Secluded within a thicket of trees along Lake Superior is a bit of an unexpected sight. A plaque built upon a concrete square is almost hidden among the tangles of lush greenery, preserving a piece of history sure to delight any aircraft enthusiasts who stumble upon it.
The plaque celebrates the woodland’s little-known contributions to atmospheric exploration. The first rocket from Michigan to actually enter space was launched there on January 29, 1971, as the plaque commemorates.
NASA only used this somewhat hidden launch site from 1964 to 1971. During that brief span, the agency shot Nike Apache rockets and Arcas zooming into the atmosphere. It sent rockets soaring high above the trees to collect data about electron density, solar X-rays, energetic electron precipitation, and other scientific measurements.
Now abandoned for decades, campfire-building hikers and mountain bikers are the only ones who visit the overlooked site. It’s a bit of a trek to get to, as the roads are rough and the woods thick with vegetation. The views of Lake Superior and Manitou Island, as well as this small dose of forgotten history, make the trip worth it.