The Ore Docks in Marquette

Lower Harbor Ore Dock

The Lower Harbor Ore Dock is one of Marquette’s most iconic landmarks. A stone's throw from downtown Marquette, this mammoth concrete & steel structure in Lake Superior represents the city’s maritime and mining past. 

Constructed in the late 19th century, the Lower Harbor Ore Dock was part of a network of docks that facilitated the transportation of iron ore from the mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to steel mills across the Great Lakes region. At its peak, Marquette was one of the largest shipping ports for iron ore in the United States, and the ore dock played a crucial role in this trade. Today, it’s the perfect spot for a classic Marquette photo-op.

Upper Harbor Ore Dock

If you’re looking for a unique pastime while in town, take a moment to watch a freighter loading iron ore pellets at Marquette’s Upper Harbor Ore Dock. Built in 1912, the Presque Isle Dock, as it’s also referred to, is still in use today. Find arrival and departure information, current locations and other details of incoming ships on to plan for your outing accordingly.

This steel-framed dock is 1,250 feet long and 60 feet wide, with the top deck sitting 75 feet above the water level. It contains 200 pockets, each of which has a capacity of 250 tons of ore, for a total storage capacity of 50,000 tons. Supporting the dock is a foundation of 10,000 wooden piles enclosed by a 12-inch thick timber sheet plank wall filled with sand. Each year approximately 9.5 to 10 million tons of ore are shipped from this dock.

The Process

Making Taconite Pellets

Ore is mined and crushed. Iron is separated using chemicals or magnets. Iron is mixed with a binding agent (like fancy cornstarch) and rolled into small balls, about an inch wide. The balls go through a super-hot kiln, over 2,000°F, and come out as Taconite Pellets. These pellets, which are mostly iron, get loaded onto ore boats. Most of them head to Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the biggest steel mill. There, they'll mix them with coke and limestone to make steel.

Loading onto Boats

Ore arrives at the dock by train and is dumped into steel "pockets" or bins below the tracks. A chute is lowered to the boat's cargo hatch, and a door at the bottom of the pocket opens, letting the pellets flow into the boat. Loading time varies, but is typically about four hours. The First Mate is in charge of loading. They need to do it right to avoid stressing the boat unevenly. Each chute, or drop of ore, is about 20 tons.


Twice a year, locals and visitors in Marquette have the opportunity to witness a stunning natural spectacle—the sunrise aligning perfectly with the center of the historic Lower Harbor Ore Dock. Affectionately dubbed "Orehenge" by locals, this event typically take place around November 21st and January 20th. However, catching this phenomenon requires a stroke of luck, as it hinges on clear weather conditions.

Observers can expect the sun to rise from the left corner of the Ore Dock, passing through its center before reaching the top-right corner. The optimal viewing time is around 8:26 AM when the sun breaks the horizon and becomes centered within the Ore Dock. To fully appreciate the spectacle, it's advisable to arrive around 8:00 AM, as some of the most brilliant colors tend to appear before the sun emerges fully.

Lasers on the Ore Dock

Holiday Lasers on the Ore Dock

Join us for the annual "Holiday Lasers on the Ore Dock" event! Experience the magic as the historic Ore Dock transforms into a canvas for dazzling laser light displays. Bring your friends and family to enjoy this community celebration against the stunning backdrop of Lake Superior. This holiday tradition takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from late November through December.

Fourth of July

We've collaborated with the Marquette Fireworks Committee and Fresh Coast Light Lab to present an Independence Day laser light show on the iconic Ore Dock. This laser show will be the largest architectural laser show in North America and the first summer laser show in Marquette. The event provides an opportunity for residents and visitors to partake in a sensory-friendly Fourth of July celebration.

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