Fort Wilkins Historic State Park
The history of Fort Wilkins (15223 U.S. 41, 906/289-4215, campsites $16–25) reads like one of those overblown military spending stories of the 20th century. With miners pouring north during the Copper Rush, the federal government feared fighting would surely erupt between miners and the local Indian tribes, and ordered the construction of a garrisoned fort.
In 1844, they sent troops of more than 100 men, who built barracks, a mess hall, a hospital, and other buildings behind a tall stockade fence, then hunkered down to fend off the fighting. Only no fighting ever erupted, and winters proved long, cold, and desolate. By the following year, half the troops were pulled out and sent south, where the country faced the threat of war with Mexico. By 1846, the rest were gone.
Today, Fort Wilkins stands as one of the only wooden forts remaining east of the Mississippi, with 16 whitewashed buildings wonderfully restored and filled with exhibits of life on the northern frontier. From mid-June to late August, costumed “inhabitants” even re-create military life.
Along with the fort, the state park includes rocky and scenic Lake Superior frontage, a few short hiking trails, the 1866 Copper Harbor Lighthouse, and an excellent campground on Lake Fanny Hooe.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel