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Lighthouses of the Keweenaw Peninsula

Updated on October 7, 2014

Beautiful and Historic Lighthouses of Lake Superior

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan is a great place for anyone searching for adventure, history, nature and in my case lighthouses. It is located at the northwestern end of the UP and is surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior.

The area is rich in copper and starting about the mid 1800's mining copper became a major industry along with the lumber industry. Because of the lack of transportation and roads on the peninsula both of these industries relied on shipping to get the lumber and copper to market. The port towns along the coast needed lighthouses to guide the ships into the harbors and thus the peninsula is dotted with lighthouses.

I love to photograph lighthouses and on our trip to the Upper Peninsula we made a three day stop in the Keweenaw to enjoy the beauty of the country and photograph lighthouses. We stayed in the middle of the peninsula and found 8 different lighthouses that were within 30 miles of our lodging.

On this page, I will share with you photos of the lighthouses we visited and a bit of information that I learned on each lighthouse. All of my information was gathered from signs at the lighthouses and information given by the guides at the various lighthouses.

photos by the author-mbgphoto

Eagle River - a private home

On our quest to photograph lighthouses my husband and I have traveled many country roads and small towns in America. The well known lighthouses are usually well marked but some of the other lighthouses can be a real challenge to find.

I knew there was a lighthouse in Eagle River but since it is a private residence I did not really have any good directions to find it. Eagle River is a old mining boom town that is now a very small town so I didn't think it would be hard to find. One technique I use to try to find a lighthouse is to go to the water and then look back to see if I can see the lighthouse sticking up. I tried that in Eagle River but didn't see anything. My husband was determined to find it for me so we drove up and down the streets till all of a sudden I saw the lighthouse on a hill a couple of blocks up from the water.

The Eagle River lighthouse was first opened in 1857 during the peak days of the town, unfortunately when some of the mining left town the lighthouse was no longer needed and the Eagle River Light Station was decommissioned in 1908. It was then put on auction and sold to a private owner.

I took this photo from the side street so I wouldn't disturb the owners. It must be interesting to live in a lighthouse.

Eagle Harbor Light Station

After leaving Eagle River we proceeded to Eagle Harbor which is just a few miles away. This time the lighthouse was well marked and we were able to easily find it. The brochure on Eagle Harbor says it is the most visited and photographed lighthouse in the Keweenaw.

The light station was open when we visited and I was able to tour the lighthouse and climb the tower. Although it was not furnished in original furnishings, care was taken to match the furnishings to the period the lighthouse would have been in service. There is also a shipwreck museum and a commercial fishing museum on the grounds. I was able to take my time exploring the grounds and photographing the lighthouse from various angles.

Eagle Harbor lighthouse is a working lighthouse that stills leads mariners into the harbor today. The first lighthouse on the cliff overlooking the harbor was built in 1851. This lighthouse was not built strong enough to withstand the harsh winters of this northern harbor and in 1871 it was replaced with the lighthouse that stands there today.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Gifts - bring home a gift

Eagle Harbor, Michigan LIGHTHOUSE Suncatcher Window 11x22 Glass Panel Framed
Eagle Harbor, Michigan LIGHTHOUSE Suncatcher Window 11x22 Glass Panel Framed
This Suncatcher would be a wonderful gift for the lighthouseenthusiast.
Mystery At Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Mystery At Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Books that take place at a lighthouse can be fun. This one is full of mystery and the supernatural.

Sand Hills - romantic bed and breakfast

Sand Hills lighthouse was originally built in 1917. It was large enough to house 3 lighthouse keepers and their families. The lighthouse was active until 1939. During World War II it was used as a Coast Guard training center. After the war the property was unoccupied until it was sold at a auction in 1958. It was eventually purchased by the present owner who turned it into a romantic bed and breakfast inn.

The brochure on the bed and breakfast states that it has been selected as one of the ten most romantic inns in America by American Historic Inns.

When we visited the lighthouse we found our way down a lonely 8 mile drive off the main road. We got to the lighthouse and found they didn't have tours for another hour so I got out and took photos around the premises but didn't stay for the tour. It is certainly the largest lighthouse I have ever seen, it reminds me more of a mansion than a lighthouse.

