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From copper country to paddling paradiseFrom copper country to paddling paradise

Keweenaw Peninsula, MichiganKeweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

Once, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula supplied half the copper for the United States. Now, it’s a paddler’s paradise of quiet coves and moose-filled forests. Bring your favorite fly rod or play golf, tour an old mine, and savor a classic Cornish pasty.

  • Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is a kayaker’s paradise. Paddle around Copper Harbor for a day, or spend a week circling the entire peninsula via the Keweenaw Water Trail. Secluded expanses of rugged shoreline are interspersed with small towns that provide the option of a prepared meal and hot shower. The trail's wild areas provide the opportunity to observe unique wildlife or perhaps catch the evening meal with rod and reel. Photo courtesy Michigan Dept. of Parks & Recreation.
  • The Keweenaw is the northernmost portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior from the south. Houghton County Memorial Airport, shown in the upper center of this photo, lies just north of the Keweenaw Waterway that divides the Keweenaw from the rest of the Upper Peninsula. Originally this canal allowed freighters to haul Keweenaw copper out through Lake Superior to larger cities. Nowadays, kayakers use this waterway to complete a loop paddle around the Keweenaw. Seaplane landings are permitted on any open water around the islands off the peninsula. Photo by Doc Searles.
  • Copper and calcite from the Pewabic Lode. Just in time to help propel America into the Industrial Age, the Pewabic Copper Lode was identified in 1858, running the length of the Keweenaw Peninsula and out to Isle Royale, more than 40 miles northwest. By 1891, the Quincy Mining Company controlled the entire Pewabic Lode. Photo courtesy Seaman Mineral Museum, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan.
  • Today, you can tour the Quincy Mine, located in Hancock, five miles southwest of the airport. The mine closed in 1945 but is preserved as a cooperating site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. You’ll see the Number 2 shaft house, an engineering marvel constructed in 1908, as well as the largest steam-powered hoist ever built. Photo courtesy Quincy Mine Hoist Association.
  • A steep trip down the cog railway drops you off at a mine entrance for your guided underground tour of the Quincy Mine. Photo courtesy Quincy Mine Hoist Association.
  • From the Quincy Mine, head 10 miles northeast on Highway 41 to tiny Laurium, near Calumet Township. This 13,000-square-foot, 45-room mansion, now the Laurium Manor Inn, was built in 1908 for the owner of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company. Exquisite wall coverings and distinctive antiques abound here and in the adjoining Victorian Hall. Formal tours are offered, and the home is both on the National Register of Historic Places and a cooperating site in the Keweenaw National Historic Park. Photo by Deb via Flickr.
  • The Calumet Conglomerate was discovered soon after the Pewabic Lode. The Calumet & Hecla Mining Company assumed a crucial position within the U.S. economy, supplying half the country’s copper needs—some 30 million pounds through 1884—and spawning the town of Red Jacket (now Calumet). Shown here, the historic Calumet Theatre, like much of Calumet, is constructed of local Lake Superior redstone granite. Photo by Chad Johnson.
  • Keweenaw National Historic Park is a confederation of historic sites centered on the mining towns of the peninsula. Park headquarters are at the historic Calumet & Hecla Mining Company General Office Building. Photo by Andrew Jameson.
  • When newspaper magnate Horace Greeley uttered the now-famous words, 'Go West, young man!' he was referring to the Keweenaw Peninsula, then the undeveloped West. Greeley had a stake in one of the earliest mines, the Delaware, 20 miles north of Calumet. From mid-May through mid-October, you can explore this mine on a pet- and kid-friendly, self-guided tour. A pet skunk greets you in the office (no kidding), and then you’re off into the mine, which has been left as it was during its operating years, 1847 to 1887. Above ground, you’ll find antique steam engines and trains, miniature deer, and a pile of copper ore where you can dig for your own treasure. Photo by Jason Lome.
  • If you take 5 Mile Point Road toward Lake Superior, you’ll pass the North Woods Conservancy Merganser Pond, where you can look for these charismatic ducks, which often carry their young on their backs. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Is this the ocean? No—it’s Lake Superior, the big lake the Ojibwe (also called the Chippewa) called 'Gitche Gummee,' as first written in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 peom “Hiawatha” and later sung by Gordon Lightfoot in 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.' By any name, this lake holds 10 percent of the world’s fresh water and is so big it can develop ocean-like waves, a fact that must be considered by kayakers. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • From Memorial Day weekend to mid-October you can board a narrated boat tour to visit the Copper Harbor Lighthouse and get a historical overview of the region, the lighthouse, and the light keeper’s residence. Boats depart from the Copper Harbor Marina. Photo courtesy Michigan Dept. of Parks & Recreation.
  • At Copper Harbor you’ll find the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, a classic log-and-stone project built during the Great Depression, when mining unemployment stood at 70 percent. The superintendent of the Ahmeek Mine applied for funding under the newly created Civil Works Administration. Logs from the property were used to construct the lodge. Cabins were added a few years later, built by workers through the Works Progress Administration. Photo by Andrew Jameson.
  • Whether you choose to stay in the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge main building or one of the classic cabins, you’ll be able to relax in front of a cozy fireplace. Open Memorial Weekend to mid-October. Photo by Andrew Jameson.
  • In a tradition that dates back over 40 years, the wait staff of the Harbor Haus restaurant drops everything to come out and greet the 'Isle Royale Queen IV' with a dance whenever the ferry returns from Isle Royale National Park. Choose German favorites like wiener schnitzel and knackwurst, or go for fresh Lake Superior trout, grilled elk, or sautéed pork tenderloin, always accompanied by fresh homegrown herbs and vegetables. Photo by Joe Ross.

