Copper Island

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Copper Island is a local name given to the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula (projecting northeastward into Lake Superior at the western end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, United States of America), separated from the rest of the Keweenaw Peninsula by Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway.[1]



The area was "isolated" by dredging in 1859 and construction in the 1860s of a ship canal across an isthmus of the Keweenaw Peninsula from Portage Lake—on the east side of the Keweenaw Peninsula—to Lake Superior on the west. The ship canal is 100 feet (30 m) wide and 21 feet (6.4 m) deep. The resulting "island" was called Kuparisaari (meaning "Copper Island") in Finnish,[2] Irish[3] and French/French Canadian[4] settlers to the area. However, neither the United States Geological Survey nor the state of Michigan identify this area as an island or use this name. Isle Royale is the largest naturally isolated island in Lake Superior. However, if Copper Island were considered an island, Copper Island would be the largest island in Lake Superior.[citation needed]


Historically, "Kuparisaari" ('Copper Island') was used to mean the Keweenaw north of Portage Lake, but more generically the copper country of the Upper Peninsula. Inhabitants of the area wryly claimed "that they were outside the American mainland. In practical usage, however, the term included towns such as Oskar, Atlantic, Baltic, South Range, Houghton, Dodgeville and Hurontown" all of which were south of Portage Lake. Nevertheless, "unquestionably" Finns in those locales considered themselves to be "Copper Islanders."[5] As the foregoing source indicates, "Copper Island" has sometimes been used as a sobriquet for Michigan's "copper country."

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