Rugged shorelines, the Copper Harbor lighthouse, a calming inland lake experience. Copper Harbor hosts paddling experiences of all kinds. Here are just three.

Copper Harbor to Horseshoe Harbor
6 miles roundtrip
If you’ve got your state park pass, launch from the gravel beach at the Copper Harbor Lighthouse overlook area north of town and park at the Fort Wilkins State Park entrance nearby. Otherwise, launch at the concrete boat ramp at the Copper Harbor Marina west of town. Paddlers can explore the Copper Harbor Lighthouse before venturing east, down two miles of the exposed conglomerate coast to Horseshoe Harbor. The Nature Conservancy preserve at Horseshoe Harbor protects the unique geology of bizarre rock stacks and stone beaches. Hazards: The rugged shore offers few landings and north winds will create large waves.

Agate Harbor and Silver Island
4 miles roundtrip
Put in at the quaint Esrey Park on M-26 about 8 miles west of Copper Harbor. Paddle northeast to explore two long finger bays with small islands and interesting lakefront cabins. Most of the property here is private, so be respectful, but you can hop out at the public Agate Harbor Island, the tiny piece of rock at the tip of the finger that separates the bay from the big lake. A narrow channel near the island lets you slip out to the lake. Then head back southwest to poke around Silver Island (private), and keep a lookout for the remains of two shipwrecks on this route. Hazards: Exposure from north and northeast winds, though the harbor itself is fairly protected.

Lake Medora
Inland lake
A public boat ramp right on U.S. 41 just 4 miles south of Copper Harbor offers access to this Canadian-shield gem of an inland lake. With about 5 miles of rugged shoreline and a handful of small picturesque islands, Lake Medora offers a respite from the more demanding waters of Lake Superior. Look for the public island sporting the county parks picnic table and stretch your legs. Explore the eastern shore or put on some miles and cross to the northwest corner to look for wildlife near a marshy area. Hazards: Being swallowed whole by the resident walleye, bass and perch.

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

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