Monday, July 21, 2014

History comes to life with costumed interpreters at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

Costumed interpreters -- including children from the park's Future Historians program -- bring the past to life at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park this summer. (Photo courtesy Fort Wilkins Historic State Park)

COPPER HARBOR -- History comes alive every day 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.

Interpreters provide park visitors with a glimpse of what life was like at Fort Wilkins in the mid-1800s. Here they demonstrate a stickhoop game that was popular at the time. (Photo courtesy Fort Wilkins Historic State Park)

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 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. The passport is an easy, affordable way for residents to enjoy and support outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan. By checking "YES" for the $11 Recreation Passport ($5 for motorcycles) when renewing license plates through the Secretary of State (by mail, kiosk, online at or at branch offices), Michigan motorists get access to state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized state trailhead parking and state boat launches. The passport is valid until the next license plate renewal date. 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

Learn more about the Recreation Passport at

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

No comments: