Exploring Michigan’s Copper Country

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan is probably my favorite place on earth. I first fell in love with this area while attending Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton in the late ’60s. My love deepened over the years as I discovered more and more of the magic of this wonderful place.

The Keweenaw thrived during the era when it was the most important source of native copper in the U.S.A. The many mines located here once produced 90% of America’s copper, resulting in the area being named the “Copper Country.” Immigrants from many European nations migrated to the U.P. to work in the mines. Many of their descendants live happily there to this day.

During this year’s fall color season, I traveled to the Copper Country with a friend who had never visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On a five-day trip, we visited many of my favorite spots in the Keweenaw. I took hundreds of photographs, many of which are presented below. Maybe someday the Copper Country will become one of your favorite vacation destinations, as well.

Exploring Copper Country Communities

Exploring Houghton

Ambassador Restaurant & Bar

The Ambassador is an institution in Houghton. Generations of returning Michigan Tech graduates, current students and their families, local residents, and visiting tourists have made this one of the most popular and successful drinking and dining establishments in the Copper Country. The classic murals in the original barroom never cease to delight all who gaze upon them.

Dee Stadium & MacInnes Ice Arena

Ice hockey is one of the leading sports in the Copper Country, along with snow skiing. Houghton is the birthplace of professional hockey in the USA, originally played at the Amphidrome, the first indoor rink. Dee Stadium was its successor on the Houghton waterfront.

During my Michigan Tech years, I attended many MTU college hockey games. Dee Stadium seats less than 2,000 people, so everyone has a great view of the game. In my memory, I can still hear the sound of excited hockey fans, seated on the wooden bleachers, clapping their leather “chopper” mittens or yelling “Sieve!” at the other team’s goalie through the chicken wire mesh ten feet behind the goal he tended.

Join me on a photographic visit to this wonderful location, concluded by a stop at the current Michigan Tech hockey rink, John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. John MacInnes was the coach of the national-champion hockey Huskies during my era at MTU.

Keweenaw Brewing Company

The Keweenaw Brewing Company (KBC) is a welcome addition to the Copper Country scene. KBC brews a variety of beers and ales, all of which are offered at their Houghton Tap Room. My favorite KBC brew is Widow Maker Black, named after the dangerous air hammer early copper miners used to dislodge copper-bearing rock in the Upper Peninsula mines that once produced 90% of America’s copper.

From the KBC web site,

If a trip to the Michigan’s Copper Country is in your future, consider a stop at the Keweenaw Brewing Company’s taproom. We’re located in the center of Downtown Houghton on the north side of Shelden Ave. (US-41). We feature a daily selection of fresh beers brewed right on our premises. Sacks of roasted peanuts provide accompaniment in a warm and cozy environment. Our 3400 sq ft taproom is entirely smoke free and includes two bars, tables and chairs, a seating area around a fireplace and an outside deck. Free Internet service completes our “make yourself at home” atmosphere.

At KBC, we’re about a GREAT beer for a GREAT price ($3 pints) in a comfortable setting. You won’t be a stranger for long, and we hope you’ll keep coming back.

The Douglass House

The Douglass House, founded 1860, was once a prominent hotel in downtown Houghton. Now converted to apartments, the hotel was named after Douglass Houghton, who discovered copper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 1840. The entire city was also named after him.

The Douglass House holds great nostalgic significance for me. During my college years at Michigan Tech, I often frequented the weekend singalongs conducted there. In those days, the Douglass House never went by its proper name to us Tech Toots. It was affectionately known as The Dog House. A room full of male MTU students quaffed numerous pitchers of beer, ate peanuts, threw the shells on the floor, and boisterously sang standards from The Dog House Songbook. The Michigan Tech anthem, The Engineer’s Song, was always joyously sung. For your convenience, I have enclosed a scan of my weathered copy of The Engineer’s Song here. Here’s to good fun and great memories!

