The Guide to Copper Culture Mounds State Park is a comprehensive guide to exploring the park and all of its offerings. This includes tips on what you should bring, where you can stay, how much it costs, and more!
Copper Culture Mounds State Park may not be very popular but it has a lot of historical significance. It was home to the first inhabitants of this region, who are believed to have existed within 4000-2000 BC (over 5000 years ago!).
Complete Guide to Copper Culture Mounds State Park
The park was the site for their burial grounds. It is not a large property, at just 42 acres, but there is a lot to see and learn within the boundaries of the park and along the Oconto River. This article is a complete guide on the best way to explore the Copper Culture mounds State Park.
The Menominees, Mid Archaic period, and copper mining
The earliest inhabitants of this region were the Menominees, a Native American tribe that occupied the northern regions of Wisconsin. They were referred to as the Old Copper Culture people because they made tools and different decorations out of copper. Bracelets, knives, spear points, fishing hooks, and other copper material dating back to this point in time were unearthed on Copper Mounds.
The way of life of the Copper Culture people
The human remains excavated inside the Copper Culture mounds state park were marked to date back to over 7,000 years ago. The Menominees were hunters, fishermen, and gatherers. The Lake provided them with the fishing opportunities they needed and the vast wilderness was rich grounds for wildlife, berries, and tubers they used as food.
Their knowledge in tooling certainly made the hunting venture more productive. Later on, as their knowledge of copper mining and creating tools from copper advanced, they advanced to become traders and merchants. They traded their copperware for the goods they did not have with other tribes in far-off places.
Some of the goods they gained through trading include pottery products and agricultural produce. Evidence of trade (recovered copper products dating to this time, and in the style of the Old copper culture people) has been collected as far as the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic Ocean.
There is documentation of a tooling village in Cahokia, where the mid-Mississippian culture thrived; showing that the copper culture people extended their craft to the South.
How the Copper Culture Mounds were formed
The water in Lake Michigan started rising gradually, about 6000 years ago. The rising water flooded the valley (currently known as Green Bay). The people who occupied this valley were forced to move to higher grounds because of the constant flooding.
To make matters worse, Lake Nissiping’s water had also risen to a higher level than that of Lake Michigan, completely submerging the land that would later become the grounds for the current City of Oconto.
This flooding pushed them further inland, and they eventually settled at a place called Susie’s hill. They established a life here and began working with copper. Their knowledge and work with copper are what led them to be referred to as the ‘Copper Culture’ people. The mounds were created at the eastern end of Susie Hills as a burial ground for their departed. These mounds would later become part of the Copper Culture Mounds State Park.
Discovery of Copper Culture burial site
In 1952, Donald Baldwin, a 13-year old boy discovered the mounds accidentally in Copper culture States Park. Excavation began under the direction of the Wisconsin historical society. The copper culture mounds state park is the oldest known burial site in Wisconsin.
The excavation uncovered 52 burial sites. Many others sites were destroyed by quarrying and disturbance of the land over time. It is estimated that over 200 burial grounds are still present in the park. The copper culture burial site is said to be 5,000 years old, according to Wisconsin’s state park tourist guides.
The evidence collected during the excavation process shows that the Archaic Native Americans buried their dead in four different styles. Some people were buried extended -lying on their back with their legs stretched flat. Others were buried flexed – with their arms folded.
Those who could not be identified (possibly because their flesh had decayed) had their bones collected, bundled, and buried in one location. Others were cremated inside a pit and the ash either scattered or buried.
The discovery of the park occurred on two sites; the Osceola site and the Oconto site. The Osceola site is situated along the Mississippi River shoreline and the site was estimated to have about 500 burials before disturbance by erosion or human actions. The Oconto site is located on the outskirts of Oconto town. This is where excavation in 1952 yielded the remains of 52 people and numerous artifacts.
Belief in Life after death
Evidence from these burial grounds showed that the deceased people were interred close to their place of death. Some were buried with copper tools, ornaments, and bone tools. Some graves contained exotic goods as well. This was an indication that these copper culture people may have believed in there being some form of life after death.
The dead were buried with the goods so that they could have a head start in another life. People buried with copper goods and ornaments may have held positions of leadership in society as this was construed to be a sign of respect.
The Copper Culture Museum
One of the most notable homes in Oconto County is the Werrebroeck home inside the copper culture state park. The Belgium-styled brick house was built by Charles Werrebroeck, a mason who immigrated to the US in 1911.
