Explore Geology
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National Historical Park


cover of park brochure

park geology subheading
sunset at Keweenaw National Historic park
Keweenaw National Historic Park, Michigan

Keweenaw National Historical Park with its rich heritage centered around the copper industry, Calumet and the surrounding areas displays a unique cross-section of cultures, architecture, industry, and history. The park is located in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is surrounded by Lake Superior. Its only connection to the rest of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is the Portage Lift Bridge located between Houghton and Hancock.

Reports of enormous copper deposits here ignited America's first mining boom in 1843, a half dozen years before California's gold rush. By 1849, Michigan’s Copper Country provided 85% of the entire United States copper production. These were the richest deposits ever discovered. The mines played an important role in America's Industrial Revolution and performed a crucial mission by supplying copper for military equipment during the Civil War.

Between 1867 and 1884 the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, based in Calumet, produced half the nation's copper. From 1889 and 1900, C & H paid out $57 million in dividends. The C & H surface plant was called the most efficient in the nation, with 50 steam engines in operation by the late 1890s. The Red Jacket shaft, at more than 8,000 feet in depth, was the deepest in the world. Calumet and Laurium rest on top of hundreds of miles of shafts, tunnels and drifts. Between 1845 and 1967, the copper mines on the peninsula produced 11 million pounds of copper.

Many thousands of immigrants, mostly from Europe, poured into the area between 1845 and 1910. The miners lived in company housing or in surrounding communities with names such as Red Jacket, Limerick, Sing Sing and Swedetown. C & H provided low-cost housing for the miners. By 1898 the company owned 1,000 dwellings. It also built schools, a library, bowling alleys, a community pool and bathhouse and a hospital. The immigrant's passing is reflected today by the neighborhoods, surnames, foods and traditions. The mine and community buildings constructed by the mining company are handsome structures, built of native red sandstone.

Calumet and Laurium lie on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is about 50 miles long and 15 miles wide, on the northern most tip of Michigan. The native copper range forms a narrow spine along the peninsula. The most prominent feature is a 4 to 12 mile wide ridge that forms the copper range and represents a spectacular example of the 1.1 billion year old mid-continent rift. Its glacial topography is only slightly affected by erosion. Hundreds of ancient mining sites, mined in prehistoric times, also lie along the peninsula.

Washington implemented the Keweenaw National Historical Park legislation in October 1992. The park is meant to fill a missing niche in the national park system, whose mission is to tell the story of America's natural, recreational and cultural resources. This park fills the latter role. The Calumet Historic District includes

  • the C & H Mine location,
  • the Calumet Commercial district and
  • the residential areas.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A geology photo album has not been prepared for this park.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

selected links subheading

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for any park-specific geology education programs or activities.

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/kewe/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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