There’s a ghost town sitting on top of Michigan’s longest cave. A short trek over rocky terrain will reward hikers with access to the secluded site of the Fiborn Quarry ruins, now known as Fiborn Karst Preserve.
All About Fiborn Quarry
The ruins of a once-thriving limestone quarry and town can be found in the woods close to Trout Lake Township in Mackinac County. This area is not frequently visited because of its remote location in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which prevents the remaining structures from completely deteriorating.
From 1905 to 1936, these 480 acres supplied high-calcium limestone to Algoma Steel in Ontario’s Sault Ste Marie. The quarry mined, crushed, and shipped this unusually pure limestone that was used mostly in steelmaking but also in calcium carbide manufacturing and road-building.
A small town grew up next to the quarry, which included an elementary school, a boarding house, a company store, and housing for employees and their families. During the 1930 census, 15 families lived in homes in the small town while six individuals rented rooms at the boarding house.
NOTE: The foundations of these homes can still be seen amongst the ruins of the ghost town.
The village was abandoned when the quarry permanently closed in January 1936. The final resident was the quarry’s last superintendent, Lynn Brockway, who left in the mid-1940s. Its ruins were purchased by the Michigan Karst Conservancy in 1987.
Fiborn Karst Preserve
This abandoned ghost town is managed by the MKC and is still accessible to the general public as long as the posted rules designed to prevent vandalism, damage to natural features, and unsupervised, dangerous cave explorations are followed.
Water from streams and swamps west and south of the preserve dissolved limestone along bedding planes and joints in the escarpment as it drained underground toward Hendrie River to the east and north, resulting in features like caves, sinks, and springs.
MKC volunteers meet monthly between May and October to complete upkeep and management tasks like cleaning graffiti from the quarry railroad house, fixing or putting up signs, and mowing and clearing trails.
Finding the Quarry
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll likely drive right by the quarry.
Head approximately 5 miles west on Trout Lake Rd from M-123. You’ll cross a small creek and take the turn-off for an unmarked road to the north — this is Fiborn Quarry Rd. Follow this road until you come to a parking area.
“This was a really cool find! You’ll come to a sign and a gate, you can park at the gate and walk in. There is a trail that circles the quarry or you can go your own way. Definitely would not recommend for anyone with a handicap or difficulty walking rough terrain (lots of rocks).”Michelle Lutke, Google review
Exploring the Preserve
The parking area is where the journey to the quarry begins. You’ll enjoy a scenic quarter-mile to half-mile hike along a two-track before you see the first of the ruins.
- The large structure that will be on your left was once used to store railroad cars.
- The structure on the opposite side of the two-track was where ore was loaded on freight cars to be shipped from the quarry.
- What’s left of the powerhouse stands behind the ore-car loading building.
“Had a blast exploring this place (pun intended). Highly recommend. Definitely park on the north side and read the literature. Be sure to hike the west rim and the quarry.”Bess Hudson
Visitors can learn about the geology and history of the region on two self-guided trails. A short loop known as the Dr. Rane L. Curl Sinkhole Trail passes by numerous shallow sinkholes and a creek that disappears underground.
The quarry’s edge is traversed by the 1.5-mile Barbara Ann Patrie Memorial Trail, which also passes Fiborn Pond and second-growth forest. The average hiker can complete this loop in under 30 minutes, and while it’s a fairly easy trek, you might be the only one on the trail.
Please Note: Personal assistance mobility aids — like walkers, manual or motorized wheelchairs, power scooters, golf carts, off-road or all-terrain vehicles, etc. — are not appropriate for these trails. Such equipment may cause damage through soil erosion, trail widening, and plant and root damage and is, therefore, not permitted on MKC trails.
Hendrie River Water Cave
Hendrie River Water Cave, Michigan’s longest known cave is 620 meters long (2,034 feet) with about 1,500 feet of mostly high, narrow passage and a stream running along the floor, and it’s a significant feature of the preserve. HRWC appears to be a relatively “new” cave in Michigan, having been carved out after the last glaciers in the region melted.
The cave “ends” and the stream stumps in a circular passageway known as the Goop Loop. About 1 mile away, the stream resurges in a spring. After significant rains, the cave’s lower passages are vulnerable to flooding.
The Northern Long-eared Bat and Little Brown Bat both use the cave for swarming and hibernation. Hendrie River Water Cave is always closed to visitors from the middle of October to the middle of May to prevent disturbing the Northern Long-eared Bat.
Note: The Hendrie River Water Cave can be explored with written permission. If you are interested in visiting, please obtain, sign, and return a Fiborn Karst Preserve Use Permit form and the White Nose Syndrome addendum by contacting Martina Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-666-1683.
More to Explore Near Fiborn Quarry
Even with its remote location just northwest of Mackinac Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there is plenty of exploring to be done in this area.
See Benny the Beard Fisher Troll in Germfask
Benny the Beard Fisher Troll is a 15-foot-tall wooden sculpture located at Northland Outfitters in Germfask. It was created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo and is one of his 115+ wooden trolls around the world. Visitors can see the troll for a small fee per vehicle.
Explore Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Seney National Wildlife Refuge is a 95,212-acre wetland near Germfask in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It protects diverse habitats that support a wide variety of wildlife, including marshes, forests, meadows, and a 25,000-acre Wilderness Area.
Chase Waterfalls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a popular tourist destination in Michigan, attracting visitors year-round. The park’s main attraction is the Tahquamenon River, which flows through the park and features two waterfalls — the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls.
The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, measuring approximately 200 feet wide with a drop of nearly 50 feet. The Lower Falls is a series of smaller waterfalls and rapids that are equally impressive.
Take a Drive Down the M-123 Tahquamenon Scenic Byway
M-123 Tahquamenon Scenic Byway is a 63-mile scenic drive in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that offers breathtaking views of forests, rivers, trails, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Spend a Day in the Les Cheneaux Islands
The Les Cheneaux Islands are a group of 36 islands located in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. The islands are known for their natural beauty, crystal-clear waters, and rich history. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, and exploring the islands’ charming towns, museums, and cultural attractions.
Discover the Fiborn Quarry Karst Preserve
The Fiborn Karst Preserve and its historic quarry is a fantastic place to explore during a Michigan day trip in the Upper Peninsula. And, you can make a weeklong getaway out of all the other things to do nearby. Start planning your next trip now!