Upper Peninsula Keweenaw Mountain Lodge Becomes Official Dark Sky Park

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Past Calumet. Past Mohawk and Lac La Belle. Passed the middle of nowhere and the place where Jesus left his sandals.

Keep venturing up and east into the Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost place in Michigan accessible without a boat. When you get to the end of the map, just before you drop into Lake Superior, it’s Copper Harbor.

This is the focal point of the new Keweenaw Dark Sky Park, officially recognized by a group called the International Dark-Sky Association. This is where the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge dabbled in its lights and stepped up its photography lessons and became, a month ago, the designated black sky headquarters of the only IDSA park in the upper peninsula.

In daylight—which lasts until nearly 11 p.m. this time of year—the summit of Michigan’s Point is awash in greenery and washed by pristine blue waters.

On a dark night, it is a place of contemplation. For reflection. To contemplate the endless starry sky and meditate on the immensity of the universe.

Oh, and for the bears. Big ones, with legs the size of Hot-N-Ready pizzas. But the whole point of a dark sky area is to tread lightly, and also carries peace and quiet.

“We are focused on our goal,” said John Mueller, owner of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. He needs to earn money, of course, and he has a 9-hole golf course to maintain and 24 cabins to clean.

But the bottom line is light years above the horizon: “We help people see the stars.

Better than Anchorage

Light pollution robs most of us of the chance to appreciate the sky as humans did before electricity and so has damned many of us.

Brad Barnett, Executive Director of the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureaumoved to the area from Alaska in 2013. Even in Anchorage, he said, ambient light blotted out the real cosmos.

In the Keweenaw, which springs from the western end of UP, “you just realize the world is a little bigger than yourself,” he said. Watch the northern Lights dancing is “a miraculous thing, and you can experience it here if you take the time and have a bit of luck”.

There is a purple tint to the night sky in a photo of what is now Keweenaw Dark Sky Park, headquartered at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor.  Photographer Thomas Oliver, education manager at the Lodge, recently drove a guest to nearby Hunter's Point on a cloudy night, just to show where future photos could be taken.  Clouds rose unexpectedly, displaying the Milky Way in the southern sky and then, in the opposite direction, the Northern Lights.

There is a price to pay in distance and 270 inches of non-negotiable snow. But at the lodge, Mueller is ready to meet him, having come to love the area as his son graduated from Michigan Technology at Houghton.

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A Texan and Coloradoan, for the most part, he bought the rights to the place from a man who won it at auction for $1.35 million, then – appropriately for the region – got cold feet. eyes.

Born as one Work progress administration project in the mid-1930s, the lodge now offers gourmet dining, mountain biking, a telescope library, and astrophotography lessons. Rivian is expected to install an EV charger next month, Mueller said, and there are talks on the road to electric snowmobiles.

After four years, he says, he can count on “a great summer, then fall colors, then a winter with skiers and snowmobilers. Then for spring, you might have a day, or six depending on how much of snow we had.”

A designation as an official Dark Sky Park seemed both an affirmation of what it had done and a boost for business. A long list of adaptations and improvements at IDSA’s request included more than two dozen new exterior lights on the 500-acre property, muted and with LED bulbs, as well as a commitment to education and awareness.

Fourteen arduous months after applying, he received the green light.

Other Views of Michigan

Keewenaw is Michigan’s third IDSA park, joining Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City and Dr. TK Lawless International Dark Sky Park in Cass County, with its irresistible address of 15122 Monkey Run St. in Vandalia.

Six other parks have been designated Dark Sky Preserves by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. State recognition commits them to mitigating light pollution throughout the year.

“We have sought international designation,” said Eric Ostrander, unit supervisor for the DNR at Negwegon State Park near Alpena, “but their requirements are much stricter than what our law includes.” .

There is a purple tint to the night sky in a photo of what is now Keweenaw Dark Sky Park, headquartered at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor.  Photographer Thomas Oliver, education manager at the Lodge, recently drove a guest to nearby Hunter's Point on a cloudy night, just to show where future photos could be taken.  Clouds rose unexpectedly, displaying the Milky Way in the southern sky and then, in the opposite direction, the Northern Lights.

The effort will pay off, Barnett said, though it’s hard to quantify how many people come to Copper Harbor because his stargazing has been officially endorsed by a nonprofit in Arizona.

“It’s still a nascent industry. We don’t have good data,” he said. But if all it does is push the kind of travelers who already want to leave small footprints, it’s a worthy impact.

Dark Sky Park, he noted, is open to everyone, wherever they spend the night. Nearby motels and restaurants – with “nearby” a very relative term – are eager to serve.

The lake attracts. The stars are waiting. Sky is the limit.

Contact Neal Rubin at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @nealrubin_fp. Or both. To subscribe to the Free Press for an absolutely derisory sum of money, click on here.

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