Dark Skies – A village with less than 100 residents year-round is a village with pretty minimal light pollution, making Copper Harbor an excellent dark skies destination. Stargazing and viewing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is possible from pretty much anywhere in town, and defiantly the outskirts of town make for fabulous lookouts. Arguably though, the top of Brockway Mountain may be the ultimate lookout, especially when there is not much moonlight present. The Milky Way, along with a stunning number of other constellations, can clearly be observed.
Endless Sunsets – Along the line of dark skies, are sunsets. “Where is the best sunset?” is one of visitor’s most FAQ, and here’s the inside scoop… Some of the best places to enjoy a fabulous sunset include: the top of Brockway Mountain, Hunter’s Point, Lake Manganese and Horseshoe Harbor. And another insider’s scoop? The best part is after the sun has disappeared below the horizon – that’s when the colors really pop, often providing a colorful show for a full half-hour or so. And since we’re on the topic, some of the best places to enjoy a sunrise include: “the nose” of Brockway Mountain and the 3rd Street Memorial viewing deck.
Observing the Skies – Lake Superior creates it’s own weather and the unique clouds and storms that go with it. Watch the skies for unusual. The fog bow pictured above is a rare phenomenon when a bow appears in fog rather than rain. This one happened over Copper Harbor!
The Keweenaw Peninsula is a migrating bird magnet and most of the activity winds up in Copper Harbor! Brockway Mountain also known as “hawk highway” is home to spectacular spring raptor migrations. An official hawk count, the Brockway Mountain Hawk Watch is conducted from March 15th to June 15th each spring. Clearly this is an amazing spot to watch raptors, sometimes at eye level! 18 North American raptors have been sighted during their migration on Brockway.
The annual Keweenaw’s Migratory Bird Festival runs throughout the migration in Copper Harbor offering great birding, presentations, bird walks and more.
Hunter’s Point is a last stop for migrating birds before crossing Lake Superior. Passerines by the thousands “line up” at the point and take flight in the early hours to make the trek across Lake Superior. The harbor itself gives many water birds a resting spot along Lake Superior. Many small inland lakes full of fish and vegetation are re-fueling stations too.
The Biking/Hiking trail just past town goes all the way to Fort Wilkins and is alive with migrating passerines. Spring of 2001, 23 species of warblers were identified in 1 day! There are too many spring migrants to list! Our topography lends to our amazing spring migration, but we get a decent fall migration too. some regular visitors are Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Dark-eyed Junco, Horned Lark, Bohemian and Cedar Waxwing, American Pipit, Rusty Blackbird and Cackling Goose. And for sparrow, we see just about all of them!
Copper Harbor is hidden in the far north against a backdrop of lakes, mountains and pristine forest. It is the home of numerous wildlife species.Whitetail Deer, Porcupine, Beaver, Red Squirrel, Flying Squirrel, Least and Eastern Chipmunks, American marten, Short-tailed weasel, Striped skunk, Fisher, River otter, Coyote, Bobcat, Snow-shoe hare, Red fox and Gray fox are just a few of the mammals you may see while in the area. Grey wolf and Cougar have been sighted but it’s rare indeed.
Though there’s not as much wildlife to view during the winter months, there are some interesting changes that occur. There are some animals and birds that stick around, they just look different. Two of our local mammals experience a striking transformation turning from brown to white in the winter months – the Snow-shoe Hare and the Short-tailed weasel, called the Ermine in it’s white coat. The American Goldfinch turns from bright yellow with black markings to a pale, almost unrecognizable version of its summer self. White-tailed deer trade their attractive smooth red fur for a thick, dull gray, winter coat.
If you are a wildflower enthusiast or just appreciate the beauty in these small wonders, you will enjoy the Copper Harbor area. The early bloomers start appearing in mid-April, sometimes right through the snow. One can experience new species popping up on a regular basis from Round-lobed Hepatica in spring to Common St. Johnswort in fall.
Wildflowers are all over in Copper Harbor. Large, obvious blooms grow along the roadsides, including Thimbleberry, Ox-eye Daisy, Buttercup and Hairy Vetch. Quite a few species, such as violets and sorrels often grow in disturbed soil, conveniently growing along paths and trails for easy viewing. There are many different species in the woods, around lakes and ponds and in meadows. The pebble beaches of Lake Superior even bloom with flowers such as Smooth Rose and Beach Pea.
Meander through town or take an area trail and you’ll come across scores of wildflowers. Many are easy to see, but some species can be more challenging to locate. Some of the most rewarding are the orchids. These often tiny flowers can be hidden in plain sight. Some of the more elusive wildflowers are not far from the trails and can be spotted with a little patience.
Copper Harbor’s numerous trails offer several land features which represent diverse habitats and yield a wide variety of species. Any of the trails listed on the “Hiking” page and “Bird Watching” page give rise to a nice variety of blooms throughout the seasons.
The Copper Harbor area, as with many areas of the Upper Peninsula has waterfalls that are hidden treasures. Some are right along the roadways while others take a little more foot power to reach, but are well worth the effort. They are all magnificent, especially during spring runoff when white water is rushing to the lake, or as frozen sculptures in winter.
Manganese Falls – Take 2nd Street (Manganese Rd) 1/2 mile south of Gratiot street and just off the road to the left. An easy trail leads to a nice viewing area. Another trail parallels the falls for some great up close views. The falls are of course best in the spring but the area is pretty any time of year.
There is a small but pretty falls and cascading river that can be viewed from the John Lincoln Green Trail bridge.
Highway M-26 (Lakeshore Drive)
Silver River Falls – 9.5 miles west of Copper Harbor just off the road. A few steps and an easy trail leads to these falls. The Silver River runs under M-26 and a pretty stone bridge crosses just after the falls.
Jacob’s Falls – 18 miles west of Copper Harbor just beyond Great Sand Bay and just past the Jam Pot on the left. Or 4 miles east of Eagle River just before the Jam Pot.
Eagle River Falls – Turn by the County Courthouse to view this historic Fuse Factory Dam in Eagle River.
Lac La Belle / Bete Gris
Haven Falls – Turn right at Gay-Lac La Belle Road about 1/2 mile, at the County Park on the right. This is a nice picnic area and rustic restrooms are onsite.
Montreal Falls – Montreal River, 5 miles east of Bete Grise along the shore of Lake Superior.
Other Nearby Falls
Copper Falls – On Owl’s Creek, between US41 and Eagle Harbor, on the Eagle Harbor Cut-Off, 1/2 mile off road.
The fall color season in the Copper Harbor area rivals anywhere else in the country! Our mixed woodlands featuring a variety of deciduous trees blended with an abundance of coniferous species deliver a stunning color show in autumn. The “Tree Tunnel” US-41 coming into Copper Harbor is literally jaw dropping in the fall.
Because Copper Harbor is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula which juts out into Lake Superior, it keeps its own “micro climate”. The weather can be very different from just 30 miles south. We also enjoy less severe temperatures thanks to Superior.
The important thing to remember is that the fall colors are later than those south of us. This area can peak 2 weeks later than Baraga which is less than 100 miles south of us. Northern Wisconsin and the northern LP often lose leaves before Copper Harbor.
Every fall is different in timing, but typically, colors start to change toward the end of September and peak around the middle of October. Again, it is never something you can mark on your calendar.