Due to the Keweenaw's extreme northern location and its wilderness nature, the only way to reach its copper rich shores was by means of Lake Superior. While there were several protected coves and harbors littered along the peninsula, the sharp rocks and steep cliffs found along the majority of the Keweenaw's shore made entering those protected refuges difficult. As the copper rush began in earnest in the 1840's, the need for navigational aides became abundantly clear.
The first lighthouse built along the peninsula was at Copper Harbor - only the second lighthouse to be built on Lake Superior up to that time. As mine companies moved south, new lighthouses were constructed in more convenient ports such as Eagle Harbor and Eagle River. With the opening of the Soo Locks along the St. Mary's River, boat traffic to the region exploded. Even more lighthouses became urgently needed, and in the end close to a dozen lighthouses were put into surface up and down the peninsula.