The sky is the limit of Keweenaw Mountain Lodge

When John Mueller bought kiweenaw mountain lodge At Copper Harbor in 2018, he had brilliant ideas for not only preserving and improving the historic resort but also enhancing the visitor experience by providing access to the unparalleled natural surroundings of the Kewenau Peninsula.

Built in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), on a 170-acre plot donated by Keweenaw Copper, the resort was owned and operated by Keweenaw County. It became a Michigan Historic Site in 1976 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Today, the complex spans 560 acres after Mueller purchased additional tracts of land (including 11 miles of driveways) adjacent to the original property earlier this summer. The resort also includes a 9-hole golf course, 24 two- and three-bedroom log cabins, a main lodge, a café, and a restaurant — as of June 2022 — Michigan’s newest shaded international park.

“We are excited and honored that International Dark Sky Society She chose to welcome Keweenaw Mountain Lodge to the IDA Dark Sky Places program, Mueller said. “This is a significant achievement and the Lodge’s Dark-Sky policies will help promote and maintain the gorgeous starry skies of Keweenaw. Keweenaw Mountain Lodge looks forward to increasing the stargazing and other dark-sky-related activities available in the area and is proud to offer a dark-sky activity headquarters at the top of Keweenaw. “.

The kiwenaw dark sky park It is the first and only facility of its kind in the Upper Peninsula, which joins the Headlands Dark Sky Park Near the city of Mackinaw – Founded in 2011 to be the sixth park in the United States and the ninth in the world Dr. TK Lawless International Dark Sky Park In Vandalia (Cas County), founded in 2020.

Since its founding in 1988, IDA—based in Tucson, Arizona—has worked to protect the night sky from light pollution, ultimately providing ideal stargazing locations around the world. There are about 200 dark sky places around the world, with five unique designations: communities, parks, reserves, reserves, and urban night sky places.

According to the IDA website, “When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, affect human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and prevent or expose contact with the universe.” “The International Dark Places Program was established in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary program to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to conserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education.”

In short, IDA works with communities and individuals to identify and promote rural locations that have been removed from the excessive luster of street lights, billboards, shopping malls, and other businesses.

“Kewenaw Dark Sky Park offers a unique stargazing experience in the Midwest of the United States,” says Ashley Wesson, director of conservation at IDA, in a press release issued earlier this summer. “The Historic Wildlife Inn allows visitors to view the splendor of the night sky from the window of a pristine northern landscape while also allowing for more interaction with the nocturnal environment through astrophotography and lighting management workshops.”

This prime park location on the Keweenaw Peninsula, surrounded by Lake Superior (the largest freshwater lake in the world) and thousands of acres of undeveloped wilderness – filled with forest creatures like bears, wolves, coyotes, deer, bald eagles, owls and more – is open 24 hours a day, all day long. General, for general use.

Keweenaw Mountain Lodge under the full moon.Brad Barnett, CEO of Visit Keweenaw. “Thanks to the leadership efforts at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, we now have an internationally recognized year-round attraction perfect for stargazing enthusiasts and Northern Lights chasers. The Lodge staff truly embrace their role in educating visitors and helping them connect with the dark Keweenaw skies.”

The official application process began in April 2021, but there was a lot of research and data collection before that. This included taking sky quality measurements using a Unihedron SQM photometer, with more than 500 readings between February 2021 and May 31, 2022; Take horizontal photos to determine if there are any light dome effects in the vicinity; Develop a lighting management plan and adopt a resolution affirming the organization’s commitment to promoting the Dark Atmosphere at the top of Keweenaw, all documented online.

Mueller has also collected letters of support from local, regional, and state organizations such as Fort Wilkins State Park, Michigan Nature Association, Copper Harbor Trails Club, Keweenaw Adventure Company, and Travel Michigan – the state’s premier tourism organization with the award-winning Pure Michigan label.
Says Tom Nemachik, CEO of Upper Peninsula Travel and Leisure Association. “Kewenaw Dark Sky Garden is sure to become a shining star for our region and, with its international ranking, will undoubtedly attract visitors from all over the world.”

Globally, there has been a growing interest in what has been termed astrotourism. According to a 2019 article published on Forbes.comAstrotourism is “intentionally traveling to destinations rich in nature that experience less light pollution, allowing you to more easily observe the stars, as well as visiting observatories and organizations related to astronomy with an eye to ecotourism.”

