Ever wonder what life was like during the mining heyday that gave Copper Harbor its name? Fort Wilkins State Park has the answers.
- 47.4671269, -87.869831
- Visit Duration
- 1 hour is plenty, more if you're a history buff.
- Don't Forget
- Comfortable shoes, questions for state park docents, cash for the ice cream shop.
- Best Time to Go
Built in 1844 by the U.S. government to maintain a law-abiding copper rush and run an efficient shipping system, the fort complex covers a whopping 700 acres at the crest of the peninsula.
Its 27 buildings—including barracks, mess halls, a hospital, a blacksmith, and even a bakery—have been meticulously restored with period furniture and equipment. Informative displays make it easy to do a self-guided tour at your own leisure, but a summer weekend features the added benefit of costumed “living history” interpreters who can take your journey even deeper.
The grounds are open for free to the public, so you can enjoy the history at your own pace—visitors report that the tour can last anywhere from one to four hours, depending on how big a history buff you are.
Fresh Coast Tip
While summer might be the best time for a history lesson, Fort Wilkins’ historic architecture looks particularly fetching against a backdrop of autumn color. Admission to Fort Wilkins is free. A Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport is required for entry to the park.
Just make sure to leave time for exploring the park grounds, as well. There are numerous jogging/biking trails leading from the park through the adjoining campground and right up to the lake’s edge. The history doesn’t end at the shoreline—catch views of the 1848-built Copper Harbor Lighthouse and the remains of the John Jacob Astor shipwreck.
Photo: not in book