This house currently serves as the copper culture state park museum. There are several barns, a woodshed, and other buildings that constitute the Charles Werrebroeck home.
Exhibitions and artifacts from the excavation of the mounds are displayed here, alongside videos and photographs explaining how this process was conducted and its significance in the preservation of the Native Americans’ history.
Copper mining and the end of the Copper Complex
Archaeologists pointed out that these Native Americans used a heat treatment process called annealing to extract the copper from the ore they excavated in the region. Annealing is a process where the ore gets heated to a more malleable state and then gets hammered into the desired shape. Mining was done near Lake Superior and transported for processing to villages where tooling experts and blacksmiths lived.
These villages were known as copper tooling sites. Once heated, copper became malleable and could be shaped into a variety of tools, including knives, hooks, leisters, and ornamental products such as necklaces and bracelets. The main mining regions were in Keweenaw Peninsula (in Upper Michigan) and on Isle Royale (In Lake Superior) where natural veins existed.
Over time, stone (rock) started replacing Copper as a choice tool and the old copper complex started dwindling. Copper deposits were also getting quickly depleted and harder to find. Stone was readily available and it could be shaped through flaking to form a variety of products, including crude weapons and knives.
The natives had to make long journeys to obtain raw copper. Increased population and a new reliance on fishing (which was a more sustainable method of earning a livelihood) gradually led to the disappearance of the copper way of life.
Things to do inside Copper Culture Mounds state park
With over 51 acres to explore, there are a lot of activities to engage in within the park. Outdoor lovers will find beautiful, isolated, and quiet hiking trails inside this park. History lovers will be at home inside the Oconto Archaic museum.
Here are some of the best things to see and do inside the Copper Culture Mounds State Park:
We put together a Wisconsin State Parks Bucket List Free Printable for you – to keep track of all the state parks and nature areas you visit.
Camping at Copper Culture Mounds Falls State Park
There are no camping facilities inside Copper culture Mounds State Park at the moment. You can explore other camping options close to the park, in Oconto town.
Location: 400 Holtwood Way, Oconto WI, 54153
Holtwood is a great camping ground for people seeking to have some fun doing water sports and enjoying the wilderness. You will be camping on the shoreline of the Oconto River. Carry your kayak (or rent one in town) and enjoy a kayaking adventure on the River, or relax with your friends by the campfire when the sun goes down.
Holtwood Campground is just 30 minutes north of Green Bay. There is a playground area and equipment (such as balls, nets, and rackets) is provided. You can play mini-golf as well, or watch an outdoor movie at the park. There is a common swimming pool inside the facilities. The campground is pet friendly and sites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Both RV and tent campers are accommodated here. The campground has a firewood policy that prohibits you from bringing in firewood from outside. You can purchase firewood from the camp’s office. Ensure that you follow the firewood rules and regulations they have set in place if you want to have a comfortable camping experience. It is a pet-friendly campground.
Amenities in this campground include picnic tables, fire rings, laundry facilities, flush restrooms, hot showers, sewer hookups, dump stations, handicap sites, and electrical services.
See a map of Holtwood campground for more information.
City Park Campground
Location: County N, Oconto WI, 54153: 920-834-7706
If you love outdoor adventures but do not want to camp in the woods, you can head to the City Park campground. You will be close to the River and all the amenities and attractions that the town can offer will be within easy reach.
The campsites have fire rings and picnic tables as well as other luxury amenities. It is also a dog-friendly campground but you will be expected to clean after your dog.
See a map of the City park campground for more information.
Location: 411 N. Emery Avenue, Peshtigo, WI
Although it is a bit far off, the Badger campground is also an excellent choice for people seeking camping options in Oconto County. It is a 41 site campground, in roughly 60 acres of land in the southwest of Badger Park.
Amenities here include a boat launch, fire pits, picnic tables, pet areas, rental tents, restrooms, electric services, handicap facilities, a playground, and a dumping station.
Copper Culture Mounds State Park Water Sports
Fishing in the Oconto River
The Oconto River flows through the Copper culture state park and fishing is a popular activity here. The fish species that you will find inside this river include white suckers, hog suckers, long nose daces, walleyes, smallies, pearl daces, black nose daces, and mottled sculpins. These are typically cold-water fish. You may also find brook and brown trout.
Kayaking and Canoeing
All kinds of water sports (swimming, boating, kayaking, rafting, and canoeing) occur on the Oconto River that runs through the park. The river is easily accessible from almost any dimension inside the park.
Hiking and walking trails at Copper Culture Mounds State Park
The trails in the Copper culture state park are isolated. The park does not receive many visitors and you are likely to find yourself enjoying a serene walk in the woods.
The Bluebird trail
This is a short hiking trail that takes you through a meadow and open grassland. There are several birdhouses erected along the length of the trail. These birdhouses were placed here by the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin to provide a home for the Eastern Bluebird species. The trail is popular with bird lovers and bird watchers.
Copper Culture Hiking Trail
The main hiking trail here is the Copper Culture trail, a 1.1-mile trail that connects to the residential areas in the South, the Oconto River State Trail, takes you through the Van Hecke underpass and then back to the park itself.
You can park your vehicle at the parking lot of Van Hecke Avenue or inside the Park grounds when exploring this trail. It is a moderate trail with some rugged, elevated sections that may not be ideal for biking.
The Oconto River hiking trail
This is an 8-miles trail that follows a leveled pathway, past forested grounds, along the Oconto River, and connects to the Copper Culture hiking trail in the Eastern end. From this trail, you can access the leisure activities within the Oconto River.
We are talking about canoeing, kayaking, and boating opportunities. At the western end of the trail, you can visit the Stiles Junction Railroad Station. The trail is straight and long. Biking is possible with a few rough sections along the trail.
Other trails inside Oconto town worth exploring include the Elementary school exercise trail, the Oconto Marsh Bird Trail, the Sharp Park walking trail, and the ride Oconto history trail.
The museum grounds offer excellent picnic opportunities as well. They have erected BBQ grills, a community pavilion, a children’s playground, and restroom facilities within the area.
Picnicking at Copper Culture Mounds State Park
The museum grounds offer excellent picnic opportunities as well. They have erected BBQ grills, a community pavilion, a children’s playground, and restroom facilities within the area.
Bird Watching at Copper Culture Mounds State Park
There are two duck houses at the Copper Culture State Park. These duck houses were erected by the Association of Bird City Oconto. They are regularly monitored and reported on. If you are in luck, you may come across rarely sighted birds such as the Acadian Flycatchers and Cerulean Warblers.
Other birds you may see here, especially in the marshy sections include the wood ducks, snowy owls, scoters, ring-neck ducks, and the yellow-headed blackbird. Bald eagles and Water fowls have also been sighted here in the past. Copper culture state park is home to one of the Oconto’s bluebird trails.
Hunting and trapping in Copper Culture Mounds State Park
Hunting in Copper culture mounds State Park is regulated by Wisconsin’s hunting and trapping regulations. From November 15th to December 15th, gun and archery hunting is allowed in the open areas of the property. Trapping is not allowed in closed areas on the trails.
In the spring season, gun and archery hunting and trapping are allowed from April 1st to May 3rd. You can inquire more about these dates and the regulations from the park’s office.
Copper Culture Mounds State Park in Winter
Like any Wisconsin State Park, winter doesn’t signal the end of all activities!
Snowshoeing and winter hiking are permitted in this park. Follow the advice of the park’s office when coming to enjoy winter sports activities.
Copper Culture Mounds State Park and Dogs
Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles.
Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds, trails, roads, and outlying areas of the parks. They must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times, if they are not under control at all times, they can be seized and subject to local laws pertaining to stray animals.
ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t micro-chipped. If you do lose your pet you can contact the Oconto County Humane Society at (920)-835-1738.
Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations.
Other animals like deer, chipmunks, squirrels, gray wolves, skunks, fishers, elk, and porcupines can be found there.
Pets are not allowed in the following places:
- Picnic areas and picnic shelters
- Marked Nature Trails.
- No Pets are allowed on the ski trails when they are snow-covered.
Of course, if your dog is a service animal, those rules do not apply.
Directions to Copper Culture Mounds State Park
Exit the US-41 at exit 22, turn left at the roundabout, and follow the signs on the road to the state park.
Attractions near Copper Culture Mounds State Park
Copper Culture State Park is not a large park, and you may find yourself wanting to explore other attractions beyond the park’s boundaries, especially if you plan on staying for several days. Here are other attractions you may find worth exploring during your visit to the copper culture state park.
Beyer Home Museum
Location: 917 Park Ave, Oconto, WI 54153
The Beyer house is among the oldest brick homes in Oconto County. It was built in 1868 by Cyrus Hart. Eventually, after several changes of ownership, it fell into the hands of George Beyer in 1881. They remodeled the house to include a three-story tower room and a wrap-around porch.
