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Duluth History

The Historic Scenic Drives of Duluth

Skyline Parkway and North Shore Scenic Drive

By: Rob Hedburg | May 21, 2018

Duluth and the surrounding area feature a great deal of natural beauty, some of which can be experienced without leaving the comfort of your vehicle. Anyone making a road trip to Duluth can witness the breathtaking vistas of Skyline Parkway and North Shore Scenic Drive. What are these two drives, where are they located, and how did they come to exist? Let’s take a look together and find out!

Enger Tower

Some of the best views of Duluth are found along Skyline Parkway, a 28-mile long stretch of roadway that was officially consolidated in 1929. The origins of the parkway trace back to the tail end of the 19th century. From 1889 to 1892 construction took place on what was originally Rogers Boulevard, named after the first City Park Board President William Rogers. Spanning between modern Lincoln Park and Chester Bowl, the roadway followed what was the gravel shoreline of Lake Namadji, the ancient predecessor of Lake Superior. Easily accessible just off Hank Jansen Drive is Enger Park, one of the must-see spots of the western portion of Skyline Parkway. This park offers spectacular panoramic views of the entire city of Duluth and its signature landmark, Enger Tower! Additionally, West Skyline Parkway features numerous pull-off points for perfect photo opportunities. For a full timeline of the Parkway, visit this webpage set up by the city of Duluth!

A hidden gem along the eastern portion of Skyline Parkway is a century’s old roadway. 1901 saw the completion of the Seven Bridges Road, funded privately by Samuel F. Snively. Two decades later, Snively would become Duluth’s longest serving mayor. He eventually donated the road to the city. The completion of Hawk Ridge in 1939 led to some navigational changes to the road. Two bridges used as part of the original roadway were converted into part of a skiing and walking trail that runs through the Hawk Ridge area. Today, Seven Bridges Road connects Occidental Boulevard and the intersection of Maxwell Road and East Skyline Parkway, winding along Amity Creek the entirety of road’s length. Flanked by forest on both sides, Seven Bridges Road offers excellent views of Duluth’s natural beauty. The Seven Bridges Road experienced numerous preservative and reconstructive efforts in the late 1990s. Information on navigating the modern Seven Bridges Road can be found by visiting this webpage by John Weeks.

Credit: Explore Minnesota
Photo Credit: Explore Minnesota

North Shore Scenic Drive begins in Duluth’s Canal Park and extends north to the Canadian border, hugging the shoreline of Lake Superior along the way. From 1900 to 1920, piecemeal sections of road were completed by communities along the shoreline. Highway 1, the forerunner to Highway 61, was first fully paved in 1933. Parts of old Highway 1 from Duluth to Two Harbors are now known as Scenic 61, which follows the shore of Lake Superior more closely than the modern 61 Expressway. Part of Scenic 61 is Congdon Boulevard, named after the affluent Duluth businessman Chester Congdon. Congdon had visualized a scenic highway connecting Duluth to the Canadian border; however, his death on November 21, 1916 meant he would never witness the realization of that dream. His estate later paid for the property on which Congdon Boulevard was built. To learn more about the story of Chester Congdon and the Congdon family, be sure to visit Glensheen on your next trip to Duluth, conveniently located at 3300 London Road on the Scenic Drive itself! For more information on the backstory of the North Shore Scenic Drive, check out this article from Zenith City Online which highlights more interesting facts on Old Highway 1.

This concludes our brief look into the history of these scenic drives. Make sure to add both Skyline Parkway and North Shore Scenic Drive to your must-see list on your next visit to Duluth. Navigational information for both can be found here. We look forward to having you!

Rob Hedburg
Administrative Assistant