Copper Culture State Park

One of the lesser-known historical sites in our state, Copper Culture State Park is just a short drive north from Green Bay located in Oconto, Wisconsin.

This is also one of the smaller state parks but does contain some short hiking trails and a volunteer-staffed museum inside an old farmhouse with relics and information on the significance of this site.

Unsurprisingly this is a Registered National Historic Landmark and is managed by private 3rd parties & volunteers, Wisconsin DNR, and the National Park Service / US Dept of the Interior.

So what’s the big deal? This site was once inhabited by the ancient Old Copper Complex people and was found to have a large cemetery of remains dating back thousands of years. Large portions were likely destroyed by a gravel quarry in the early 1900’s but they did excavate remains of 45 individuals giving insight into how the people lived & died.

Outside the museum you can hike some short trails to the actual burial site. Some signs are present but much more information is contained inside the museum (and you can read about the history on the Wisconsin DNR page here).

I couldn’t find a map of hiking trails inside the museum or on the DNR site. Only a sun-faded map can be found posted near the trail head but all the details are worn away.

Anyways it’s fairly easy to identify the short trail to the cemetery location. Just follow the mowed path a few hundred yards on the flat ground. Weather today was nearly perfect in the mid-70’s with sunshine and puffy clouds.

Anyone with allergies to bees should take caution around the several old growth trees along this path as there are honeybee hives in their branches. I couldn’t see them today but nice they post signs of this.

The “cemetery” itself is just a large rock inscribed with text “COPPER CULTURE INDIAN CEMETERY 5556 B.C.” Interestingly if you read the DNR history page the original carbon dating was debunked and the more accurate date of inhabitance was in the range of 4000 to 2000 B.C.

Trails from the cemetery get confusing. I believe this is either the Woodland Path or River Trail but not sure which. Sometimes the trails are very easy to identify and appear well maintained…

…And other times, like getting close to the flooded river, it is completely washed out or overgrown / barricaded by dead-fallen trees. Still a nice area but don’t come here for extensive hiking experiences.

The Bluebird Trail is much clearer and is the first path to your right if walking to the cemetery.

The trail is basically just a mowed path through a grassy meadow – a nice walk, but again not somewhere I would seek out as some amazing destination. I hiked it anyways because it’s only about 1/2 mile for the entire in/out trip.

Along the path you will notice several bird house structures placed by the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin in efforts to provide habitat for the Eastern Bluebird species. This is a great spot for birding and I saw plenty of them but they are FAST and I couldn’t get any good photos.

Hiking

As mentioned above this isn’t some amazing hiking spot, but is nice to come for a short & quiet walk in a local park that doesn’t get many visitors.

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