Woods, water, and wayward men are key to the local economy in Newberry, a lumber boom town established in 1882 in the thick forests of the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
The Luce County seat is the Moose Capital of Michigan and at the visitor center the chamber of commerce offers tips that could help your chances of viewing the elusive creatures. They roam the wilderness between the village and Tahquamenon Falls State Park, home of the largest waterfalls in Michigan, about 24 miles to the north.
The area’s bountiful natural resources spawned the logging and tourism industries, and as for the wayward men? The Newberry Correctional Facility (what, did you think I was going to point to the government offices?) is a major employer that is unfortunately located on the main vein as you enter town from the south. The medium security prison is surrounded by 16-foot high perimeter fences topped with razor-ribbon wire so sharp and silver and shiny that I can feel the slicing potential every time I see it.
Just cruise past the prison to the north side of Newberry and the Tahquamenon Logging Museum, an open air compound of buildings and artifacts dedicated to the area’s major industry of the 19th century.
In addition to the all-important kitchen and dining hall there’s a period house museum plus artifacts, equipment, tools and exhibits related to the booming logging days. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) barracks building and statue pay tribute to the men who worked the CCC camps from 1933 to 1942. Many of them have said that the structure and discipline of the CCC kept them out of trouble (and, in some cases, the type of prison now located on the south side of Newberry).
We’ve spent time visiting the museum buildings but need to return to check out the nature trail to the Tahquamenon River.
Several times a season the museum hosts an all-you-can-eat meal that has got to be the best deal in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
TIP: Gear up for this breakfast as a lumberjack would (that would be in terms of working up an appetite, not the haven’t-bathed-in-a-week part).
Volunteers prepare, cook and serve the feast fit for a forester in the recreated Cook Shack (built of logs, of course), complete with wood burning stove and plenty of grease for frying the gut-busting breakfast.
Know that you do not have a choice of meals. There is no granola or yogurt on the menu. In fact, there is no menu—just a heaping plate of food: bacon, two fried eggs, sausage, pancakes and fried potatoes cooked before your eyes on a wood-burning stove.
On the day that I joined the snaking line to receive my share, the only decisions I had to make were whether I wanted plain or blueberry pancakes (blueberry, of course!) and coffee or milk to wash it all down.
The food was delish and the volunteer gang cooking it and serving it was having a great time.
Select weekends feature old tyme, country or polka music; check the schedule for fun tunes for dancing or just toe-tapping.
Tahquamenon Logging Museum
North of Newberry on highway M-123
Located in Area D on the map
All stories and photos copyright Kath Usitalo unless otherwise noted