Manganese Falls, Estivant Pines Sanctuary, Copper Harbor, and Fort Wilkins State Park
After setting up camp in Fort Wilkins State Park just outside the town of Copper Harbor we took Manganese Road out to Manganese Falls, a forty-ish foot cascade within a gorge. Of course we didn’t go to the overlook like everyone else (which would have been too easy, ha) but instead went downstream where we found a less-steep access point and then picked our way up the river bed. Luckily there wasn’t much water, but eventually the banks started to become more sheer than steep and so we clamored up and walked along the rim the rest of the way. We found the top of the falls and then noticed the viewpoint across the river which seemed like a good place to exit.
Continuing down the logging road past the falls we followed our directions and eventually found the Estivant Pines Sanctuary, a 500 acre protected patch located in the midst of logged forest. The sanctuary contains old growth hardwood and one of the largest remaining tracts of eastern white pine with trees 300 to 500 years old that are as tall as 110 feet. We walked the Cathedral Grove Trail within the pristine forest, marveling when we cam across one of the larger pines. After leaving the sanctuary we returned to town and walked around the harbor before stopping by Brickside Brewery.
After our day hiking, exploring Copper Harbor, and having a few beers we decided to take advantage of the long daylight hours and went for a walk around Fort Wilkins after dinner. The fort also plays a part in the copper story of the Keweenaw. Occupied beginning in 1844, it was designed to guard one of the best natural harbors on the peninsula amidst concerns from shipping companies regarding possible theft and disorder between the Ojibwe natives and the incoming miners. It was, however, completely unnecessary. Left in the hands of a caretaker two years later the fort wasn’t used again until 1867 when the army sought a place for former Civil Way soldiers. It was permanently closed three years later. We not only had the place to ourselves, but had perhaps the best views of the grounds and the Lake Superior shore under the fading daylight.