#60 – Kayak Copper Harbor

Kayaking Copper Harbor with the Keweenaw Adventure Company is a great way for beginner paddlers to learn the ropes. It’s also a great way for experienced kayakers to get out for an easy paddle if you should find yourself in the Keweenaw wishing you’d brought your kayak.

kayaking copper harbor

Photo by Ryan Holt

Kayaking with the Keweenaw Adventure Company

Sam Raymond and the crew at “KAC” pretty much rock the adventure scene in Copper Harbor. From beginner kayaking to very advanced paddling and cruiser bike rentals to guided world class mountain biking trips, they’ve got it covered. They also have a really popular shuttle service that will run you and your bike up to the top of the mountain, but I’ll save that for another time.

As far as kayaking goes, they offer The Porter’s Island Paddle (2.5 hours), the Horshoe Harbor Paddle (full day), the Bare Bluff Paddle (full day), as well as a Surf and Turf tour (half day kayaking, half day mountain biking). For our first time kayaking on Lake Superior we chose the easy Porter’s Island Paddle.

Here’s the description for that one from the Keweenaw Adventure Company website:

Our most popular tour! A 2 ½ hour introduction to sea kayaking combines basic instruction with a paddle on Lake Superior, surrounding Copper Harbor. Explore the ancient rock shoreline, an uninhabited island and learn about the history of the largest natural harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Sunsets are a particularly special time to be on the Lake. Paddlers may bid farewell to the day as shades of vibrant changing color schemes highlight the sky as the sun drops into the freshwater sea. [$39]

Walk-ins are welcomed for this tour ONLY, although reservations are recommended to guarantee availability. Please register at our shop location; 155 Gratiot St. (US 41), at least 30 minutes prior to scheduled tour time.

Now that you’ve got the basics, here’s my experience kayaking Copper Harbor.

My Experience Kayaking Copper Harbor

My wife and I made a reservation for a mid-morning paddle a few days before we went up north, and in retrospect I’m really glad we didn’t try to go earlier. We ended up having a really good time at The Fitz the night before and were a little slow to get moving. Then we thought we’d stop in The Jampot to grab one of their huge carrot cake muffins for breakfast, but alas, they were closed. (It was Sunday.)

So we continued on to Copper Harbor, unfortunately not ready for a lot of physical activity. I considered canceling the trip.

Lucky, I didn’t. Because it was awesome.

We showed up a little early so my wife ran over to The Brockway Inn Coffeehouse to grab us a couple coffee’s while I filled out the paperwork in the Keweenaw Adventure Company office. (Everything in Copper Harbor is just a block or two from everything else.)

Upon her return we hopped back in the car and drove to the Isle Royale Ferry dock to meet our guide. Again, just a couple blocks.

Our guide for the day was a dental hygenist named Tom who guided kayak trips on the weekends. Super nice guy. Very helpful.

A nice couple from Wisconsin and their two kids were there, too, ready to hit the water. Tom helped us all get fitted into wetsuits and properly sized kayaks with properly sized paddles (more on that in a minute). The Wisconsin couple opted for tandem kayaks since their kids were both pretty young.

Size Matters

Let me just digress for a second to say that up to this point I’d been kayaking for several years, but I’d always borrowed one of my parents kayaks and one of their paddles. I’m much taller than both of my parents but figured their paddles would work as well as any other.

I was wrong.

Tom asked how tall I was then casually handed me a paddle. Once we got in the water, I found it MUCH easier to paddle with than the “too short” paddles I had been using prior. It made a world of difference.

So anyway, after getting fitted for gear Tom took us through a little “intro to Kayaking” lesson.

And a lesson never hurts either

Though I’d been kayaking for a couple years, I’d never actually had a lesson. “What’s there to know,” I thought?

Well, a couple things to start:

1. I was paddling wrong. As Tom put it, paddling a kayaking is “a push and a twist,” and not a pull. In other words, I was pulling (using my back, like a canoe paddle stroke) instead of pushing (with my arms, chest and shoulders). The “pushing” method is way easier.

2. I was using the wrong size paddle. As mentioned above. Since the paddles I’d used before were too short I actually wasn’t able to paddle properly (even if I’d known how) and thus, it tired me out. Once I was fitted with a longer paddle and knew how to paddle properly, paddling became much, much easier.

The five or so minute lesson in itself was well worth what we paid for the whole trip. Seriously.

Okay, back to our experience…

Back to the Paddle

The “Porter’s Island Paddle Trip” is a very leisurely paddle around Copper Harbor with a stop at Porter’s Island, a small rocky island at the tip of the harbor.

We paddled slowly and gazed at fish swimming below as Tom recounted the history of Copper Harbor and the surrounding area. After a little over an hour of easy paddling along the shore, we beached the kayaks on Porter’s Island and walked around a bit. (The island is really rocky, so I’d recommend wearing some sort of water shoes.)

And after stretching our legs on the island, we paddled back around the other side of the harbor (the “town side”) and checked out the huge, underwater concrete pilings from the original copper harbor dock.

If you’ve seen Copper Harbor you might not expect that a paddle around the thing could take two and a half hours, but it did. And though the water on Lake Superior was pretty calm on the day of our trip, even if the big lake has big waves, the harbor is often still calm enough to kayak.

All in all, this short paddle ended up being the perfect start to our day. We then drove over to Horseshoe Harbor to explore for a few hours and camped at Fort Wilkins that night.

I’d highly recommend the Porter’s Island Paddle for those who have either never kayaked before, or for more novice/intermediate paddlers who just want to do an easy paddle around Copper Harbor without hauling their boats up to the Keweenaw.

And if you don’t want do do the guided trip, you can always just rent kayaks from KAC and go off on your own!

Bottom line: Kayaking Copper Harbor with the Keweenaw Adventure Company is a great introduction to kayaking for beginners and an easy 2.5 hour paddle for more experienced kayakers.

Phone: (906) 289-4303

Website: http://www.keweenawadventure.com

Address: 155 Gratiot St  Copper Harbor, MI 49918

Map: To see Keweenaw Adventure Company’s location on my Upper Peninsula Map click here: http://goo.gl/maps/BzRiK

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