The tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula juts 60 miles into Lake Superior, its fingerlike extension discernible from the moon. This zenith of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a product of volcanic activity, formed at least 1 billion years ago. Now, wave-eroded rock defines the rugged shoreline where only the hardiest vegetation withstands constant exposure to the Great Lakes’ ferocious winds.
Traveling the Great Lakes Flyway, thousands of raptors gather each spring and fall on the Keweenaw’s shores, among them bald eagle and peregrine falcon. Inland, waterfalls and glacial lakes punctuate forest of balsam fir, white cedar, spruce and birch. More than 900 species of plants blanket the peninsula, providing food and shelter for animals as large as black bear and moose and as small as the tawny crescent, a rare butterfly.
Known as the Copper Country, the Keweenaw was a booming mining hub at the turn of the century—once the largest single source of the metal in the Western Hemisphere. Copper was transported from the peninsula entirely by ship. The Keweenaw is today primarily working forestland and a summer tourist destination. Tourism-related development, especially new homes proliferating along the forested shoreline, threatens to fragment forest habitat and degrade the lake’s clear waters.
Seizing a rare opportunity to protect more than five miles of pristine shoreline and significant inland habitat, The Nature Conservancy in 2002 brokered a land transaction between International Paper and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Through the agreement, the state will pay $12.5 million to permanently safeguard the property. The land, previously planned for subdivision, will be open to the public for recreation and will link a Conservancy preserve with another protected area, creating a vast contiguous corridor for wildlife.
Learn more about The Nature Conservancy's work around Michigan.