Copper Harbor Lighthouse - way up north

Copper Harbor is a small port town near the very top of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

From our motel in the middle of the peninsula, my husband and I traveled the scenic "Copper Trail" up to the town of Copper Harbor. Along the way we stopped to photograph a church from the mid 1800's and a sign showing the average snowfall on the peninsula. The church was a beautiful white church that stood just off the road. The sign on the snow stood 390.4 inches tall, the amount of the largest snowfall recorded on the peninsula. Although they don't always get that much the average is over 250 inches.

We found Copper Harbor to be a charming small town with several restaurants and gift shops. We had a great breakfast at the Tamerack Inn and enjoyed shopping in the gift shop across the way. We then proceeded to a lookout down the road where we could view the lighthouse. A brochure I picked up told us that the Copper Harbor light station has marked the entrance to the harbor since 1849. Copper Harbor Lighthouse is now part of the Michigan Historical Museum system. You can take a small boat tour out to the lighthouse, but I chose not to do that and photographed the lighthouse from the lighthouse viewing deck across from Fort Wilkins State Park.

On our way out of town we took the Brockway Mountain drive which led as to a great overlook where we could get a great view of the harbor town and the lighthouse.

Here is a card I made from one of my photos.


Gifts from Copper Harbor Lighthouse - bring home a memento

Copper Harbor has several neat little gifts shops. I stopped by two of them and brought home a pair of copper earrings and some turtle fudge. Here are a couple of gifts that would be nice mementos of Copper Harbor.

Spoontiques Lighthouse - Copper Harbor, MI
Spoontiques Lighthouse - Copper Harbor, MI
I love to collect lighthouse miniatures. Here is one of Copper Harbor.
Copper Harbor, Michigan LIGHTHOUSE Suncatcher Window 11x22 Glass Panel Framed
Copper Harbor, Michigan LIGHTHOUSE Suncatcher Window 11x22 Glass Panel Framed
I love this suncatcher windows. This one depicts Copper Harbor.

Portage Lake Lower Entry Light

Sometimes it can be quite an adventure finding lighthouses on our trips. The two lighthouses in Jacobsville, Michigan on the eastern side of the Keweenwa peninsula provided us with a challenge locating them. I had gotten rough directions from a lady at a craft shop, but when we actually found our way to the area the lighthouses were a bit difficult to find. They were definitely off the beaten path.

We were searching for the lighthouse that was a bed and breakfast but the first one we stumbled across was the Portage Lake lower entry light. We found it at a harbor park out at the end of the pier. In doing a bit of research I found out that this light was originally built in 1930.

Portage River Lighthouse - Jacobsville Michigan

After a bit more searching we found Jacobs street and I knew the lighthouse was at the end of the street. At one time this was a bed and breakfast but when we stopped no one appeared home. I rang the bell but after not getting any answer, I snapped a few photos from the parking area. I found information stating the lighthouse, built in 1869 replaced an early light in the same location.

Ontonagon - one more light for our trip

We had checked out of our motel and were leaving the area when my husband saw a sign for Ontonagon. I had remembered that there was a lighthouse there but couldn't remember if it was a good one. It was only 14 miles off our route so we decided to take a side trip and see what it looked like. We were pleasantly surprise when we found a beautiful white brick lighthouse just across the river and as a bonus a pierhead light out on a long breakwater. There was a concrete path around the harbor so I was able to photograph both lights from various angles.

Our trip was now complete. We had photographed 20 lighthouses during our 9 day trip and enjoyed the beauty and mild (60's-70's) temperatures of the Upper Peninsula in June.

Ontonagon Pierhead Light

last of our lighthouse adventure

The last lighthouse we saw as we were leaving Michigan on our Upper Peninsula adventure was the Ontonagon Pierhead light. This light sits at the end of a long pier at the entrance to the Ontonagon harbor. This lighthouse was built in 1900 to replace a light that was originally in the same location in 1875.

On our trip to Michigan's upper peninsula we surpassed our goal of photographing at least 10 lighthouses. In fact when you count the pierhead lights and the lighthouses we ended up seeing a total of 20 lights in 9 days. In addition we enjoyed several beautiful waterfalls, two wineries and even one casino. I tried a local favorite meal the "Pastie". It was very tasty. Along the way we had a great time traveling the backroads of the UP and enjoying each others company.


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