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Keweenaw Peninsula.
Copper Island.
Keweenaw Snow Thermometer north of Mohawk, MI on US-41.

The Keweenaw Peninsula (pronounced /ˈkiːwənɔː/, roughly KEY-win-awe) is the northern-most part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It projects into Lake Superior and was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. Its major industries are now logging and tourism, as well as jobs related to Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University.

The northern end is sometimes referred to as Copper Island (or "Kuparisaari" by the Finnish immigrants), although this term is becoming less common.[1][2] It is separated from the rest of the peninsula by the Keweenaw Waterway, a natural waterway which was dredged and expanded in the 1860s[3] across the peninsula between the cities of Houghton (named for Douglass Houghton) on the south side and Hancock on the north.

A Keweenaw Water Trail has been established around Copper Island. The Water Trail stretches approximately 125 miles (200 km) and can be paddled in five to ten days, depending on weather and water conditions.

The Keweenaw Fault runs fairly lengthwise though both Keweenaw and neighboring Houghton counties. This ancient geological slip has given rise to some beautiful cliff scenes along US 41 and Brockway Mountain Drive north of Calumet.

US 41 terminates in the northern Keweenaw at the Michigan State Park housing Fort Wilkins. US 41 was the so-called "Military Trail" that started in Chicago in the 1900s and ended in the Keweenaw wilderness. The restored fort has numerous exhibits.



Cross-section of the Lake Superior basin showing the tilted strata of volcanic rock that form both the Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale

The oldest and largest lava flow known on Earth is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. This volcanic activity produced the only strata on Earth where large scale economically recoverable 97 percent pure native copper is found.

Much of the Native copper found in the Keweenaw comes in either the form of "Native" Copper, which has a lacy consistency, or "Float" Copper, which is found as a solid chunk. The Float copper was created from the glacial movements through the Great Lakes region compacting the naturally forming Native Copper into heavy nuggets. Some of these nuggets can be found in the size of weighing many tons. Copper Ore is then conglomerate stone which copper is laced though out, filling any voids that had once existed.

The Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale, formed by the Midcontinent Rift System, are the only sites in the country where prehistoric aboriginal mining of copper occurred. Artifacts made from this copper by these ancient Indians were traded as far south as present day Alabama.[4]


The Keweenaw's rich deposits of copper (and some silver) were extracted on an industrial scale beginning around the middle of the 19th century. The industry grew through the latter part of the century and employed thousands of people well into the 20th century. Hard rock mining in the region ceased in 1967 though copper sulfide deposits continued for some time after in Ontonogan. This vigorous industry created a need for educated mining professionals and directly led in 1885 to the founding of the Michigan Mining School (now Michigan Technological University) in Houghton. Although MTU discontinued its undergraduate mining engineering program in 2006, the university continues to offer engineering degrees in a variety of other disciplines.

Running concurrently with the mining boom in the Keweenaw was the white pine lumber boom. Trees were cut for timbers for mine shafts, to heat the communities around the large copper mines, and to help build a growing nation. Much of the logging at the time was done in winter due to the ease of operability with the snow. Due to the indiscriminant logging practices at that time, the forest of the Keweenaw looks much different today than 100 years ago.

For detailed information on the region's mineralogical history, see the virtual tour of the peninsula written by the Mineralogical Society of America, found in exterior links on this page. Information on the geological formations of the region are also detailed.

From 1964-1971, the University of Michigan cooperated with NASA and the U.S. Navy to run the Keweenaw Rocket launch site.


A partial list of towns in the Keweenaw Peninsula:

See also


  1. ^ Holmio, Armas K. E.; Ryynanen, Ellen M. (2001). History of the Finns in Michigan. Wayne State University Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780814329740.,M1. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  2. ^ An Interior Ellis Island: Ethnic Diversity and the Peopling of Michigan’s Copper Country, Keweenaw Ethnic Groups -- The Finns. MTU Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection, J. Robert Van Pelt Library, Michigan Technological University.
  3. ^ Exploring the North page on Houghton
  4. ^ Public Law 102-543 (Oct. 27, 1992); 106 STAT. 3569

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 47°15′N 88°20′W / 47.25°N 88.333°W / 47.25; -88.333


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Keweenaw Peninsula is part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, jutting out into Lake Superior. During the fall, the color of trees in the area is spectacular. There is a superb downhill ski resort on the east side of the peninsula.

