Copper Harbor, Michigan

A Description of Hunter's Point by Jim Rooks

Mr. Rooks was a Naturalist In Residence in Copper Harbor for 36 years who passed away March 10, 2005. Jim was a strong supporter of the purchase of Hunter's Point, and wrote this description of Hunter's Point in 2003 as part of our drive to purchase Hunter's Point. It is published here in memory of Jim.

The Keweenaw Peninsula is a rocky land of many small, extended peninsulas and volcanic layers. Surface outcrops, worn ridges and great indented cliffs and inlets dominate. Cross sections of visible fault lines plunge into the cold depths of Lake Superior. These volcanic fingers extend into the lake and carry with it the geologic age of about 3.5 billion years.

Such is the significant landform of a key area known locally as Hunter's Point, a finger of land extending in an easterly direction from the west end of Copper Harbor itself, and a natural barrier to seasonal storms.

Hunter's Point is one of nature's landmarks. Access is a well-worn hiking trail that traverses the western edge of the Harbor and begins at the Copper Harbor Marina. This trail is traversed in winter by snowshoes or skis. It leads to scenic overlooks and entrances that lead to a long, angular beaches stretching over 4,800 feet and presently taking up 9.4 acres.

Hunter's Point is a prime location to observe natural history, birds, plants and animals, excellent geology structure, and whatever else these beveled edges are inclined to reveal to the visitor.

A geologic formation known as the Outer Keweenaw Conglomerate has broken into a vast crescent beach of singular beach stones here, and for those with a passion for rock hounding or agate picking, endless time is spent searching for these near perfect stones. As this conglomerate ledge continues to erode the beach, known as Agate Beach, it is constantly replenished. Agates are super heated silicates with defining identifying structures and often tell tale colors and blends. Iron rich erosion resistant conglomerate ridges, lying one after another like corrugated rubble, are intruded upon by gray contrasting layers of amygdaloidal basalts that once flowed as great shoulders of lava and continue to release their trapped minerals and stones.

Origins of the name Hunter's Point are vague. It could have been named after an early settler in Copper Harbor, A.W. Hunter, who purchased the property from the US Government in the mid 1800's.

Certain spring wildflowers make their rare appearances along Keweenaw's shoreline at Hunter's Point shortly after the snow melts. Calypso Orchid, Early Coral Root, followed a few weeks later by Hookers Orchid and Purple Fringed Orchid may be found here. Hepatica is one of the more common early spring ephemerals, also Polygala, the hard-to-find Snow Trillium, Marsh Marigold, and many members of the Heath family, along with Mountain Lilac found at the trailhead at the Marina. These are just some of the year round displays of flora along the trail leading to Hunter's Point. Many other wildflowers show their blooms in late spring.

Part of my fascination with Hunter's Point over the last 35 to 40 years is its craggy shoreline stretching west from the Point and losing itself in dense cedars and diverse rock formations. Today, as one travels through these rare shoreline headlands, it is clear that once off the trail a hiker can wind their way westward through pristine Red and White Pine used by resident and migrating Eagles for hunting perches and loafing trees. These native sentinel trees are still growing, but on Hunter's Point they appear in uncommon numbers. There will be a time when they cease to exist, and will not be replaced simply because the forest is changing. From a distance one begins to appreciate these landmarks as they now stand.

Many birds and animals occupy Hunter's Point year round. Their numbers fluctuate with migration and the changing seasons. Even though the forest is changing on Hunter's Point, the requisite brushy habitat is not dwindling. Early spring brings a dramatic bird migration to the Keweenaw Peninsula's north shore in an area between Agate Harbor to the west and Horseshoe Harbor to the east, a distance of approximately 12 miles. The area is alive with migrating birds crossing Lake Superior. Even though the visible effects of migration are witnessed everywhere on the Keweenaw, it is most evident along this stretch of shoreline.

This thrust of shoreline is the northern most projection in the State of Michigan. No wonder that thousands of birds are known to leave the promontories of Lighthouse (Hayes) Point and Hunter's Point during early morning hours as dawn breaks and continuously long after numbers have peaked. I know, because for 30 odd years I have watched them leave. Hunter's Point has been my secret morning rendezvous with nature on the wing. Recently, in a three hour period devoted strictly to counting birds, over 8,000 were counted in a ten-minute time span. Activity is especially heavy in late April and early May on mornings when the nights are clear and a south/southwest wind is present.

On given days good numbers of raptors, generally hawks and eagles, pass over these dominant peninsula landforms at Copper Harbor. A local nature writer once gave Brockway Mountain the name “Hawk Highway" because it was so crowded with these birds coming and going off the heights, the valleys and ridgelines of the mountain.

The “Magic Migration Triangle” is a term I use to describe the spectacular events that take place here every spring morning, flowing like nature's own clockwork, often accompanied by snow showers or rain. It fits well at this land's end, here at Hunter's Point.

Jim D. Rooks
Copper Harbor, Michigan 49918

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