During my recent visit, the former singalong room was opened for me to visit. The room is now the home of Armando’s Restaurant, but to me it will always be The Dog House.

A.E Seaman Mineral Museum

The A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum showcases amazing minerals from the Great Lakes Region and around the world. Visitors experience the beauty and splendor of minerals at one of North America’s great mineral museums. Affiliated with Michigan Tech, the museum features;

  • The world best collection of Michigan minerals
  • Exhibits from the University of Michigan mineral collection, which is held under the Michigan Mineral Alliance
  • The largest public display of minerals from the Great Lakes Region
  • Copper Pavilion, featuring a world-record 19-ton native copper slab
  • One of the best fluorescent mineral exhibits in the U.S.

Houghton Street Scenes

It’s a delight to walk through Downtown Houghton. Visitors are surrounded by historic sandstone buildings from the late 1800s on both sides of Shelden Avenue, along with a pleasing variety of interesting shops and restaurants. The Library was once my favorite college bar. Here are a few shots from my recent visit.

Joey’s Seafood & Grill

A lunch stop in downtown Houghton.

Exploring Calumet

Calumet is ground zero of Michigan’s Copper Country. Abounding with well-preserved historic buildings, churches, museums, gift shops, art galleries, bars, restaurants and varied remembrances of its mining past, the entire village of Calumet resides within the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

Artis Books & Antiques

Is it a book store or a museum? This fascinating shop is a combination of both. Located in the Keweenaw National Historic Park village of Calumet, Artis is brimming with vintage books, music, and historic artifacts. This place will warm the heart of any reader. It sure did mine! I love browsing old book stores, especially those filled with local artifacts and tales of local lore. Below is a photo tour of this magnificent find. Artis Books was over the top!

Osceola Mine

According to Wikipedia,

The Osceola Mine was a copper mine consisting of 11 shafts located in Osceola Township, just south of Calumet. In 1895, it was the site of the deadliest mine disaster in the Copper Country. On September 7, 1895, a fire broke out on level 27 in the No. 3 shaft of the Osceola Mine. The cause is unknown, but the large quantity of timber in the mine contributed to the fire’s ferocity. Smoke eventually reached the No. 4 shaft, where most of the bodies were found. Thirty people died, including four boys, mostly from smoke inhalation. This makes it the deadliest mine accident to occur in the Copper Country. When the fire was discovered, over 200 miners were underground.

St. Paul the Apostle Church

The Michigan historical marker adjacent to St. Paul the Apostle Church in Calumet tells its story:

St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was established in 1889 by Slovenian immigrants who came to the area to work in the mines of the Copper Country. The wood frame church erected by the parish in 1890 was destroyed by fire in 1902. The following year this elegant Romanesque church, designed by Erhard Brielmater of Milwaukee, was begun. It was completed at a cost of $100,000 in 1908. Built of locally-quarried Jacobsville sandstone, the structure displays Cathedral-type stained glass windows from the Ford Brothers Glass Studio of Minneapolis. Its interior features a beautifully painted sixty-five foot nave. In 1966 four parishes consolidated, making this building their church and changing its name to St. Paul the Apostle. 

During our visit, we were fortunate to arrive when a volunteer couple was present. We asked if it might be possible to go inside and see the sanctuary, they graciously allowed us to do so, allowing me to get the photos below.

Calumet Colosseum

The Calumet Colosseum and Community Center is another nexus of hockey action in the Copper Country. Wikipedia tells the story:

The Calumet Colosseum is an ice hockey arena in Calumet, Michigan, built in 1913. It is considered the oldest operating continuous-use ice rink in North America. It is one of the oldest operating indoor hockey arenas in the world, only a few years younger than the Matthews Arena, which opened in 1910. The building is a three-story, barrel roof structure. It has a seating capacity of 700.


Construction of the Colosseum began in 1913 with the formal opening on January 1, 1914. The first game was played on January 6, between the Calumet Wolverines and the Portage Lake Pioneers.