  • Houghton-Hancock - twin cities and home to Michigan Tech University
  • Copper Harbor
  • Gay - Yes, the local tavern is called the Gay Bar. But no, it's not a gay bar.

Get around

Given the large distance between destinations and the lack of any mass transit, traveling by car is likely the best option. Cars can be rented at the Airport south of Calumet.

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Tamarac Inn, Copper Harbor, Keweenaw, Michigan

The service was so bad we didn’t even get the chance to try the food.

It was the 4th of July. My wife and I had been hiking the Keweenaw all day, and we were hungry. We drove into Copper Harbor, and stopped at the Tamarac Inn. We were greeted by a macabre assortment of poorly stuff animals used as decoration. We stopped at the sign that said “Please wait to be seated.” As we stood there, we observed several open tables, three servers who never made eye contact with us, and a man running the cash register. The man, seemed to be in charged, he was cashing out seven people, and indulging in idle chitchat with each.

The portly man behind the register was ungroomed, physically greasy, with filthy fingernails. I will refer to this man as Bubba hereon. I wondered what the cook staff was like. Really, who and what is touching the food in the back if this is the frontend service? Already repulsed, yet we continue to wait, and wait.

At least six minutes had gone by, standing at the wait sign. The persons paying were cleared out, and Bubba began walking away—totally ignoring us. I spoke up and asked “May we sit down?” Bubba replied “Are you in a hurry?” My wife said “Only to eat.” Bubba replied “Look, you’ve only been standing here like two minutes” at which point I cut him off saying “I’ve heard enough, I don’t wanna eat here.”

A synopsis of the Tamarac Inn of Copper Harbor, Michigan: Greasy, ungroomed, filthy staff who has no clue what customer service is.

We left the Tamarac Inn and went to the Pines Restaurant. We were immediately seated, given drinks and menus, the staff was efficient, clean, friendly, the food was served promptly, and was quite good for Copper Harbor. There is another really good restaurant in Copper Harbor, MI. Don’t eat at the Tamarac Inn. If the Tamarac cannot offer clean, competent, and good service, they don’t disserve customers.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Irish Times -- Laurium
    • Good Irish food! Not always an oxymoron:)
  • Fitzgerald Hotel and Inn -- Eagle River
    • I think this is a family-run place. They have a small bar, and the food was pretty good, the view was pretty nice too. Don't show up too late, or call ahead, because I think they sometimes close the kitchen early
  • Gay Bar -- Gay
    • You have to go to the Gay Bar! It is a hole-in-the-wall Snowmobiler type of place, but if you are out this way.
  • Carmelitas -- Calumet
    • I wasn't blown away, but if you crave Tex-Mex, this would be your place.
  • Pilgrim River Steakhouse -- Pilgrim River (just east of Houghton along 41)
    • Expensive, good place for celebrations or when your employer/ interviewer is paying
  • Library -- Houghton
    • My favorite place in Houghton: good food, good beer... what more is there?
  • Suomi -- Houghton
    • Good place for breakfast or lunch, some Finnish fare
  • Kaleva Cafe -- Hancock
    • More breakfast/lunch with a Finnish flavor
  • KBC -- Houghton
    • KBC is a brewery and doesn't serve food (besides peanuts), but a lot of places deliver here. The classic choice is Studio Pizza (though this can be pricey for pizza)

A more complete list is available: Keweenaw Restaurants

Get out

Houghton and Copper Harbor are two of the main gateways to Isle Royale National Park, providing ferry service to the wilderness preserve.

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