Photo Credit: Michigan Historical Center
Ft. Wilkins State Park is the northern most of all Michigan Parks and sits atop the Keweenaw Peninsula just north of Copper Harbor. Ft Wilkins is very picturesque as it is located between Lake Superior on the north and Lake Fanny Hooe on the south. Ft. Wilkins is also a historical site having begun in 1844 as an active US Army post to keep the peace in nearby Copper Harbor during the early boon days of copper. The 1843 copper boom on the Keweenaw Peninsula began the first great mining rush in United States history, bring wealth, industry and communities to the tip of Michigan. Copper became the mineral that made possible modern communications and electricity. The Army abandoned the Fort just two years later but briefly regarrisoned it again in the last 1860s. Fort Wilkins was finally abandoned in 1870 when the copper market declined.
Nineteen buildings survive at Ft. Wilkins, twelve of which are original structures from the 1840s. Today re-enactors depict life in the 1860s and turn these 19 buildings into a living history complex. The Park has numerous exhibits throughout the Fort, including audiovisual programs and re-enactments which presents a living history interpretation. Visitors can explore the daily routine of military service, learn of the hardships of frontier isolation, and discover the culture of an historical era - 1870: A Living History Experience. Role-playing interpreters bring history to life at the 1844 fort. June 18 through August 19, 2005 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily.
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is located one mile east of Copper Harbor. A Michigan State Parks Vehicle Permit is required to enter the park. The campgrounds of the Park has 159 sites divided up into three separate campgrounds, the east, the west, the new west campground extension, and group site. Camping fees range from $15.00 to $17.00. Electrical service begins at the end of April and the showers and toilet facilities open May 14th until October 1st. The Park has one mini cabin, with electricity and bunk and mattresses, and is designed to sleep four. Fee is $35.00.
The Park has poor swimming facilities and access to Lake Superior is difficult. Lake Fanny Hooe generally warms up by mid-summer and allows for some swimming but is unsupervised. Lake Fanny Hooe has its own mysteries that you will want to learn about, and at times it is a mystery where all the fish in the lake disappear, but people do catch walleye, perch, and other pan fish.
There are great scenic spots to visit while at Ft. Wilkins that you will definitely not want to miss. The Estivant Pines are only several miles away. Brockway Mountain Drive is an absolute must for anyone visiting Ft. Wilkins and will provide spectacular vistas and unbelievable sunrises and sunsets. Also in the spring of the year, thousands of hawks migrating north to Canada fly at arms length away along the precipices of the mountain. The Delaware Mine, an old copper mine, has tours that take you down into the mine and allows for your to experience the mining attempts and lifestyles underground. And specialty shops of Copper Harbor are just waiting to be explored. Unique gifts, gems, crafts, and woodwork awaits your interest. Of course, Copper Harbor is also the departure point for the Isle Royale Queen which makes trips back and forth to the queen of all isles.
Anyone wishing to tour the Copper Country must visit Ft. Wilkins to gain a deeper appreciation of life in the Copper Country during the early days of copper mining.