The Village of Baraga, situated on the western edge of the beautiful L’Anse Bay is a common rest stop for folks headed between Marquette and Houghton. On the eastern edge of the bay lies the village of L’Anse. Both are characterized by their shoreline, access to the many waterfalls of the region, and rich fishing culture. The L’Anse Indian Reservation is home to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Bands of Chippewa Indians, it is the largest and oldest reservation in Michigan with sections of the reservation being located on both edges of the L’Anse Bay and nearly a third of the County of Baraga is a part of the reservation.
The area was first occupied by the Sugar Island Band of Ojibwa Indians who primarily used the area for fishing and gathering berries. In the 17th century, the area saw the arrival of French missionaries, voyageurs, and traders following the shoreline from Sault Ste. Marie. In 1660, a French Jesuit priest, Father Rene Menard was the first white man recorded to arrive in the area. From there, L’Anse was founded in 1871 with the intention that it would become a port and house numerous stamping mills for the nearby iron ore mines. Baraga, named after Bishop Frederic Baraga was founded in 1843.
The area saw a boom in the 1850s and 60’s with the connection of the Marquette, Houghton, and Ontonagen railroad. The area exported quantities of iron ore but then went through a bust during the Panic of 1873. After the boom of iron ore in the region, the economy shifted more toward lumber with the mill in L’Anse shipping 180,000 board feet of lumber a day at its peak. Henry Ford saw the potential of the raw material for his newly designed automobiles and purchased mills in the area in the early 1900s. He then founded the community of Alberta, 10 minutes south of L’anse, now a research station for MTU, to serve as a sawmill. As the demand for lumber decreased in the 1950s, the area experienced a lull in growth.
Both L’Anse and Baraga have experienced some growth in recent years with a focus on outdoor recreation and downtown development, especially in L’Anse. L’Anse offers a gateway to some hidden gems along the eastern edge of the bay including Point Abbaye, the Mouth of the Huron River, and access to many waterfalls including Middle Falls, Middle Silver Falls, and Gomanche Falls. Baraga hosts a wonderful state park with great camping opportunities along with Sand Point Lighthouse and Mt. Arvon, the highest point in Michigan. In the winter, the area offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and amazing ice-fishing opportunities.
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