In 1942, the National Guard armory in Calumet burned down and the Colosseum was sold to the State of Michigan. The name was changed to the Calumet Armory and it was used by the Calumet Detachment of the Michigan National Guard. Artificial ice was installed in 1968. In 2005, Calumet Township traded 12 acres of land for a new armory in exchange for the arena, and reverted the name to Calumet Colosseum.

In 2019, Calumet was the winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA, winning $150,000 for upgrades to the Colosseum. The arena received a new ice plant, a new heating system, sound system, and refurbished locker rooms. As part of winning the contest, the arena held an NHL pre-season game between the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues on September 26, 2019. The Red Wings won the game, 4-1.

The Hut Inn

The Hut Inntm calls itself “A Copper Country Landmark Since 1952.” We called it an interesting place to have dinner on one of our nights in the Keweenaw. Located on US-41 in the village of Kearsarge just north of Calumet, The Hut blends unique decor, friendly service, and good food into a winning combination that’s easy to enjoy.

Shute’s 1890 Saloon

According to an article on the Second Wave Upper Peninsula website,

Shute’s Bar is a landmark in Calumet, and has been since it opened up in the 1890s. Back then, it was Curto’s Saloon, but it’s been Shute’s for many decades now. The bar is located next to the Calumet Theatre and harkens back to the Copper Country’s boom-town days, with restored original back bar, main bar, booths and an elaborate stained-glass canopy. The saloon’s historic bar and glass canopy remain in place, as historically significant architectural details.

On our last night in the Keweenaw, we had the pleasure of visiting Shute’s and enjoying refreshing glasses of KBC Widow Maker Black in this friendly establishment.

Calumet Street Scenes

The entire village of Calumet resides in the Keweenaw National Historic Park. Just driving around town takes you past one historic building after another. Here are just a few representative shots.

Exploring Eagle River

Eagle River is a scenic village on the west side of the northern Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau website provides this information about Eagle River:

Eagle River was once a booming mine town as well as a booming shipping port back in it’s heyday. Cliff Mine, which is located just a few miles south of Eagle River, used this port to ship their copper. In 1861, Keweenaw County was created and made Eagle River the county seat. Now it is the perfect place for a quiet retreat. In the winter time the deer travel for miles around and migrate to Eagle River for the winter where they are fed. Tourists can stop at the rest stop and feed the deer. The tend to flock there by the hundreds. Through the years they have learned that the deer yard is a safe place to bed down and eat. Eagle River has a beautiful beach that is great for watching the sunset and the northern lights. You’ll find miles of shoreline to look for agates, a waterfront restaurant, a historic wooden trestle bridge as well as a beautiful waterfall that is a great sight to see during spring run off. 

Evergreen Cemetery

The picturesque Evergreen Cemetery just outside of Eagle River is the final resting place of many of the miners who lost their lives in the nearby copper mines, most notably the Cliff Mine. Many of these lives ended too soon, and now-conquered diseases often took their infant children as well. The monuments in this cemetery pay tribute to the struggles of these early Copper Country pioneers.

Around Eagle River

Here are some of the main points of interest in Eagle River.

Exploring Eagle Harbor

The Jam Pot

The Jam Pot is a small but very successful and popular store along M-26 just south of Eagle Harbor. The shop is run by Byzantine Catholic monks who live and worship in the Holy Transfiguration Skete monastery across the road. During the day, the monks work at the Jam Pot. Here’s a fascinating Detroit Free Press article telling their story. If you prefer video, let Under the Radar Michigan take you on a quick tour of the Jam Pot. The natural splendor of Jacobs Falls is just down the road from The Jam Pot. The pictures below tell the story through my eyes.

Pine Grove Cemetery

To me, the Pine Grove Cemetery in Eagle Harbor is another of the most fascinating places to visit in the Keweenaw. It’s the final resting place of many of the hardy miners and local residents who lived under harsh conditions in the post-Civil-War years. Reading the inscriptions on the old tombstones here, one struggles to imagine what life must have been like back then. Many of the tombstones mark the graves of children who never made it out of infancy or their early years. This is a very sobering place to solumnly visit.

