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The story behind Duluth’s only volcano


Karl Kakuk examines the “ice volcano” on Orange Street in Duluth. The ice structure is created by a spurting fire hydrant the city runs all winter to keep the supply line from freezing and breaking.

Behind the hustle and buss of the Central Entrance business sector, tucked away in the woods, spurts a mound of ice and snow so monstrous it towers over any truck or possible Abominable Snowman that drives by.

Those who find it by word of mouth or stumble upon it while driving along Orange Street call this giant ice structure the ???ice geyser,??? or more commonly, the “ice volcano,” because water is constantly spraying out of its core.

The city of Duluth lets the fire hydrant on Orange Street spray water during the freezing months of the year to keep the hydrant’s supply pipe from freezing. This water line dead ends on Orange Street and rests far above the frost line due to impeding bedrock, making it especially vulnerable to freezing. But, as long as the pipe???s water is moving, it won???t freeze.

???It???s the same strategy we use with an individual house,??? Duluth???s chief engineer of utilities??Eric Shaffer??said. ???This year we had over a thousand houses running their water to keep the service (lines) from freezing because it was a colder than average winter.???

Spring Thaw graphicBunter Knowles, the owner of the property the volcano sits on, looks forward to the volcano every winter.

“It’s a treat to look at,” said Bunter Knowles, the owner of the property the volcano sits on.??Before he planted trees in his front yard, he was able to watch it grow and melt from his window across the street from the volcano.

And he???s not the only one who enjoys the view. Since he moved to Orange Street in 1988, Knowles said visitors continue to stop by every day, mesmerized by the volcano???s enormity and puzzled by its peculiarity.

???People ask, ???How many hours a day do you have to stand out here with your hose to get that??????? Knowles said and chuckled.

Along with the hose theory, popular speculations visitors think up include a geyser-like natural spring, a nasty break in the water line, or an obscure ice sculpture.

And sometimes, Knowles likes to keep them guessing. When kids ask him what it is, he says it???s an ???ice princess palace.???

But, he warns visitors to stay away from the ???princess??? and to not climb on the ice palace because of its weak infrastructure.

???It???s beautiful to look at, but stay away,??? he said.

He estimated the volcano can get up to 30 feet high, but the size is deceiving. The walls are thin and the inside is hollow, making it dangerous to climb.

Its size is also deceiving to Knowles and his friends who place bets on what day the volcano will officially melt every year. Once it lasted halfway through June.

This year, Knowles has his eye set on May 20.

When do you think the volcano will melt?