Our name comes from a beautiful river that snakes southeasterly from western Marquette County right into Lake Superior. The Dead River historically gets its name from the Ojibwe Gaa-waakwimiigong-neyaashi-ziibi, meaning “Peninsula by the Roads to the Land of the Dead River” or Ne-waakwimiinaang, meaning “by the Peninsula to the Land of the Dead”. Both names reference the mouth of the river near Presque Isle Point along the Lake Superior shoreline.
The river’s name is also recorded in French as Rivière des Morts , “Deadman’s River”.
In 2003 there were five dams along the Dead River: Silver Lake Dam, Hoist Dam, McClure Dam, Forestville Dam, and Tourist Park Dam. On May 14, 2003, the fuse plug spillway in the Silver Lake Dam failed, releasing nine billion gallons of water down the Dead River. The rush of water forced the Tourist Park Dam to fail as well, while the others upstream held. Remarkably no lives were lost, however property damage was estimated at about $100 million.
The Silver Lake and Tourist Park dams have since been rebuilt and are operating to this day.