North of the Northwoods: From Mines to Motels on Michigan’s Lake Superior
In June 2024, VAF members will venture “North of the Northwoods” to Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Known as the “Copper Country,” this three-county area on the southern shore of Lake Superior features buildings and landscapes that tell stories of copper mining boom and bust, immigration, urban growth, industrial labor, as well as post-industrial patterns of recovery, reinvention, and re-interpretation. The region is home to the Keweenaw National Historical Park and Michigan Technological University, whose program in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology has been studying the region’s built environment for over thirty years. Historic buildings featured on the tours date from the 1850s prospecting era, through the height of industrialization when the region supported sizable cities, to the rise of tourism with the Civilian Conservation Corps and post-War automobile travel. Issues of environmental and cultural sustainability will feature prominently as we visit Finnish-American farmstead sites, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community landscapes, post-industrial downtowns, and Superfund remediation sites.
Conference attendees will stay in Houghton, Michigan on the beautiful Portage Waterway and attend paper sessions at Michigan Technological University. Everyone will do the same tour on Thursday to explore the story of copper mining, and then choose between two tour options on Friday. Tour attendees will all enjoy time on Lake Superior’s shores. The conference planning committee is also working with heritage partners to offer additional tours and site visits on Wednesday and Sunday.
Explore the U.P.
The Keweenaw Peninsula is part of Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula—the “U.P.”! Once you come north of the northwoods you might consider extending your stay! This region offers incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation such as mountain biking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, ATV trail riding, cycling, and much more. The Copper Harbor Trails Club consistently gets ranked among the top ten mountain biking destinations in the country, and if you’ve always wanted to visit Isle Royale National Park, the boat leaves from Houghton. Check out Visit Keweenaw for more vacation ideas. Seriously, once you get here, it’s worth your time to explore more!
Advanced Planning for Travel
It does take a little extra effort to get to the Keweenaw so we encourage you to plan early and consider making it into an early summer vacation or research trip!
Houghton County Memorial Airport (CMX) has two flights a day on United from Chicago O’Hare. United *might* consider adding an additional flight for us so we’ll keep you posted! CMX is an easy ten minute drive by taxi or Lyft from the conference hotel, but we will run van shuttles between the airport and downtown Houghton. There is an Enterprise/Hertz rental office at the airport, but you will need to reserve early.
Marquette, MI (MQT) — 110 miles away — American and Delta
Iron Mountain, MI — 120 miles — Delta
Rhinelander/Oneida County, WI (RHI) — 130 miles — Delta
Green Bay, WI — 220 miles — American, Delta, Sun Country, Frontier, United
Duluth, MN — 230 miles — United, Delta, Sun Country
Minneapolis/St. Paul — 375 miles — many airlines…
Milwaukee — 335 miles — many airlines…
Houghton is a 6 hour drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, or Madison; 8 hours from Chicago; 4 hours from Green Bay; 5 hours from Mackinac City; 6 hours from Traverse City; 10 hours from Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Indian Trails runs an overnight bus from Milwaukee to Hancock, MI and Michigan Tech’s campus.