Information on the NASA rocket launching site at the tip of Michigan's Keweenaw
peninsula, including links regarding the project and simple tips to easily find the
| It is said that sometimes the road less traveled
can offer up the most interesting pieces of an
area's history. For many who have lived in and
grew up in Michigan's U.P., places like Mirror Lake,
Copper Peak, The Straits or Pictured Rocks are
common destinations and are places of interest
that many people know about. One odd fact that
people (even residents of Michigan) may not be
aware of, is that the U.P. served as a testing
site for NASA rockets and more specifically, right
at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Even though Copper Harbor may be seen as the
northern most town, the largest inland lake in the
tip of the Keweenaw is Schlatter Lake, close to
the very tip of the peninsula. It can easily be
located on area maps and can be used as a point
of reference when referring to the Keweenaw
In the very beginning of various forms of rocket
testing, a group that operated under the name of
NOMAD used bouys or large barges as actual
"pads" to launch from and these were anchored
just off the tip of the Keweenaw. Radio remote
control launches were made off of this "ship" and
the sighting of the test rockets must have left an
impression on many of the sailors and sea men
who worked aboard many of the Great Lakes
freighters that carried taconite, iron ore and
other cargos across Lake Superior. In 1961 alone,
there were 10,000 cargo ship movements that
were recorded for the year of 1961 - an awesome
volume of traffic which proved how robust the
U.S. economy had been during this time. These
recorded movements passed through the Soo
Locks at Sault Ste. Marie during that year.
| Fast forward to 1970-71 when Goddard Space Center struck a deal with the people running the NOMAD
project and the work began to build a land based launch site to accommodate the actual lift off of the
Apache rockets that had the capacity to fly 100 miles up into space. There were actually a couple of
these large rockets that were tested and done in the winter months when no ship traffic was moving
across Lake Superior. In particular, one was launched on January 31st of 71 (the last launch) and it
tested flawlessly as did the first.
|| These tests were carefully planned since the people
at White Sands and Goddard Space Center were well
aware of logistical concerns such as the Canadian
border that cut well into and across the northern tier
of Lake Superior with the city of Marquette just to the
southeast which served as yet another concern.
A small unassuming marker stands upon the spot
near a weather beaten concrete pad just off of a
rocky outcropping of beach on the tip of the Kewee-
naw Peninsula. The marker signifies the difficult work
and determination of those scientists, technicians
and Yoopers who persevered rugged territory and
difficult weather conditions to successfully test a set
of rockets that helped NASA further develop itself
into the world's premiere space agency.
Additional information below offers maps and visual
details on how to reach this historical landmark!
| Editor's note: Use this Virtual Globe Trotting satellite map that allows you to zero in on the NASA launch pad
in detail. Offering you good visual overhead views on the actual entry points and the roads you need to take
in order to reach the site. Click this link: How to find the Yooper Rocket Launching site using satellite map.
The details to follow, offer a visual set of maps to locate The Keweenaw Rocket Range. Keep in mind
your journey will start at the beginning of US41 (pic below) where there is a well known sign.
To the left of of the sign, an entry way to a dirt road is your access point and this is where you start.
The map below, shows the US41 terminus (where above sign is located) and the dirt road is highlighted
in white. This road is drivable but keep in mind, you have to traverse at a slow pace as there are
narrow twists and turns where some of the road is bumpy. You may occasionally have oncoming traffic
to slow down for and you'll encounter some roadside campsites along the way. Be certain your vehicle
has a good suspension and your exhaust system is solid enough to withstand a few potential bumps.
Don't let this deter you, just be aware!It's roughly a 5 mile journey towards the actual walk-in point.
Now walk-in point (shown in yellow) is roughly 5 miles to the beach where the launch pad is located.
This road is drivable, but only with a good rugged terrain vehicle such as a jeep, or high suspension
truck, or ATV, mountain bike or whichever mode of transport you choose. Walking in is very doable
but be certain you have good footwear and bottled water or any favorite refreshment and possibly
your fishing pole as you travel a length of shoreline along Schlatter Lake. It's one of the most remote
locations you'll experience. If you travel into the area during early summer, don't wear shorts. The
black flies, mosquitos and nosiums are so thick you may need a transfusion after getting back to
civilization. Take special note of the actual footpath (in red) that leads to the site. It's located on your
left and you'll detect this if you have a good "Yooper nose" . . . you'll begin seeing more daylight over
the tree canopy and you can hear the roar of the big lake - if you take the trail straight to the beach or
shoreline, you'll hit an area called "High Rock" Or High Rock Bay. It's known as one of the most remote
camp sites and located along the shores of the big lake. Take along your canoes and kayak for some
"Superior" water action and paddling along the coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Some informative
Links are supplied below for your convenience and research. Good luck and safe travels!
Campers On High Rock Bay - shores of Lake Superior Motorcycle Ride To Rocket Range
Michigan's Remote Rocket Launching Project History Of Yooperland's Rocket Range
Manitou Island and Gull Rock Lighthouse