More about Bearberry Island
Ready for something different? How about an adventure?
Bearberry Island lies 225 yards off the northern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw is a rough and rugged finger of rock that extends 50 miles into Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes with the largest fresh water surface area in the world.
It is the northernmost part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Copper Country, where great fortunes were made in copper and silver, and later in timber. It was a booming, thriving place. Calumet was expected to be the Capitol of Michigan. Things are quieter now, in a good way. There’s a National Historical Park, Michigan Tech University, and breathtaking scenic beauty everywhere. If you haven’t driven Brockway Mountain Drive, or the shore from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor, you should.
Off the island’s northern shore great ore boats pass the island bound for distant ports, sparkling strings of lights across the water. I grew up down on Lake Michigan’s shore in the Manitou Passage listening to the deep throb of those diesels and foghorns echoing across the water. I miss them. It takes me back.
The camp has been architecturally designed and professionally engineered. The owner of this island and designer of the camp, an architect by trade, supervised the construction of this beautifully sited island camp with uncompromising standards over a three year construction period, which began in 2000 and finished in 2003. He is a lover of clean design and wild and beautiful places, and it shows. The result is enchanting.
It should be no surprise that beneath the beauty it contains 40 cubic yards of poured concrete in the foundations, or that they extend to bedrock and contain steel rerod for additional strength. Incredibly it is built to follow Miami Dade Hurricane Standards including tying the entire structure down to the foundations and shingles designed and fitted to withstand sustained 120 mph winds. (No, we do not have wind of that intensity here, but confidence and security are wonderful things.)
The camp is a compact one bedroom with a loft. The 19×12 living room has a native stone Rumford Fireplace. The kitchen is 8×9; and the bedroom 9×11. A deck surrounds the structure with a bridge to a west-facing deck (the Sunset Deck), which also serves as access to the wood fired sauna/shower and the toilet room (with composting toilet complete with grey water septic system and drain field.) For taxes, what equipment stays, room dimensions and more click here for additional information.This is the only island camp on the north side of the Keweenaw.
The shore station is an oversized two-car garage with a dry camp above it. The loft is unfinished: the idea was that it could be used in case inclement weather or darkness made a trip across to the island inadvisable. In point of fact it has not been used for that purpose since the island was completed.
Solar cells with a battery system supply ample electric power. All rooms also have backup ships lamps of heavy brass that burn oil. A good choice is liquid paraffin, as it does not smoke. Cold, crystal clear water, the best you’ll ever taste, comes straight from the lake. For drinking water, there is the option of a reverse osmosis filtration system or an English Berkey countertop water filter.
The owner says, “Access to the island now is very simple and very successful: I don a pair of waders, use the ATV to launch the boat, wade into the water until the motor is deep enough to lower and start, start the motor, hop in the boat and putter away.
“When I reach the island I pretty much reverse the process, except that there I have a boat roller that helps me get the boat up and well out of the water. Bear in mind I’m an overweight, out of shape guy pushing 70, and I do not find this daunting. Permanent docks are out of the question, but roll in docks, both on the mainland and the island, are a possibility.”
Although the camp is a young 10 years old, he has owned this island for 15 years.
Several beaches on Bearberry Island are agate beaches, where if your eye is trained and sharp you can find a surprising number of Lake Superior agates, semi-precious gems, which invariably outlast their surroundings. The encasing rock weathers away, leaving just a roundish, rough-coated lump waiting to be picked up and cut and polished. Agates are gas bubbles that hardened in the magma and were then infiltrated with gasses and minerals. Click here to read an article on how agates form.
A unique feature to the island is the stone arch in a block of granite just off the northeast shore of the island. Not by accident it is centered in the view from the living room. The island is featured in two of Craig Blacklock’s plates in his wonderful book, Lake Superior Images.
Another feature is a natural swimming pool size inlet, surrounded on three sides by granite. It lies 75 feet north of the camp and is used, of course, as a swimming pool. Radiant energy from the sun warms the shallow water to a pleasantly swimmable temperature in summer. It is totally private.
The distance from the landing to the island bay is 1,785 feet (about 1/3 mile). At the closest point the island lies roughly 670 feet off shore. Both of these figures are approximate, derived from Google Earth.
If you are a sailor you know worlds more about what makes a satisfactory mooring location than I do, but check out this one: the deep water close to the cabin in the lee of the island, which you can see on the Google Earth images, looks pretty good to me. Mostly the lake is restrained and calm in summer but if a warning comes that some big wind is expected there is always safe harbor at nearby Eagle Harbor or closer the Little Grand Marais harbor, which is right next to the island.
So what do you do here? Well to name a few, kayak, hunt for agates, watch birds, swim, sail, read, write, connect with the family, and live stripped to the low maintenance essentials without giving up conveniences like electric power, fine furniture, a stone fireplace and a great sauna. On the mainland explore the cultural, historic, wild and scenic Keweenaw and the Great Lake they call Superior. There is more to do than you will, and it’s different from what you do, wherever you live.
So welcome to this great camp on Bearberry Island, Eagle Harbor, MI. Click here for a second aerial of the whole Bearberry Island area. (The images are large – you may have to scroll left to right and up to down.)
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