Whether traveler or Keweenaw resident, don't miss a tour of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse. This single tour encompasses a total lighthouse experience, including a ride in a boat similar to an early 20th century lighthouse launch. Because lighthouses are built in treacherous waters, it took a versatile boat to ferry supplies to lightkeepers and their families. Our navy motorwhale combines shallow draft, maneuverability, and the capacity to run in heavy seas. The time-proven "double-ender" hull design and dimensions of our launch are identical to the early wooden boats of the United States Lighthouse Service which tended to the needs of the lightkeepers of the Keweenaw Peninsula. You will arrive at Hayes Point just as the lightkeepers did over 150 years before you.
On the 15 minute boat ride from the marina to the lighthouse you will be given a brief history of Copper Harbor. You will see the navigational range lights just as boats entering these naturally protected waters have seen them since 1868, guiding mariners safely through the reefs which guard the harbor entrance.
Once ashore, you will be orientated to the lighthouse complex. Short walking paths wind you along historic signposts and shipwreck artifacts. Such items include the keel of the first shipwreck on Lake Superior, the John Jacob Astor, which was blown onto the rocky shores of Copper Harbor in the fall of 1844 while attempting to deliver supplies to those who would spend the winter there.
You will then tour the original 1848 lightkeeper's dwelling, the "oldest" remaining lighthouse structure on Lake Superior. The dwelling serviced a seperate stone light tower which no longer exist. The tower proved inadequate to the severe weather of the lake and had to be replaced, prompting the construction of the present lighthouse in 1866. You can ask questions or listen to stories from your host while enjoying interactive exhibits which tell of lighthouse construction on the Great Lakes. You will learn how more and more navigational aids were needed to guide the increasing numbers of ships as the economy of the Great Lakes Region grew during the industrial revolution of the late 1800's and on to the present.
Moving on to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse itself, one gets the feeling of stepping back in time. As you walk throughout the restored building, each room tells a nostalgic story of the isolated lives of the lightkeepers and their families. The daily lives of these keepers become real while walking among the period furnishings and hearing actual stories of the people who worked in the United States Lighthouse Service.
Outside of the lighthouse, short walking paths take you past additional points of historic and geological significance. Here is where the first geologist for the State of Michigan, Douglass Houghton, discovered in 1841 that it would be economically feasible to mine copper in the region. The very vein of minerals he surveyed, referred to in the jounals of 17th century French voyageurs as "La Roche Verde," still remains. Historic signposts tell of the lives of Dr. Houghton and his party of explorers as the trail winds past the first attempted mine shaft in the Copper Country. Also, lake freighters pass close to shore here, and a glimpse of them is enough to sense their awesome size.
Once back on the tour boat, you can enjoy the rugged beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula and Copper Harbor on your way back to the marina. Geologists point out that the structure of this region consists of textbook ridge-an-valley topography. The hills which rise up from the harbor are not mountains, but are the result of eons of differential weathering on alternating weak and resistant strata of anceint rock. The Keweenaw was born in the Precambrian Era, and some of the oldest rock formations on the planet surround you here.
Description courtsey of: Capt. Nick Rajacic