The National Park Service has also noted an increase in astrotourism as a regional economic driver. According to, “With the popularity of stargazing programs, night walks, full moon hikes, and other similar activities in parks, landscaping has become an economical resource.” “Visitor facilities in communities surrounding national parks are finding that stargazing activities attract more tourists and tend to increase the length of stay and the corresponding economic benefits to those communities.”

At Hedlands’ Dark Sky Park, they conservatively receive up to 60,000 visitors a year, according to Jamie Westfall, the park’s manager. “We had 36496.5 visitors to the Headlands this year [with three months left of 2022]. This does not include the thousands of visitors who come and use the overflow yard across the street due to insufficient parking or the winter visitors who come when we can’t use the traffic meter.”

Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is ideally located between the 132,018-acre Isle Royale National Park (ironically the least visited national park in the contiguous United States, which attracts an average of only 18,216 visitors per year) and Keweenaw National Historic Park , which works in collaboration with 21 heritage sites on the Kewenau Peninsula. It’s also adjacent to the 443-acre McLain State Park—a two-mile stretch of rocky Lake Superior Beach—and Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, located in a restored 1844 military site at the top of Keweenaw.

Nature-based ecotourism experiences, such as skiing, hiking, kayaking, camping, and stargazing, are what attract and wallet visitors to this area.

“I was so excited to hear this announcement as Dark Sky Park aligns with our mission to ‘contribute to the well-being of the region through education, stewardship and the preservation of sustainable tourism. Says Raymond Landsberg, the new owner of Kiwinaw Adventures Company.

In the future, Landsberg hopes to add night camping to the list of recreational adventures (such as mountain biking and kayaking) to take advantage of the dark night skies.

Since the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is only months old, the direct economic impact has yet to be determined. According to Barnett, “We are conducting a study funded by the US Department of Economic Development and conducted by the University of Michigan to help us better understand specific drivers of Keweenaw tourism, which will be available next year.”

Earlier this year, Visit Keweenaw reported a $25 million increase in tourism income in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019. Adding Dark Sky Park to the mix, especially with established community partners such as Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, is sure to attract More astrological tourists in the coming years.

“We continue to work on our lighting placement and reduce our light footprint while continuing to provide guests with a safe and warm experience,” notes Muller. “This goes hand in hand with Stargazing (outdoor activities) that we are building at the Lodge. The events/activities we will be doing and will provide our patrons in the future will be able to see and learn more about the stars, enjoy the clear starry skies, meteor storms and even the aurora borealis” .

Programs such as new moon parties, night sky photography workshops, and interpretive moonlight-guided snowshoe hikes provide recreational and educational opportunities for those who head to Keweenaw Dark Sky Park for unique celestial experiences.

Muller is also installing two cameras on the property which will allow people from all over the world to get a glimpse of what is going on in the park. One will be a Northern Lights webcam – sure to be popular when the Northern Lights begin to dance in the sky, and the other is an all-sky webcam that complements the resort’s stargazing activities.

In addition to the Dark Sky Park project, Mueller has a list of other initiatives aimed at enhancing the visitor experience at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, including the installation of a Rivian electric vehicle charging station last summer. Other projects in progress include:

  • Staff housing development on the property
  • Improve mobile communication
  • Audubon International Cooperative Golf Courses Certificate and Certified Green House Foundation
  • Create a peaceful park stay with Quite Parks International
  • Measuring the air quality in the hostel
  • B Corp . Certificate
  • Mountain Bike Park – Pump Track & Skill Loop
  • Cabin interior renovation
  • F & B . Steering Board
  • Heritage Site of Keweenaw National Historic Park
  • Walking tour around the hostel (in and around the building, VR)
  • natural parks
  • Optimizing winter recreation offerings like snow biking and Snow Terrain

“We are a historic wilderness at the top of Kewenau, focusing on outdoor activities, rustic food and education,” Mueller says. “The measure of our success is not the number of cars in the parking lot but the assurance that everyone has an exhilarating experience that connects them as close to nature as possible.”

Diana Stampfler has been writing professionally since high school. She is president of Promote Michigan and author of Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses and Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes, both from The History Press.

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