Copper Country: Our Family Adventure in the Keweenaw Peninsula


By Andy Nixon, STN Reporter

Each summer, my wife's family ventures north to the Keweenaw Peninsula; a tradition that has continued for almost 70 years. Renting four or five small log cabins, the fourteen-day vacation provides a peaceful setting, allowing everyone to relax and recharge. The group of cabins sits atop the shores of Otter Lake, which is about 20 miles south of Houghton.

Having done this since the 1950s, Lindsay’s family has the preparation and routine down to a science, including delicious meal plans, activities for the kids, and plenty of fishing. With cabin one being the largest, the "community cabin" is used for sipping coffee, baking fresh bread, having dinner, and steady games of cards. As family members begin to age, traditions such as this must be enjoyed and treasured.

The Keweenaw Peninsula is a special place if you enjoy nature and want to explore what our great state has to offer. Historically, this region is known for the copper mining boom during the 19th century. The underground mining stretched into the 20th century, coming to an end in 1967. Today, remnants of the copper industry are scattered throughout the peninsula. Mineshaft houses are the most prevalent artifacts you will notice, towering above the ground as you drive or hike through the surrounding area. Two former mines are open for public tours, including the Quincy Mine that overlooks Houghton, as well as the Delaware Mine north of Houghton. Both offer a fantastic view of what the mining profession would have been like.

This year, Lindsay, Charles, and I elected to stay for ten days to spend more time with family and avoid the heat back home. Although I am a new member of Anytime Fitness in Dexter, substituting the gym for outdoor activities such as paddle boarding, sailing, and hiking allows me to stay on the right track while away. Another bonus of the cabins is the dog-friendly policy, which allows our two hound dogs to accompany us.

While in the Keweenaw, be sure to drive north and check out Copper Harbor, and Eagle Harbor, or stop by a few ghost towns that dot the region. Along with sights to see, many great dining options await you in Houghton, Hancock, and Calumet. For this adventure, I would recommend a week to drive up and explore the area. From the Dexter area, plan on nine hours of driving, depending on the number of stops made. Most enjoy stopping at the Mackinaw Bridge, at least to stretch the legs. Many resources can be found online, including the history and maps of the ghost towns, places to stay, attractions, and more.

If you make it up, don't forget to eat a pasty during your visit. Pasties are easy-to-hold meat and vegetable-filled pastries, made famous during the copper mining days when the handheld meal would accompany the miners underground and keep them fed during their hard labor. One more recommendation would be the Jampot, which is owned and operated by a monastery. Here you will find fresh baked goods like muffins, cookies, and jams with flavors such as thimbleberry, which is native to the region.

Lindsay and I hope this family tradition will continue for generations. Our son Charles even told us “he wished we could just buy the cabins so we could stay whenever we want”. The annual trip reminds us both to be mindful of constant work or being tied to a cellphone. In this day and age, it is imperative to occasionally set your phone on “do not disturb” and live in the present moment; surrounded by great views, family, and fresh air.

Historic pattern shop located in Calumet - photo by Andy Nixon
Mine shaft house north of Calumet. The angle of the building matches the angle of the shaft underground - Photo by Andy Nixon
Lift bridge connecting Houghton and Hancock - photo by Andy Nixon
View of Lake Superior during one of our hikes - photo by Andy Nixon
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified