Threading together the story of copper mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula over thousands of years, the Keweenaw National Historical Park is a collection of recreational space and heritage sites that pay homage to the industry that defined the region.
Visitors who want to experience the breathtaking natural beauty of the area while also learning more about its incredible past will find that this park is a must-visit for their Upper Peninsula itineraries.
Bringing Keweenaw’s Copper History to Life
The Keweenaw National Historical Park is not a contiguous natural recreation area or a space with a collection of preserved buildings. Rather, it’s a cooperative effort between the National Parks Service and local organizations and nonprofits to safeguard the history of the copper mining industry in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
The park consists of more than 20 heritage sites, all of which include different experiences and activities for visitors to enjoy. You can visit the park by simply stopping by one of the heritage sites, or you can create a guided tour that includes multiple locations.
No matter how you choose to experience this historical park, you are sure to be impacted by the perseverance and fortitude of the local people who called this region home for thousands of years.
Mining the copper that could be found below the surface allowed them to propel the Keweenaw Peninsula forward, but it was not an easy task. This park is cared for in a way that shares its stories with the people of the present so that their histories are preserved for the future.
Visiting the Keweenaw National Historical Park
This historical park stretches across the peninsula and includes more than 20 heritage sites, allowing you to explore the vast expanses of the peninsula within the confines of one perfectly preserved park.
Step Back in Time at the Museums & Heritage Centers
With numerous sites and centers to explore, you may be unable to get to all of the park’s highlights in one trip. Below are a few of the most popular museums and heritage centers in the park.
Calumet Visitor Center
The Calumet Visitor Center is the perfect place to begin your historical park adventure. Featuring two floors of interactive exhibits, this center gives you an overview of the history of copper mining in the region. Primarily open from June until October, it has limited operating hours from early March to late May.
A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum
With both indoor and outdoor exhibits, visitors can see two of the best mineral collections in the state. During the summer, you can visit the Copper Pavilion, which is located outside and is home to the 19-ton Lake Copper.
Coppertown Mining Museum
To explore what the world of commercial mining was like in the UP, a trip to the Coppertown Mining Museum is in order. This museum is located in Calumet in the former Calumet & Hecla, featuring exhibits about the former copper mining giant’s operations.
Hanka Homestead Museum
Located on the original site of the Hanka Homestead, this Finnish museum in Askel allows visitors to experience what life was like on the homestead at the turn of the 20th century.
Copper Range Historical Museum
Known for its vast collection of artifacts, the Copper Range Historical Museum is a heritage site that showcases the personal and professional lives of the people of Houghton during the peak of the copper mining era. It is located in South Range Michigan.
Old Victoria is a collection of four preserved log cabins that allow visitors to experience first-hand what life was like in the early copper days when settlers were first arriving.
Go Beneath the Surface to Explore the Local Mines
As the world passed by above ground, there was an entire city teeming with life beneath the rocky surface of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Today, visitors to the Keweenaw National Historical Park can embark on underground adventures down into the mines.
Adventure Mining Company
One of the most popular excursions is the guided tour offered by the Adventure Mining Company. The company offers guided tours that give you a glimpse into what it was like to be a miner during the 19th century.
Each person is fitted with a hard hat and a single light, and there is no other light on the tour. It’s an immersive experience that stimulates the senses and gives you a better idea of what mining truly was.
Tours can last from one to six hours depending on the adventure that you choose. It’s important to select an experience that suits the ages of your travel party, as well as your skill and comfort level.
Delaware & Quincy Mine Tours
In addition, there are opportunities to visit the Delaware Mine and the Quincy Mine. Each offers a distinct experience and educational information about what mining operations were like at that location.
Visit the Most Iconic Lighthouses in Copper Country
As the miners worked below the surface to harvest copper, the lighthouses of the peninsula soared above the skyline to ensure that mariners could travel safely along the rough waters of Lake Superior. Lighthouses that you can visit as part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park include:
- Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in Eagle Harbor
- Copper Harbor Lighthouse inside Fort Wilkins Historic State Park
- Ontonagon Lighthouse in Ontonagon
Hike Your Way Through History Along Local Trails
Any hiking trail in Michigan will wind you through peaceful forested areas and along sparkling lakefront shorelines, but few will give you a tour through history like the ones located across the Keweenaw Peninsula.
For example, you can embark on a hike along the former rail grades of the infamous Quincy Mine. As you walk along these rail trails, you will pass by the ruins of the former mining operations, including iconic sites like the Roundhouse.
Another option to consider is the hiking trails that are found at the Central Mine. Two short, paved trails are located near the mine, allowing you to walk through the woods and discover the ruins of the mining operation. Along the way, you can see the former schoolhouse and the ruins of several houses where local miners and their families lived.
Things to Know Before You Go
Before you plan your visit to the Keweenaw National Historical Park, here are a few things you should be aware of:
- The park, as well as most of its heritage sites, are open seasonally. Opening dates and hours vary from one site to another, but most open for the summer season in early May and close by the end of October.
- Admission is free. Despite the park being operated by the NPS, entrance passes are not required. This is one of the most affordable attractions to enjoy in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
- You may want to download a brochure to create an itinerary that works for your personal travel goals. Self-guided walking tour brochures are available on the park’s website.
FAQs About the Keweenaw National Historical Park
Where is the Keweenaw National Historical Park headquarters?
The Keweenaw National Historical Park headquarters is located in Calumet, inside the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company General Offices.
The building was constructed in 1887 and is well known for its mosaic-style stone exterior. It’s the ideal setting for park operations because it showcases the intricate beauty of the local history and the importance of preserving the past.
When was the Keweenaw National Historical Park established?
The Keweenaw National Historical Park was first established in 1992 in hopes of preserving the story of the copper mining industry on the peninsula for generations to come.
How many days should you spend at the Keweenaw National Historical Park?
Most visitors spend anywhere from a half-day to two full days exploring the heritage sites at the Keweenaw National Historical Park.
While it’s possible to do a day trip that gives you a feel for the region, you could spend weeks exploring every corner of the park and all of its heritage sites.
Ultimately, you will want to create an itinerary that includes your must-see sites and accommodates the time frame that you have available.
Is copper still mined in Michigan’s Keweenaw Michigan?
Commercial mining operations were shut down in 1969 on the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Combine History & Adventure on Your Next UP Getaway
The Keweenaw National Historical Park is one of the state’s most engaging attractions, providing visitors an opportunity to walk through history while learning more about the future.
And when you have made it as far north as the Keweenaw Peninsula, it’s time to sit back and savor the culture of the region.