Escanaba developed as an iron shipping port in 1863 when railroad men constructed the first dock in this natural deepwater harbor on Little Bay de Noc. From this dock, ore from the Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic iron ranges was shipped to steel centers on the lower lakes more quickly and cheaply than it could be shipped from Marquette. Pine and hardwood products and paper have augmented the economy. Escanaba incorporated as a village in 1866 and as a city in 1883. Today NewPage Corporation's paper mill is the area's major employer.
From December to April, ice fishermen in search of perch, walleye, and northern pike haul between fifteen hundred and two thousand shanties on skids onto the ice of Little Bay de Noc and turn the bay into an ice shanty city. All winter long, men and women of the Escanaba area retreat to their shanties made cozy with wood-burning and gas stoves. A road across the ice from Gladstone to Stonington cuts twenty miles off the automobile trip to the point.
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