Tales of fabulous silver deposits have been around since the earliest days of exploration in the upper peninsula. Silver mixed but unalloyed with native copper, known as “free silver” has been brought out of the copper mines. The legends grew since most of the silver was smuggled out of the mines in the miners dinner pails.
One silver deposit did exist near the iron river just inland from Lake Superior. Bonanza Falls was named by Austin Corser in honor of his discovery of a rich pocket of silver ore in 1855. He kept this discovery secret for seventeen years because he couldn’t file a claim until a government land grant for a proposed railroad expired in 1872.
Once the discovery became public the “silver rush” was on including the establishment of the nearby town of Silver City. Early assays came in between $185. to $1,716. per ton. Unfortunately, the first silver ingot refined from the ore came out at $33. per ton. The upshot was that it would cost more to mine the silver than it was worth. The “silver rush” was over by 1876.
Then the lumber companies arrived. The Greenwood Lumber Company flourished for a while beginning in 1908 and the waterfall became known as Greenwood Falls. A forest fire wiped out most of the buildings in 1921 and now there are no buildings remaining, nature has reclaimed everything. In 1998 this spot was named a heritage site.