Thursday, August 8, 2013

Copper Harbor, Michigan: Fort Wilkins State Park

We left our great campsite in Munising, Michigan, this morning for Fort Wilkins State Park in Copper Harbor, Michigan.  Copper Harbor is as far north as you can get in the Upper Peninsula (other than Michigan's only national park,  Isle Royale, the least visited national park in the country because it's a difficult-to-get-to island on the Michigan/Ontario border.)

If you look at a map of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula you’ll see that the UP itself has a peninsula sprouting near its northwestern edge.  That’s the Keweenaw peninsula, and that’s where Copper Harbor is located. The state park is wedged between Lake Superior on the north and Lake Fanny Hooe (supposedly named after a woman who disappeared here in the mid 1800s) on the south. 

Once we found the Fort Wilkins park office, Jim and I did our usual routine: I go in the office to check in, while Jim looks at the tow car to see if we’re level and straight enough to unhook it from our motor home.   

After we drove to our campsite, we realized there was no water hook up at the site.  We were out of water, so Jim drove around the campground in the rig looking for a water source. Other campers probably thought we were nuts, circling round and round, looking in vain for a threaded spigot.  Finally we drove back to the office and asked if there was a potable water source. There was, but we’d passed it before we arrived at the camp office the first time.  So it was back in the rig for another drive.  I should have asked about water when we checked in.

While getting water we met a couple from Ironwood, Michigan (near the Wisconsin/Michigan border) who told us Copper Harbor had a big snow year last winter -- over 200 inches. Whoa!  I looked up a USA Today weather site that said on average, annual snow fall in Copper Harbor is 144 inches. As a comparison, Salt Lake City gets about 62 inches a year.  And with all the talk you hear about Buffalo, NY, being such a snowy city, Buffalo gets just two thirds of what Copper Harbor normally gets with an average of 93 inches a year.   On the other hand, Buffalo has 260,000 people slogging around in all that snow, while Copper Harbor only has 190.

Fort Wilkins was originally a military base.  It was established in 1844 to “keep peace in Michigan’s Copper Country” as the land had recently been purchased from Native Americans and some fairly rowdy miners were moving in.  Turns out there wasn’t much trouble, so the fort was abandoned two years later and briefly regarrisoned during the 1860s.  The former military buildings are now open to the public and the park brochure calls them a “well preserved example of mid-19th century army life on the northern frontier.”  

No photos today, as we have no Internet connection here other than a somewhat slow park WIFI system.  We are grateful to have it, but it’s too slow to upload photos.

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