Keweenaw’s Castaway Islands

Even though Manitou Island and Gull Rock, both off the coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula, are deserted most the year, there are two groups that care deeply for the sibling islands.

The Copper Country Audubon Club makes annual spring pilgrimages to Manitou Island to conduct a survey of migrating birds. Much like Whitefish Point to the east, the Keweenaw Peninsula is a flyway for many species of migratory birds, especially raptors. Since 2002 the birders have counted over 184 species at Manitou, including over 1,000 raptors in the air at one time. Monitor their progress at manitouislandbirdsurvey.org.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit Gull Rock Lightkeepers battle to keep the precious beacon from sliding into the sea. The effort was started by Peter Annin, a former Newsweek correspondent who now organizes educational fellowships for environmental journalists. In cooperation with the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy the group applied to the federal government to take on restoration of the whitewashed schoolhouse-style light.

In the spring of 2005 the transfer was approved, and now plans are in the works to restore it and create a fellowship program for scholars and professionals in the arts. The group imagines a program modeled after the artist-in-residence program at places like Isle Royale National Park. Take a virtual trip to the Keweenaw’s tip at gullrocklightkeepers.org.

Aaron Peterson is a freelance writer and photographer based in Marquette, a short drive or a long paddle from the Keweenaw. To learn more about his work visit aaronpeterson.net.

Note: This article was first published in July 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.

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