COPPER HARBOR, Mich. (WJMN) – At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula sits the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, just outside Copper Harbor, a small village surrounded by the mighty waters of Lake Superior and accompanied by vast wilderness that goes for miles. This quaint area, which has less than 100 year-round residents and almost non-existent cell phone service, makes it the perfect spot for an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP).
According to darksky.org, an IDSP is “a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge has applied to become Michigan’s third IDSP and the Upper Peninsula’s first.
“You have Lake Superior all around you, so the light domes that you have when you’re on landmasses are very little. So you can actually look north, east, west, and south and see very little lights,” said John Mueller, owner/interim general manager of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. “You do have a little bit when you go up Brockway Mountain and look north toward Isle Royale and you can see Thunder Bay. You can see a little bit of a dome there
You look south of Brockway Mountain you can see a light dome down in Calumet, Houghton, and Hancock but they’re 45 miles away there and 70 to 100 miles away from [Thunder Bay]. So when you look at a map there’s very little light pollution when you go north of Hancock on the Keweenaw Peninsula. So it makes it very easy to have the ability to look up and not have to have lights from a city for example.”
Before the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge can become an IDSP, the resort must be “dark sky compliant.” This means that all of the property’s lighting must be shielded and face down to limit light population. The lodge has since switched to energy-efficient LED lighting during the approval process.
“The main thing is going to be that you can look up and actually see the stars,” said Mueller. “So that’s measured by a sky quality measurement meter that we use. And so anything above 20 is really good and the qualifications to be a Dark Sky Park I believe is that it has to be above 21.02. Right now our averages range between 21.5 and 21.6. And so our program manager at the International Dark-Sky Association Ashley Wilson, basically making sure that we are keeping track of that data.”
Mueller said the lodge has been transparent with the community and its surrounding townships, as it quite literally takes a village’s support to become an IDSP.
“Our dark skies encompass more than the lodge property, so we are naming the designated area the Keweenaw Dark Sky Wilderness,” said Mueller.
The entire application process takes, on average, one to three years from initial inquiry to the formal designation. To keep up to date with the progression of the application process, click here. While the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge awaits a decision, the resort is hosting stargazing events. This includes Northern Lights Photography workshops. Click here to see a full list of upcoming events and to learn more about the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge’s application to become an IDSP.