Exploring Lake Linden

St. Joseph Church

St. Joseph Church is a magnificent Catholic church on Calumet Street (M-26) in Lake Linden. During our visit, we were fortunate to arrive when it was open, so we were able to go inside. We sat in the back of the sacntuary for a few minutes listening to the Rosary being prayed. The photos below include the sanctuary, Pieta, stained glass windows, statuary, and stained glass windows.

Lindell Chocolate Shoppe

The Lindell Chocolate Shoppe currently occupies the historic Joseph Bosch Building in Lake Linden. Joseph Bosch was the founder of the famed Bosch Brewing Company, once legendary in the Copper Country. Wikipedia tells more about Bosch and the Lindell Chocolate Shoppe:

The Joseph Bosch Building is a commercial structure located at 302 Calumet Avenue in the Lake Linden Historic District in Lake Linden, Michigan. It is also known as the Lindell Chocolate Shoppe. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1982.

The Lindell Chocolate Shop is one of my favorite places to stop while in the Copper Country. Unfortunately when we visited it was closed, so we could only view the outside.

Exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula

Mason Motors Auto Graveyard

Mason Motors is an extraordinary roadside graveyard of vintage cars and trucks, rusted derelicts, and automotive junk. This whimsical collection of bygone vehicles is also a photographer’s paradise, especially when exquisitely clad in Keweenaw fall colors.

Any adult of a certain age who ever lived in the Copper Country will no doubt recall the beverages purveyed by the now-defunct Bosch Brewing Company. It tickled me to spot weathered Bosch signage on several old trucks at Mason Motors.

Prospector’s Paradise Headquarters

Prospector’s Paradise is a massive rock and mineral store along US-41 in the tiny Keweenaw village of Allouez, an area so remote and isolated, a sign along the highway calls it “The Last Place on Earth.” John Carlisle of the Detroit Free Press said “It makes for one of the strangest tourist stops in the Upper Peninsula.”

This place defies description. It’s housed in an old sawmill whose thick wood shelves are lined with all manner of precious and semi-precious gems, minerals, and stones for the collector. When you walk around the grounds or enter the building, you’ll probably see more collectible rocks than you’ve seen in your entire lifetime.

When you first notice it, perhaps you’ll wonder what the Keweenaw Vortex mural is all about. Richard Hiltunen of nearby Kearsarge, Michigan, explained the Keweenaw Vortex behind Prospector’s Paradise to journalist Richard Garza in a Detroit Free Press article:

“A vortex is where there is energy coming from the ground and as you can see because of a thousand years ago the volcanic reaction here. There is a fault that runs through here and there’s copper and silver mixed in whatever zinc and it’s pretty heavy under the trees. That put these nodules on here as an energy ball. So when you’re standing in here and you feel that it’s really strong and then there’s an underground river that comes right through here and that’s what creates that reverse counterclockwise energy flow inside these trees,” Hiltunen said.

The store’s brochure further explains,

After buying the property, [owner Alex] Fagotti discovered he also was the unwitting owner of an Indian burial ground with an underground river that draws thousands of pagans, witches, and mystics who believe it has healing powers and are convinced that the spirits of the dead live among the trees. Visitors are welcome anytime.

Make of that whatever you need to. If or when you visit Prospector’s Paradise, you will enjoy sights such as these:

Quincy Mine

The Quincy Mine is a justly-famous icon in the Copper Country. The shaft house towers over the landscape on the north side of the Portage Canal above Hancock. Wikipedia provides an overview and continues to tell much more of the Quincy story.

