COPPER HARBOR – History comes alive at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park in Copper Harbor with costumed portrayals of men and women who were stationed at the fort during the summer of 1870. Modeled after actual members of the army garrison and based on extensive historical research, interpreters bring the fort to life from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily through Aug. 15.
The state park is home to a restored 19th-century army post that, in addition to the daily costumed portrayals of soldiers and their families, features three-day, living-history encampments and museum exhibits enlivened by the sights and sounds of army life nearly 150 years ago.
Upcoming encampments are scheduled for July 22-24, July 30-Aug. 1 and Aug. 13-15.
The three-day camps are presented by The Future Historians, a youth association from the Michigan Iron Industry Museum at Negaunee. Children from the museum group receive intensive training during the spring before assuming the costumed roles of children at Fort Wilkins during the summer camps. Throughout the summer, 59 participants will demonstrate children’s games and chores while telling visitors about growing up in 1870.
Built in 1844 to keep peace in Michigan’s copper country, Fort Wilkins was abandoned two years later and re-garrisoned by federal infantry from 1867 to 1870. Today, it remains a well-preserved example of a mid-1800s fort, including officers’ quarters, soldiers’ barracks, married enlisted men’s quarters, hospital, workshops, powder magazine and guardhouse.
The historic site also features the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, where exhibits interpret the light station and its keepers. Public access to the lighthouse museum is by a tour boat concession that operates daily from the Copper Harbor Marina. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/ftwilkins or call the park at 906-289-4215.
Fort Wilkins – including the restored fort, the Copper Harbor Lighthouse and the 1844 Pittsburgh and Boston Mining Company mine sites – is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the outdoor museum is open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk through mid-October.
A Recreation Passport is required to enter Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. Nonresidents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($31 annual, $9 daily) at any state park or recreation area or (annual passes only) through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore.