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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Skibo Mill Site
Historic Saint Louis River Mill Site
Hoyt Lakes, MN

Skibo Mill Site

• Structure Type: Lumber Mill And Dam (Ruins)
• Location: River Mile 187.1
• River Elevation: 1652 Feet Upstream, 1646 Feet Downstream
• Date Built: ???
The Skibo Mill site is the location of a sawmill that operated during the early part of the 20th Century. The location was picked because the Saint Louis River is choked with boulders for a twenty mile stretch southeast of Hoyt Lakes. This location was the southernmost spot that logs could be floated downriver from the headwaters area. Logs would be hauled to the river and to Seven Beaver Lake by ox team over winter roads and set on the ice. When the ice melted, the logs would float down to the Skibo Mill. They would be stored in the mill pond as the saw crew cut through this inventory of logs.

At this time, I know very little about the Skibo Mill. It apparently was built and owned by the Oliver Company, which was a pioneer in mining on the Iron Range. The first railroad route to the iron range, the Duluth & Iron Range, serviced their mines, crossing the Saint Louis River five miles downstream at Skibo. The station at Skibo was named after Skibo Castle, the Scottish summer home of Andrew Carnegie. The D&IR built a spur from Skibo to the mill site. This railroad spur was abandoned after the mill closed. It is now a gravel road that leads to the boat landing just above the dam ruins.

When I first visited this site, I did not know what I was looking at, but I did realize that this was an old dam of some type. After doing a bit of research, I have learned that there might be additional ruins of the sawmill in the woods and of the log elevator just upstream. As a result, I made a second visit to the site in autumn of the same year.

The photo above is the upriver side of the mill dam at the Skibo Mill site. This mid-summer view is from the boat landing located where the mill elevator once pulled logs from the river. The mill dam remains are overgrown with trees and brush, and the dam itself is breached.

Skibo Mill Site
The photo above is an autumn view looking west towards the upstream side of the mill dam. This is a similar view to the photo at the top of the page, but taken from 200 feet further upstream. With the brush having lost its leaves in the fall, it was possible to make my way to the downstream side of the dam. The photo below is looking south across the main river channel. The pile of rocks in the middle of the channel likely was once a rock crib that supported two wooden gates that blocked the river.

Skibo Mill Site
Skibo Mill Site
The photo above appears to be the remains of a wooden gate on the north side of the river. The mound on the right side of the photo appears to be a rock crib that is still intact. The photo below is a pile of railroad ties that are almost fully overgrown. This was my first hint that more remains of the mill might still exist.

Skibo Mill Site
Skibo Mill Site
The photo above is a round rock wall that has a clump of white birch trees growing out of the center. This is the remains of the foundation that once supported a tall silo used to store sawdust. The photo below is a large rectangular structure that is made up of rocks and concrete on the outside, and brick on the inside. This appears to have been the firebox for the boiler that powered the sawmill.

Skibo Mill Site
Skibo Mill Site
The photo above is the remains of a conical metal tube. It is about two feet tall and about 10 inches across at the top. I am not sure if this is an upside down bucket where the bottom rusted off, or if it was a support for something. It seems to be firmly anchored into the ground. The photo below is a rusty shovel.

Skibo Mill Site
Skibo Mill Site
These two photos are views looking upstream at the former dam pool. The photo above is a summer view, the photo below is from the autumn. This area is noted for its wild rice, the light green stuff that looks like grass in the photo above. In the photo below, the remnants of the rice crop is visible on both sides of the river.

Skibo Mill Site
Skibo Mill Site
The Saint Louis River drops 40 feet in the mile downstream of the Skibo Mill dam. This often leaves the river flowing through rocky stretches where the river is hardly even visible. The photo above is looking upstream from a location 500 feet downstream of the dam. The photo below is a closer view looking across the river channel. There are a number of places where it is not possible to canoe through these rock piles, requiring canoeists to portage.

Skibo Mill Site
Skibo Mill Site
These two photos are looking downstream from the same vantage point. Not only is the river strewn with rocks, but it is also choked with weeds. This is another lengthy spot that forces canoeists to portage.

Skibo Mill Site

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