You’ll be flying to the northernmost part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior from the south. Houghton County Memorial Airport lies just north of the Keweenaw Waterway that divides the Keweenaw from the rest of the Upper Peninsula. Seaplane landings are permitted on any open water around the islands off the peninsula.

Seaplanes also may land at designated locations in Isle Royale National Park, 40 miles off the peninsula, when the park is open (April 16 to Oct. 31). Learn more about exploring this park, whether you arrive in your seaplane, in a commercial seaplane, or by ferry. The park visitor’s center in Houghton (on the south side of the Keweenaw Waterway) is open year-round. The visitor’s center is just a mile away from the world-renowned A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, with more than 30,000 gemstones, rocks, and fluorescent minerals—a rockhound’s paradise.

Toni’s Country Kitchen, a small bakery and café in Laurium, is known for the best Cornish pasties in the Upper Peninsula. Each authentic one-pound pasty is filled with ground chuck, rutabagas, potatoes, onions, and seasonings. Photo courtesy Toni’s Country Kitchen.

From the airport or Houghton, you’ll travel northeast up the Keweenaw Peninsula toward Copper Harbor, the northernmost part of the peninsula, 45 miles away. Tailor your journey to your interests; you can tour historic copper mines, explore tiny towns and their museums, or head to the wild Lake Superior coastline. See photos for more history and details on all activities.

Take a guided tour of the huge Quincy Mine in Hancock, between Houghton and the airport. In Laurium, near Calumet Township, you can stay at the luxurious, yet affordable, historic Laurium Manor Inn. Many area miners originally came from Cornwall, England, and Cornish pasties, a meal of meats and veggies wrapped in dough and baked, are a lunchtime mainstay of the area’s “Yooper” cuisine. No doubt, the best pasties are at Toni’s Country Kitchen in Laurium—I can’t visit this area without having at least one!

On a walk through downtown Calumet you’ll see a 9,392-pound single piece of float copper, an 1883 locomotive house, and the Coppertown Mining Museum. Catch a concert or play at the Calumet Theatre, established in 1900. Shop for everything copper at Copper World, housed inside an 1869 wood-framed building. Like the Quincy Mine, the entire city is a part of the Keweenaw National Historic Park, a confederation of historic sites centered on the mining towns of the peninsula. Park headquarters are at the historic Calumet and Hecla Mining Co. General Office Building. Hungry? Stop at the Michigan House Café and Brewpub for cedar-planked trout, accompanied by a pint of oatmeal coffee stout. Later, you can take a self-guided tour of the Delaware Mine or head to the coast.

Looking down the first fairway of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge golf course toward Mount Brockway, the highest point between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. Photo by Peter via Flickr.

If you choose the coast, at Ahmeek, take 5 Mile Point Road toward Lake Superior. You’ll pass the North Woods Conservancy Merganser Pond, home to ducks, eagles, and trumpeter swans. Then follow the road northeast along the shoreline to Eagle River, where fine dining, lovely wines, and sensational views are yours at Fitzgerald’s Restaurant. Continue northeast on Highway 26 (Sand Dunes Drive), which showcases sand dunes, bluffs, and a marsh. Built in 1871, the red brick Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is surrounded by four small nautical-themed museums: the Maritime Museum, Commercial Fishing Museum, Lifesaving Museum, and Eagle River Museum. Between Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor, you’ll pass several wildlife sanctuaries. Board a narrated boat tour to visit the Copper Harbor Lighthouse. At Fort Wilkins State Park, you can check out 21 restored buildings that date back as far as 1844. Fort Wilkins also offers camping, hiking, and fishing at Lake Fanny Hooe.

You can rent a mountain bike or kayak to explore Copper Harbor, or, join a guided single- or multi-day kayak trip. Expert paddlers can take six to eight days to kayak the 100-mile complete loop around the peninsula via the Keweenaw Water Trail, exploring remote rocky islands, Michigan’s wildest coastline, and the Keweenaw Waterway.

Copper Harbor provides plenty of lodging; choose a private cabin on the lake from Eagle Lodge and Lakeside Cabins, a 1950s-style motel room at the Minnetonka Resort, or the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and cabins, where you can also play golf. Dine on the water at the Harbor Haus Restaurant, watch another Lake Superior sunset, and toast your good fortune to have found such a magical place!

Seaplanes can access Isle Royale National Park at three locations, shown on the sectional, when the park is open (April 16 to Oct. 31). Here, an Isle Royale Seaplanes Cessna 206 departs from Tobin Harbor. Photo courtesy Isle Royale Seaplanes.

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Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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