Keweenaw Peninsula

Keweenaw Peninsula aerial view"Michigan's Top of the World"

When I was planning my summer of 2011 RVing around Michigan, I was frequently advised not to miss the Keweenaw Peninsula.  I had been told about the Upper Peninsula being one of the most magical places in Michigan – and that Keweenaw was like the icing on that cake – a peninsula on a peninsula – the uppermost western tip of the U.P.

But actually the Keweenaw Peninsula is an island on its own, with the Portage Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock as the only connection to the rest of the U.P. (click map for larger image showing this).  Whatever the technicalities, peninsula or island, the Keweenaw Peninsula is fascinating and packs a whole lot to see in a relatively small area (150 miles long and 50 miles wide). 

Keweenaw-Island-Bridge- click for larger image

While in Keweenaw, I stayed at McLain State Park, whose introduction further whet my appetite:

"Surrounded by the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula is a land of dramatic constrasts. Here, the crumbling ruins of a once vast copper mining empire stands alongside clear running streams and forests of maple and pine."

I loved my temporary home at McLain so much, I was tempted to just stay and enjoy Lake Superior, but these nearby attractions compelled me to visit.  (I'm working on the following individual pages now for Michigan Miles):

Fort Wilkins - canon & buildings

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park Originally built as an army post in 1884 to keep the peace in Copper Country, it is a well preserved example of mid 19th century army life with 21 historic buildings, costumed interpreters and audio-visual programs.  It gives a good glimpse of living conditions, the daily routine and the experiences of the soldiers and their families who were stationed here.  I wll also be doing pages on the Fort Wilkins Modern Campground – East and West sections as well.

 

Quincy Copper Mine - #2 Hoist House

Quincy Copper Mine – Since this is the land that once proclaimed "copper is king" – and I love historical sites and a chance to see how industry affected the lives of the workers who brought it to us – I wasn't about to miss this tour.  This building (No. 2 Hoist House) houses the world's largest steam hoist.  Via the Midwest's only cog-rail tram, you are transported to a 2,400' underground section of the historic mine shaft and see how the mine workers got to their dark and dangerous jobs.

 

Downtown Calumet

 

Calumet – Besides visting the Calumet Unit of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, I enjoyed wandering around the streets, checking out the cute little shops, and especially taking breaks at Shute's Saloon and the Michigan House Cafe & Red Jacket Brewing Company for rejuvenation purposes.

 

Calumet Theater

 

Calumet Theater – When it opened in March, 1900, it was hailed as "the greatest social event ever known in copperdom's metropolis."  Many world famous artists and actors have graced its magnificent stage, and patrons still enjoy the elegant interior decorations,

 

 

Laurium Manor Inn

Laurium Manor Inn – At 13,000 square feet, here's the largest mansion in the western U.P.  This opulent, 45 room colonial mansion was built for a copper mining baron in 1908.  Now it offers 10 guest rooms combining the best of a B&B and hotel – a quiet historic village, friendly faces, secluded private rooms and fresh bakery smells to awaken to in the morning. Self guided tours for non-guests are available from 11 am – 5 pm.

 

Brockway Mt Drive LookoutBrockway Mountain Drive (Copper Harbor) – This 9-1/2 mile drive is the highest above sea-level drive between the Rockes & the Alleghenies and gives you bird's-eye views of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw. Speaking of birds, the biggest wildlife attraction here is the annual migration of birds of prey. There are lots of vantage points to go ga-ga over on the way to the top, and intriquing looking little trails with names like "On The Edge" and "The Flow" that are on my list to explore next time.

Eagle River - WindsurferLake Medora - Copper Harbor

 

Going through Eagle River and Copper Harbor are nice little previews of things to come.

 

 

The Keweenaw Peninsula is not just a Michigan treasure, it is also home to two National Parks – Isle Royale National Park and the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

I regret I never had time to make it over to Isle Royale –  it's only accessible via a boat ride 50 miles from the tip of the Peninsula – but its description as being a "pristine remote wilderness island" puts it on my list for my next trip.  I was further convinced by Sam, who was working at the Michigan House Cafe & Brew Pub in Calumet.  Sam's dad, Vick Foerster, wrote a book about Isle Royale, “Naked in the Stream.”  Sam quoting his dad:  “One main difference between downstate and UP is Isle Royale – being there is a 'life changing experience – it’s the next step.'"

Other things I missed:  Keweenaw has more than 20 ghost towns and historic town sites and many historic cemeteries.  Since I've always found those extremely interesting, they go on my "must-see" list for next trip.

Keweenaw Peninsula snow measure

Another site I missed was this snow measurement for Keweenaw County.  This shot came from Great Lakes Dauntless.com (Jan. 22, 2013).  My friend, Donna (I met her and  husband Richard at McLain State Park), says, "This is how we measure snow in the U.P."  Don't think this southern gal will be visiting here when that gauge is covered!

Sign:  New Snowfall Record 390.4 Inches

During the winter of 1978-79, Keweenaw County established a new snowfall record by tabulating a seasonal total of 390.4 inches of snow.  This could be a new record set in the U.S.A. for the entire area east of the Rockies.  The monthly tabulations for the winter of 1978-89 are as follows:  Nov. 49.2 inches, Dec. 116.4 inches, Jan. 111.4 inches, Feb. 53.0 inches, Mar. 52.6 inches, Apr. 7.8 inches. ≈ Keweenaw County Road Commission

Links About Keweenaw Peninsula:

Michigan Miles Pages:

Keweenaw Peninsula
McLain State Park
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park (my page to come)
Quincy Mine (my page to come)
Brockway Mountain Drive (my page to come)
Calumet (my page to come)
Calumet Theatre (my page to come)
Laurium Manor Inn (my page to come)
 

Other Area Information:

Keweenaw National Historic Park
Keweenaw: Michigan's Top of the World
Keweenaw Peninsula (Hunt's Guide)
Isle Royale National Park
Web Cams:  (real-time pictures)
  Calumet
  Copper Harbor
  Eagle Harbor
  Portage Canal Lift Bridge (Houghton-Hancock)

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I'd love to hear your own experiences about places I've been - and what you think are "must-sees" - and I really value any suggestions and feedback from readers, so please let me have your 2 cents in Comments below: