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Quincy Mine Hoist and Fort Wilkins State Park – Keeweenaw Pennisula, Michigan

Camping – Large campground located at Fort Wilkins, but jammed packed on summer weekends, so book ahead!

Description –  We had quite a drive between Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Copper Harbor, Michigan, where we’d be starting our next national park adventure.

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Fortunately, the Keeweenaw Peninsula had some pretty awesome things to check out while we were on the upper part of the Upper Peninsula.  The first was…

The Quincy Mine Hoist

Website – Quincy Mine Hoist
Address – 49750 US-41, Hancock, MI 49930

So, in the beginning of the summer, I was hanging out to buy tickets to go up by Billy Penn at City Hall in Philadelphia.  The fellow two people back from me happened to from Michigan.  We fell into conversation, he found out we were headed up to Isle Royale, and he said we just had to see the Quincy Mine Hoist,  which was a massive copper mine sporting the world’s largest steam-powered hoist engine.

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One month later, we were here!  We were trying to figure out whether to just walk around and look at the buildings or whether to do the tour.  We opted for the tour, because what could be better with a three year old and a one year old?

Helmets are not quite the right size, but adorable.

Helmets are not quite the right size, but adorable.

So it was onto the tram for a ride down the side of the mountain.  This was, by far, The Pres’s favorite part.

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You’re then carried into the lower reaches of the mine via an old drainage tunnel.  A cart and tractor carry you inside, where you exit and walk around with the guide.  He walks you through the older and newer portions of the mine, explaining how the process worked and a little of the history of the copper mining regions of Michigan.

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The mine tour itself lasts a bit under a half hour.  Then it was a ride out of the mine back to the cog train, which carried us back up.  We walked around the rusting mine equipment and old buildings a bit.

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Then it was back in the car to head for the most northerly portion of the Keeweenaw Pennisula, the town of Copper Harbor…

Boy, are we north!

Boy, are we north!

… and our final destination for the day, Fort Wilkins State Park.

Fort Wilkins State Park




Website – Fort Wilkins State Park
Address – 15223 U.S Highway 41, Copper Harbor MI, 49918

Fort Wilkins was established in 1844 to provide some order in this far corner of the United States during the copper mining boom.  The fort wasn’t around very long (was only truly occupied for three years, then more or less abandoned, then occupied three more years after the Civil War), never saw an attack, and the disorder and chaos it was meant to help curtail never appeared.  During the Great Depression, the CCC fixed the old fort up and made it into a pretty nice state park.  After checking into our campsite and setting up our stuff, we headed over to the fort complex to check it out.

Outside the gate are the officers quarters.  There are many exhibits inside, and a peaceful lake view outside.

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Inside the gate, the buildings are whitewashed and built around an open square.  We explored each one, taking in the various exhibits as we went.

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On the way out, we saw a crazy looking bird.

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We checked out the lighthouse from afar, went down to the ferry dock, and then ate some dinner.

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So the hoist and the fort are neat, but hardly a reason to drive all this way just to see them.  The real reason we were in Copper Harbor?  That real reason was the way we were getting out of there, which was by ferry, three and half hours across Lake Superior, to the least visited national park in the country.  And once you stepped off the boat, your only options were the expensive hotel (expensive for us at least) right at the dock, or backpacking into the backcountry… which consisted of the entire rest of the island.

Gee, I wonder which one we're gonna choose.

Gee, I wonder which one we’re gonna choose.

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