Twice a Year the Sun Rises Through the Center of the Historic Marquette Ore Dock

Twice a year brings the opportunty to watch the sunrise directly through the center of the historic Lower Harbor Ore Dock in Marquette. Of course, for the spectacular colors we hope to see, we’ll need to cross our fingers for a day free of overcast. At minimum, just a sliver of open sky between the morning clouds on the horizon.

As some locals like to call it, Orehenge.

The two occurances are just two months apart, approximately on November 21 and January 20, happening 30 days on either side of Winter Solstice. Each provides a window of opportuniy with a day or two on either side while hoping for the right amount of cloud cover or clear skies. It does require a good amount of luck. Up until today, the sun had not been visible during the eleen previous sunrises.

While looking in the direction of the Ore Dock the sun will rise from the left corner of the Ore Dock passing through the center to the top-right corner. Look for the sun to break the hoirzon about 8:26AM and be centered in the Ore Dock a few minutes later. We recommend being there at about 8AM, as some of the most brilliant colors of a sunrise often appear before the sun breaks the horizon.

Marquette Ore Dock Sunrise

Marquette Ore Dock Sunrise, Jan 21, 2015

Exactly where is the sun rising from?

The Ore Dock sits on an azimuth angle of 120° (approximately east-southeast). When looking through the center of the Ore Dock, the land you see at the horizon is 7.4 miles away. The land you’re seeing is directly across from Kawbawgam Road, just before the first roadside park (Am I right that some people call this Squeaky Beach?) on M-28 Highway M-28.

Ore Dock Sunrise Direction

As it turns out I really, really enjoy taking photos of the sunrise and sunset. But can you blame anyone for that when living in the Upper Peninsula? Some would say it’s just a cliche.

“The biggest cliche in photography is sunrise and sunset.” – Catherine Opie

To Catherine’s point, yes, there are a lot of photos of sunrises and sunsets in the world. After all it happens every day. However cliche it may be, I have never taken the time to watch a sunrise or sunset and thought, “Darn, I really wish I hadn’t done that.”

For seven years running my New Year’s tradition has been road tripping to see the first sunrise of the new year somewhere along the Great Lakes. It’s a refreshing way to start the year and love the way the brutal cold can wake up the soul. Case in point.

There’s a guy named Robert who I relate to a little more than Catherine.

“We need to be reminded sometimes that a sunrise last but a few minutes. But its beauty can burn in our hearts eternally.” ― Robert A. Salvatore

In the last couple weeks Yooper Steez has received a number of questions about timing and framing perfectly in the center of Marquette’s historic ore dock, as seen above. It’s a good opportunity to share a couple of our favorite photography tools.

The sunrise on January 21st had been anticipated for a couple months, after narrowly missing the previous opportunity. Twice a year, in November and January, the sunrises in just the right position in the sky to rise directly down the center of the ore dock.

Marquette Ore Dock

Are you chasing the sun? There are some useful websites and and apps that will help you find exactly when and where the sun will be along the horizon. Some apps will even tell you the length of shadows, duration of golden hour, and time of the moonrise.

In 2014, I recall thinking, “Wouldn’t it be neat if the sun rose through the middle of the ore dock?” Admittedly, I catch a lot more sunsets than I do sunrises, but that was about to change.

My first find was a quick solution on the web called I had found my solution and just needed to wait a few months to catch the magic.

Ore Dock Sunrise Direction

As Winter Solstice approahced I was forced to miss the November occurance with out of town obligations. I’d have to wait two more months for another chance in January. The first three mornings of the January 2015 occurance were completely overcast, with not so much as a glimmer of light. But that Wednesday and Thursday were worth every minute of the numbing fingers I endured on some especially cold mornings.

Looking for a mobile solution? My go-to app is The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Another suggestion is PhotoPills (thanks Steve Farr!). Another iPhone App suggestion is Sun Seeker (thanks Aaron Peterson!). All three are available for $9.99 on their respective app stores, each showing exactly where the sun is rising and setting, the moonrise, the lengths of shadows, and much more.

I hope this provides a little inspiration to step outside early on these cold mornings. Share your photos with us by using #906Life.

Oh, and you can expect to see many more sunrise photos in the future. But sometimes its best to forget the camera and take in the present moment.

Happy exploring and I’ll see you out there.



Marquette Sunrise

P.S. I have always wondered what that thing is down there that looks vaguely like a hockey net. Does anyone know?