Duluth’s Skyline Parkway offers tourists a chance to see a truly spectacular city. As beautiful as it is during the daylight hours, the evenings are considered the best time to view. The city lights of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI, the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, Lake Superior and its South Shore create a glittery, twinkling canvas to enjoy. Your visit to Duluth won’t be complete unless you decide to drive “The Boulevard”.
As far as landmarks go, natural or structural, Skyline Parkway has the distinct honor of being the oldest. It began as an idea in the mind of William K. Rogers, who became the first president of the Duluth Park Board. He saw the beauty and scenic vistas from high above Duluth, and had a plan for a roadway. When Glacial Lake Duluth crossed over this region, it left behind a natural, level grade along the hillside. Between 450 and 600 feet above lake level, it was perfect for a roadway and parks. Rogers knew it would take a lot of manpower and money to cut a roadway.
The project began in 1889, and a fully functional five mile stretch was completed in two years. What a grand boulevard it was! It was initially called Terrace Parkway, later to become Rogers Parkway. Sadly, monies and the passion for continuation of the boulevard ran out. William Rogers passed away shortly thereafter, and all was forgotten for quite some time.
Enter Samuel Frisbee Snively, who began a law firm in Duluth in the late 1890’s. He dabbled in real estate and surveying, and decided to run for mayor in 1921. He won, and held the office until 1937, the longest running mayor in Duluth’s history. The boulevard and the many parks along the way held a fascination for him; so he made the parkway one of his major projects. With much of his own money, donations from businessmen and state money, the 25 mile roadway was completed in 1929. Snively even paid laborers out of his own pocket at times, and would give them food and wood to burn.
As the popularity of the scenic drive soared, a new name was sought. Skyline Parkway was chosen by having a Duluth Newspaper naming contest. Events called “Talley-Ho’s” were a wonderful way to see the sights. People would dress in their finest and ride along in a caravan with horses and carriages.
Skyline Parkway – An Amazing Drive
The eastern section is called Seven Bridges Road, and begins a block east of 60th Avenue East and Superior Street at Lester Park. The bridges are all made of native rock by the Morrel and Nichols architectural firm. The road winds above Amity Creek, the reason the bridges were constructed. Samuel Snively extended a portion of the road to reach his 400 acre farm in the Amity Valley.
As you drive along this romantic and peaceful roadway, you will see many parks and rest stops, perfect for photos and picnic lunches. Enger Park and Tower, Chester Creek Park and Lester Park are the most visited. Towards the western edge of the parkway, there is the Thompson Hill Travel Information Center, just above I-35 on your right as you enter Duluth from the Twin Cities. This is another view that you need to see for yourself. Inside the facility, they will answer all of your tourism questions, but is not open in the winter.
Skyline Parkway is also easily accessible as you drive along I-35 from the south. Take the Boundary Avenue exit and turn right. The western end of the parkway goes past the Spirit Mountain Rec Area and continues as a gravel road until you reach Becks Road. That is the western terminus. The boulevard once extended five more miles, but there were many washouts and bridge repairs that the city of Duluth couldn’t afford.
Enjoy the drive and the views along the amazing Skyline Parkway. Be sure to take a few hours to take in all the sights. It would also be a great idea to pack a picnic lunch to feast on at one of the many parks. This is one of the Duluth Attractions you won’t soon forget!