This Michigan Highway Was Never Built Because the Route Was ‘Impassable’
There are places in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that are very difficult to access - one stretch of the Huron Mountains was listed as "impassable" for many years on Michigan highway maps. The planned route, M-35, was eventually cancelled.
A portion of the roadway was built and still exists today. From Marquette, taking County Route 510 eventually leads you to a road known as Blind 35, a few miles of dirt and gravel that should have been M-35. Further west, driving the road from L'Anse to Skanee was once M-35 as well.
Truly Impassable? Not Likely
But what about those miles where M-35 should have run through the Huron Mountains. Was it really impassable, an engineering challenge the Michigan State Highway Department of the 1930s was unable to overcome?
Likely not. The story takes an odd turn thanks to Henry Ford and the private, exclusive Huron Mountain Club. The excellent MichiganHighways.com site picks up the story,
Ford owned large tracts of land in nearby Baraga County as well as in northern Marquette County. To help his cause—that of gaining membership in the Huron Mountain Club—Ford purchased additional acreage in Marquette County adjacent to the HMC holdings including land along the proposed route of M-35. Ford worked to stop construction of the highway through his holdings and, according to local author and historican Fred Rydholm, an Attorney General's opinion helped seal the fate of M-35 though the Huron Mountains. Further construction on the incomplete portion of the highway through the Hurons was halted and, within a decade, the entire route of M-35 from US-41/M-28 (between Negaunee and Marquette) to US-41 at L'Anse was removed from the state trunkline system.
Hmmm. So that's why you can't travel well around the Huron Mountains today. In a sad irony, after Ford gained access to the Huron Mountain Club and built a mansion there, his wife decided she didn't like it and the Fords left the club after two years.
Travelling Across the Huron Mountains Today
You can do it - but it's not easy. Dirt two-lane paths are your only option between Big Bay and Skanee. The explorers behind the site Naihed did it in 2012 and lucky for us took lots of pictures. Without named roads, the pair used topographic maps, a compass and intuition to get across the Huron Mountains. If you read the blog (and you really should) the pair did lots of exploring along the way accounting for nearly a week to make the less than 100 mile trip - quite a different experience than staying well to the south of the Huron Mountains and heading east-to-west on US 41.
Coming from the east, eventually you'll need to cross Big Erik's Bridge, the only way to get across the Huron River by car. Here's what that bridge and the surrounding wilderness looks like:
Sound like a Yooper trip-of-a-lifetime? It might be. Consider the Huron Mountain wilderness the most desolate location in the Upper Peninsula.