Summer Memories: Remembering the Hot Pond

The following post is taken from my book My Marquette. Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of the Hot Pond when writing my book.

When I was a kid in the early 1980s, the Hot Pond was the place to swim rather than the Shiras Pool. The Hot Pond existed for a short time because the Dead River wound its way under the bridge north toward the ore dock, cutting through the land, thereby creating a warm swimming hole between two beaches. People would often float down the Hot Pond on inflatable rafts and inner tubes, and it was perfect for swimming since it was no more than five feet deep in the middle so parents felt their children were safe swimming there. But rivers flow as they will, and soon a hard winter changed the river’s flow back into a relatively straight line under the bridge into Lake Superior. The Hot Pond was no more.

Had winter not changed the river’s course, doubtless the Flood of 2003 would have. In May 2003, heavy spring rain and rapidly melting snow caused water levels in the Dead River to rise, and the water pressure from the current became too strong for the Silver Basin Dam to withstand. The dam broke, releasing some 90 billion gallons of water. Not only did the river overflow its banks, but trees and boats plummeted downstream. The Dead River flows through the Silver Basin to the Hoist Dam. Fear that the Hoist would also break as water poured over its top caused the evacuation of homes from the Silver Basin and McClure Basin and all along the river. The Dead River flows just north of Marquette’s Wright Street along the Holy Cross Cemetery and then under the Dead River Bridge out into Lake Superior, so that meant all of Marquette north of Wright Street was evacuated—two thousand people total.

Fortunately, the Hoist Dam withstood the flooding and no one in Marquette lost a home, but the flood did wipe out the Dead River Bridge, making Presque Isle inaccessible. The Presque Isle Power Plant was out of commission, resulting in power to the mines being shut down—it would be a month before it was operating again at full capacity. All residents north of Marquette including Big Bay lost power. Marquette’s Tourist Park’s dam and levee just a mile west of the river’s mouth also failed. The Tourist Park’s landscape would forever be changed—the water from the small lake where so many people swam flowed down the river, leaving behind naked land that had once been underwater. The park has never been the same.

Flooding in Upper Michigan is not uncommon in the spring due to melting snow and rain, but the 2003 Dead River Flood holds the record for being the most traumatic ever seen in Marquette County. The damage was estimated at $100 million. Hopefully, the flood’s like will never be seen again.

Explore posts in the same categories: Marquette History, Upper Michigan History

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