The Quincy Mine is an extensive set of copper mines located near Hancock, Michigan. The mine was owned by the Quincy Mining Company and operated between 1846 and 1945, although some activities continued through the 1970s. The Quincy Mine was known as “Old Reliable,” as the Quincy Mine Company paid a dividend to investors every year from 1868 through 1920. The Quincy Mining Company Historic District is a United States National Historic Landmark District; other Quincy Mine properties nearby, including the Quincy Mining Company Stamp Mills, the Quincy Dredge Number Two, and the Quincy Smelter are also historically significant.

I have visited the Quincy Mine and related properties many times, starting during my college days at nearby Michigan Tech in Houghton. Here are a few shots from my latest visit:

Eagle Harbor Light & Life-Saving Station

During my lifetime, I have visited over 250 lighthouses in the U.S. and Canada. Of them all, however, the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is my favorite. It’s also the first lighthouse image I ever created, when I painted a watercolor of it during my student days at Michigan Tech. 

Eagle Harbor also boasts the historic Eagle Harbor Life Saving Station, once operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Below are photos from my most recent visit:

Baraga & L’Anse

Baraga (pronounced “BEAR-a-guh”) and L’Anse (pronounced “Lonce”) are two small cities at the south end of Keweenaw Bay. To me, they represent the gateways to the Copper Country, approaching from the south on US-41.

Given my longstanding fascination with Great Lakes lighthouses, I was pleased to have the opportunity to photograph the Sand Point Lighthouse in Baraga in ideal weather conditions. This lighthouse is located on Keweenaw Bay Indian Community land near the Ojibwa Recreation Area campground.

A leading attraction in Baraga is the Bishop Baraga Shrine, which commemorates Frederick Baraga, the first Catholic Bishop in the Upper Peninsula. He is also known as the “Snowshoe Priest.”

L’Anse is a fun place to visit. I like to stop at Indian Country Sports, which has a small lighthouse built on one corner of the store. On this trip, we enjoyed visiting the Village Gift Shop for the first time. We also stopped at the attractive stone United Methodist Church in L’Anse.

Brockway Mountain Drive

Brockway Mountain Drive is a scenic road in the far northern end of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Built by the Civilian Conservations Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, this is a premier attraction that attracts thousands of tourists every year. Here are a few snapshots from this year’s visit.

Wikipedia describes Brockway as follows:

Brockway Mountain Drive is an 8.8-mile-long (14.2 km) scenic roadway just west of Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the United States. Drivers can access the road from State Highway M-26 on either end near Eagle Harbor to the west or Copper Harbor to the east in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The drive runs along the ridge of Brockway Mountain on the Keweenaw Fault and climbs to 1,320 feet (402 m) above sea level, 720 feet (219 m) above the surface of Lake Superior. Several viewpoints along the route allow for panoramas of Copper Harbor, Lake Superior, and undeveloped woodland. On a clear day, Isle Royale is visible approximately 50 miles (80 km) in distance from the top of the mountain.

Keweenaw Scenics

The Keweenaw Peninsula abounds with scenic wonders that appeal to any photographer. I find myself returning to many of these same locations each time I visit the Keweenaw.

Fall Flowers and Foliage

Simple arrangements of fallen leaves in autumn have always fascinated me. No need to rearrange them…just savor the beauty of the natural display of beauty just as nature arranged it. Late-blooming and fading summer flowers join in the symphony of artistic glory.


  • Howard Vrankin

    Just amazed, Phil! Thanks, for a great tour. Your narrative and photos kept me glued to the screen. Your most enjoyable trip for me. I can see you in a lot of those places.

  • I treasured our U.P. trip when we went. In fact I’ve never not enjoyed time in the U.P. Great photos as usual.

  • Jill Ore

    What a wonderful adventure you had! Great photography!

  • Korey Gierach

    Wow Phil! What a beautiful documentation of your trip. Makes me want to take my boys on an adventure to all these neat places.

  • William Stonecipher

    Wonderful images, Phil. Your pictures really provide a rare glimpse into the beauty of this remarkable area. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tom Deming

    Great photos, Phil. I liked the old car photos. I need to head up to upper Michigan next fall.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.