Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fort Wilkins - Part 1

We couldn't think of a better way to spend our first Memorial Day weekend in the Keweenaw than by touring Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor.  We also wanted to try out our Michigan Recreation Passport, which has replaced the old state park window stickers.  The Recreation Passport is really just a tiny "P" on our license plate tab, but that "P" gets us into our state parks without paying admission.  We considered that a bargain for just $10 per year.  I have a feeling the park workers aren't thrilled about bending down to look for the little "P" on the license plate tabs.  It must have been much easier to look for a window sticker.

Anyway, back to Memorial Day weekend.  We hit a few rummage sales on the way out of Calumet, but we didn't find anything we couldn't live without.  We headed to Eagle River to check out an estate sale, but we struck out there, too.  That wasn't the focus of our day anyway, so we headed back up scenic Hwy. 26.

We stopped at The Jampot again.  They promised to have a batch of Steve's favorite muffins ready that day, and they didn't disappoint.  Since we had a thermos of our special Hamilton's House Blend coffee with us, we had to pause at Great Sand Bay for a quick snack of coffee and muffins. 

Did you catch the Lake Freighter in that last photo?  You can probably see it better in the next one.

We headed to Eagle Harbor next, and we finally stopped at the gift shop there that we've been talking about stopping at for a few years.  We didn't buy anything, but we enjoyed our talk with the owner.  We started back up the road toward Copper Harbor; however, it was such a beautiful day that we had to stop at Esrey Park. 

There's that Lake Freighter again.

We haven't climbed the rock stairs at Esrey Park for quite a while, so we took the time to do that.

Here are some views of the coastline from on top of the rocks.

Here's our Traverse from that same vantage point.

Take a look at the next photo.  Someone should really tell them their roots are showing.

OK, on to Copper Harbor.  Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is located on a narrow strip of land nestled between the waters of Lake Superior's Copper Harbor and Lake Fanny Hooe.  The park includes two campgrounds, but we were interested in touring the old fort.

Fort Wilkins was built in 1844 and was occupied by the U.S. Army until 1846.  It was reoccupied briefly (after the Civil War) from 1867-1870 before falling into a state of disrepair. 

People started using the abandoned Fort Wilkins as a destination for weekend outings especially after the invention of the automobile.  We have the Great Depression and the WPA to thank for the restoration of the fort in the 1930's.  Remember, the Works Progress Administration provided jobs and income to the unemployed during those troubled years. 

Fort Wilkins is now beautiful and serene.  We understand that costumed historical interpreters are positioned throughout the fort during the summer months.  I believe they are students from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.  They portray characters who lived in this army community during the final summer of 1870.  It will be interesting to see them when we return to the fort in the upcoming months.  If these actors are anything like those I've seen at other historical sites, they will converse with us, but they will not break character.

After walking past the park store, we first came upon this sign showing us a map of the fort. 

We headed past the log buildings that were the Married Enlisted Men's Quarters.  These buildings were positioned just outside the walls of the fort.  They were not yet open for the season, but the exterior views were impressive.

Just after passing through the fort's walls, we came upon The Bake House on the left.  This was an important building, because bread was an important part of the soldier's diet.

Here's the sign describing the bakery.

Here are some shots of the interior.

The Blacksmith Shop was next. 

As you can see, Steve was very interested in this building.  He loves looking at old tools (and new tools).  Here's a sign posted in that area.

Two shots of the interior for you.

We walked a little further and came to the kitchen.

We are truly spoiled when it comes to work surfaces and counter space in our modern kitchens.  They had very little back then.

The Mess Hall where the soldiers ate is in the back half of the kitchen building.

We then headed across the Parade Grounds, and I talked Steve into posing with the cannon and flag.

The flag pole is located very close to the shore of Lake Fanny Hooe.  Isn't this a pretty view?

Here's Steve again.  You can see the base of the flag pole on the left.

I stood with my back to Lake Fanny Hooe and took three photos from my right to my left.  The grassy area in the center is the Parade Grounds.

We walked on the covered porches of the buildings at the left in the last photo.  If we were tired, there would have been plenty of places to sit.

We went around the side of those buildings and made our way toward Fanny Hooe Creek.  We came upon the following sign.

This was the site of the Storehouse.

Check out this photo from 1912.  The woman is on the base of the flag pole.  The steps are no longer there.

We'll end here for the day, as this post is getting to be rather large.  We'll continue the tour with you in Part 2 tomorrow.

If you would like to read a bit more about Fort Wilkins, click on the green links below:

All is well in the Keweenaw.

Another Reminder:  Click on any photo to see larger versions.


  1. Julie,
    Thanks for the post, Donna and myself spent our honeymoon there,it will be 40 years ago in Aug. It really hasn't changed all that much. We use to go Bear watching at the dump,but that's been closed for sometime.

  2. Your honeymoon was one of our topics of conversation as we toured the fort that day. Did you stay at the Fort Wilkins campground or the Lake Fanny Hooe Resort campground WAY back then?

    1. P.S. Not sure if bear watching at a dump sounds very honeymoonish!

  3. We stayed at the camp ground, and also was amazed at how many mothers holding babies were out feeding the bears. Hey had to find something for evening entertainment.


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