for staying where you are planning, because that is an isolated place with basically only one trail.

My 2 suggestions would be to change your base camp to the Wakefield area at least for the Lake of the Clouds ride. Or trailer to Wakefield and unload in the parking area at Sunday Lake on north side of U.S. 2 just as you are coming into Wakefield. On 2. there is a trail crossing sign, but the road to access the parking area is at the west side of the trail crossing.

I assume you are staying out by the harbor because someone in you group has a lodging connection there. If that is not the case and your primary reason for coming is to snowmobile, I strongly recommend staying either in Hurley or Ironwood which both offer snowmobile dealers except for Yamaha. Many lodging options, restaurants, entertainment and service capabilities. Where you are staying will still require coming there if you need anything.

Currently I'm salivating waiting for snow. I usually put on about 3000 miles a season except last year I was limited to 1000 miles because of house fire 2nd day of the season.

I'm here in N Wisc all season so feel free to contact me if I can be of further help.

Don't know how many responses you'll get from here on Snow West. If you haven't already, I'd suggest trying Hard Core Sledders and Snowmobile Fanatics for info also.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, stay safe out there, Happy Trails!!!
 
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Dec 12, 2015
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Thanks very much, SnoKing. You've given me just the information I wanted.

You're right about lodging. There will be 7 of us on 6 sleds, and we have a great place to stay, for free. Well, great, except maybe in the context of access to the trails!

I'm the new guy on this trip, and won't have much voice. That's OK, as long as it stays safe! It looks as though there's gas to be had in Ontonagon, so range shouldn't be an issue. Now we just need some snow in the next 8 weeks!

Thanks again,

Paul
 
Nov 28, 2007
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Pence, WI
I's been 3 seasons since I have made that ride. In recent years we would gas up in Wakefield. Head to Bergland , top off there. The gas station/convenience in White Pine closed a few years back but there was a "store" in the strip mall there that had been selling gas, don't know if that is still there. The station that was in Silver City would close for the winter, don't even know if there is one there during the summer.

Gas still in town of Ontanagon.

If I were going this season from from my place 5 miles west of Hurley it is 32 miles and would fillp in Wakefield. Then I would fill up in Bergland which would get me to Ontanagon. To be conservative I would recommend that if you snowmobile out of Wakefield with a full tank and the sleds will get at least a hundred miles on that tank.
you should be o.k. to Ontanogan. If any of the sleds can't do 100 on tank I'd suggest they carry a spare can.

You may also consider trailering to Ontanogan and riding from there.

I suspected that you had a "good" deal on your lodging.

If you you end up at Cloverland Motors in Ironwood (Polaris/SkiDoo) ask Gary, Torrie or Wally if Big Hank has been around.
Had more rain and about 1/2 inch overnite that's it.

I just looked at an old trail map that has mileage posted on it. One way from Ontanogan to the Scenic Overlook at Lake of The Clouds is listed as 41 miles so 82 round trip
 
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