Copper Country

Coordinates: 46°56′N 88°48′W / 46.94°N 88.8°W / 46.94; -88.8
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Map of the region.
Miners pose with lunch pails in hand on a mine rock pile outside of the Tamarack mineshaft. This mine was one of the most productive mines in the Copper Country.

The Copper Country is an area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the United States, including Keweenaw County, Michigan, Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties as well as part of Marquette County. The area is so named as copper mining was prevalent there from 1845 until the late 1960s, with one mine (the White Pine mine) continuing through 1995. In its heyday in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the area was the world's greatest producer of copper.[1]

Native copper[edit]

13-oz. nugget of native copper, Keweenaw County, Michigan. Size 9.5 x 8.6 x 1.7 cm.
Native copper from the Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) long.

Copper Country is highly unusual among mining districts in that the copper mined was predominantly in its elemental ("native") form, rather than in the form of compounds (mostly oxides and sulfides) that form the basis of the copper ore at almost every other copper-mining district.


Native Americans mined copper from small pits as early as 3000 B.C. on this peninsula surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior.

Douglass Houghton, the State Geologist of Michigan in the mid-1800s and later to become mayor of Detroit, reported on the copper deposits in 1841. The first successful copper mine, the Cliff mine, began operations in 1845, and spurred by venture capital from Boston and other East Coast investors, many other mines quickly followed. Mining of the most productive deposit, the Calumet conglomerate, began in 1865. Mining took place along a belt that stretched about 100 miles southwest to northeast.[2]

While mining in Copper Country continues to this day, it is on a much smaller scale than before, with tourism and logging having taken over as the area's largest industries.

Immigrants to Copper Country[edit]

Initially, Irish, Cornish, French-Canadian and German immigrants came to mine copper on the peninsula. They were followed by large numbers of Finns, Swedes, Danes, Sámi and Norwegians who immigrated to the Upper Peninsula, especially the Keweenaw Peninsula, to work in the mines. The immigration of people from Finland peaked from 1899 to World War I. Slovenes, Croatians, and Italians emigrated from about 1880, the first two groups sometimes called Austrians as their homelands were then part of the Austrian Empire. Polish people also were attracted to this successful mining area. Thus the pattern in this boom period was first the Native Americans and people from the British Isles, French Canada and Western Europe, followed by people from the Nordic countries, and then by people from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Finns in particular stayed on and prospered even after the copper mines closed, while most moved on to other mining areas or homesteaded in other Midwestern states.[3]

The list of ethnic groups included the aforementioned Nordic peoples, Chinese; Cornish; Croatians; French Canadians; Germans; Irish; Italians; Native Americans; Poles; and Slovenes.[1]

After the copper mining[edit]

Popular tourist destinations include the cities of Copper Harbor, Houghton, and the Porcupine Mountains with Lake of the Clouds. Snowmobiling is very popular in the winter, and snowmobile trails are found in most areas.

The Copper Country is largely rural, and much of it has been designated as state parks or similar designations. These include McLain State Park, Porcupine Mountains State Park, and the Copper Country State Forest. The Keweenaw National Historical Park includes several important sites relating to the area's copper-mining history.

Institutions of higher education include the former Finlandia University in Hancock, founded in 1896 as Suomi College (closed in 2023), and Michigan Technological University in Houghton, originally established in 1885 as the Michigan School of Mines. Finlandia University is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, reflecting the spiritual heritage of the region's many Finnish immigrants. Michigan Tech was founded in response to the needs of the copper mines.

Winter snowfall[edit]

The Copper Country averages more snowfall than any part of the USA east of the Mississippi River, and more snowfall than any non-mountainous region of the continental United States.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "An Interior Ellis Island: Ethnic Diversity and the Peopling of Michigan's Copper Country, Keweenaw Ethnic Groups". MTU Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection. J. Robert Van Pelt Library, Michigan Technological University. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  2. ^ White, Walter S. (1968). "The native-copper deposits of northern Michigan". In Ridge, John D. (ed.). Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933-1967. Vol. 1. New York: American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933-1967. pp. 303–325.
  3. ^ Simon, James; Finney, Patricia (August 10–14, 2008). "Publication, Access and Preservation of Scandinavian Immigrant Press in North America" (PDF). World Library and Information Congress. Quebec, Canada: Center for Research Libraries. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  4. ^ "Mean Monthly and Annual Snowfall: Conterminous United States". Climate Source. Archived from the original on June 9, 2008. Retrieved June 10, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

46°56′N 88°48′W / 46.94°N 88.8°W / 46.94; -88.8