Oconto County took over the house in 1941 and turned it into a museum before opening it to the public. In 1979, it became recognized as a historic landmark and became registered in the national register of historic places. The home is a perfect depiction of how the wealthy people in Oconto lived in the 19th century.
The Ruins Adventure Mini Golf
Location: 150 Howard Ln. Oconto, Wisconsin US
If your kids love golf, visit the ruins adventure mini-golf to enjoy an 18-hole miniature golf setting. Many exciting things are happening here, including a glow golf event where the lights get turned off and the course and golf balls lit with blinking colors. They have a shop which sells delicious ice cream.
Peshtigo Fire Museum
Location: 400 Oconto Ave, Peshtigo, WI 54157
In October 1871, a fire engulfed Peshtigo, killing over 2,000 people and destroyed the city. The Peshtigo museum was built to preserve this painful heritage and to showcase how the town is prepared to avert such a disaster in the future.
You will find various exhibits and artifacts from the legendary fire on display here. Adjacent to this building is the Peshtigo cemetery, where the charred remains of the people lie buried in a mass grave.
Hotels near Copper Culture Mounds State Park
You will find excellent accommodation in any of the following hotels within driving distance of Copper Culture State Park.
Econo Lodge Inn & Suites
Location: 600 Brazeau Ave, Oconto, WI 54153, More information: Econo lodge website
Distance from the park: 1 mile
Econo Lodge Inn and Suites is a moderately priced hotel in Oconto, offering you great amenities and proximity to the park. You will enjoy a continental breakfast, an indoor pool with a tub, free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and a business center. The hotel is pet-friendly.
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Marinette
Location: 2020 Old Peshtigo Ct, Marinette, WI 54143, More information: Country Inn & Suites Website
Distance from the park: 18 miles
Located less than 10 minutes from Menominee-Marinette Twin County Airport, this is the perfect spot to explore Green Bay and the attractions in the area, including the DeYoung Family Zoo. The hotel offers an indoor pool with a hot tub, fitness center, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, air-conditioned rooms, handicap accessibility, and meeting facilities. It is a pet-friendly hotel.
Location: 2030 Old Peshtigo Court, Marinette, WI 54143, More Information: Independence Stay Hotel Website
Distance from the park: 18.1 miles
Located just north of Green Bay, this is a beautiful hotel that offers you comfort at a reasonable price. All rooms have full-size refrigerators, microwaves, and table-top burners.
Pets are welcome here, and there are designated pet rooms for this purpose. Parking is free for guests. A fitness center, free internet, self-service laundry, and smoking-free facilities are some of the amenities you will find here.
Location: W1915 Flame Rd, Marinette, WI 54143, More information: Tarragon Hotel Website
Distance from the park: 16 miles
The Tarragon hotel is a child and pet-friendly hotel. Each room has cable TV, free Wi-Fi, a refrigerator, and a microwave. Parking for guests is free of charge. The hotel is strategically placed to explore other attractions nearby including Lake Michigan, the Marinette Shipyard, the new Aurora Bay Area Medical center, and other restaurants in Marinette.
Restaurants near Copper Culture Mounds State Park
If you are looking for a quick meal or drink, check out some of these restaurants near the park;
Iron Duck restaurant
Style: American Location: 2525 Velp Ave Green Bay, WI 54303-6535
Iron Duck is a local restaurant that cooks local cuisine. It has a very hospitable and accommodating ambiance, making strangers feel at home the moment they walk through the door. The service is also exceptional, with waiters serving you old-fashioned drinks as you wait for your food to be ready.
Poke the Bear Bar & Grill
Style: Contemporary American/Sports Bar Location: 304 N Adams St Green Bay, WI 54301-5144
Although the restaurant serves local cuisines, they are not afraid to experiment with other exotic dishes now and then. It is the perfect place to grab a drink, watch a game and wait as your plate of a delicious meal gets prepared. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, ready to offer you tips if you are stuck on choosing what to eat from the menu.
Style: Steakhouse Location: 218 N. Adams Street Green Bay, WI 54301
Steak, chops of all kinds, seafood, desserts, and casual bar food are what you should expect when you visit this restaurant. The atmosphere is relaxed and you will get tempted to drink one of their legendary cocktails as you wait for your meal to be ready.
Style: Italian/Dining Bar Location: 121 N Adams St Green Bay, WI 54301
This restaurant prides itself on using only the freshest local ingredients to prepare its dishes. The setting is classic Italian, with a small, cozy Italian-family setup.