• Pint It!

What Actually Constitutes “Northern” Michigan?

For years people have debated what northern Michigan actually means and at what point do you cross into northern territory. Even clothing lines have made thousands of dollars off this with t-shirts and hoodies that say “Up North” (though you find most of this apparel in the area of Traverse City rather than the Upper Peninsula).

And of course there is Northern Michigan University. There is no denying that NMU, located in Marquette, is clearly across the border of Michigan’s northern territory. But some other things may shock you…

Clare County’s official slogan is “Where the North Begins”. It’s also interesting to see the Northern Michigan entry on Wikipedia. Particularly the map (below) that is listed on the page, as it does not even represent the Upper Peninsula. However, in the first sentence in the article someone was kind enough to insert “or more properly Northern Lower Michigan”.

Northern Michigan Map

So we did some research…

Thanks to the handy position finder tool on Google maps to find the approximate (though pretty darn accurate) latitudinal points in Michigan.

Northern most land point in the Upper Peninsula: 47.479779
Southern most land point in the Lower Peninsula: 41.696671

A difference of: 5.783108 degrees

According to these coordinates the geographic north/south center of the state is at latitude 44.588225.

However, the latitude of Clare (“Where the North Begins”) is 43.822927, which is nearly a full degree south of the geographic center.* That may not sound like much, but that tiny difference in degree means Clare is about 52 miles (there are 69 miles in one degree of latitude) south of the geographic center.

Interesting! Technically, if you split the state in to halves, estimated the latitudes, ignored the border being north of Isle Royale, then yes, perhaps Clare could be where southern and northern Michigan are divided in two if you throw a dart at the map. But depending which way you’re headed, it could just as well be “Where the South Begins”, correct?

So where is the geographic center?

According to our measurements it is at the intersection of highway US-127 and Interstate 75 (about 5 miles south of Grayling). However, there are still some questions at hand, and some interesting points to make.

Menominee is the southern most point of land in the Upper Peninsula. Latitude: 45.095782

This means there is approximately 50 miles of distance shared between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan stretching from their most southern (Menominee) and most northern (Mackinaw City) points respectively.

With all this said, we want to provide a map of the State of Michigan that is divided into Northern, Central, and Southern Michigan as a way for people to know exactly which third of the state they are located in.

Map of Northern Michigan
We also made a larger version without notes if you would like to see that

According to this map, if any county in the lower peninsula can bare the slogan “Where the North Begins” it would have to be Emmet County, the northern most county in the Lower Peninsula. Everything else is central.

Some other facts, points, and arguments…

  • Just south of Gaylord is the 45th parallel, exactly half way between the equator and the North Pole
  • For all of those who love “going up north” it looks like Traverse City doesn’t even make the cut. T.C. is much closer to the exact center line than the northern third of the state
  • The coordinates we used above mean that all three areas combine for 399 miles at 5.783108 degrees.
  • Each third is 133 miles
  • If anything Clare should be considered Southern Michigan
  • Central Michigan University is just about exactly on the central/southern border, hardly making it “central”
  • With this map, yes, Menominee county is technically not part of Northern Michigan. However, with the extra 200 miles it takes driving there from the Lower Peninsula we’re giving it a free waiver to officially be part of Northern Michigan
  • In our example we only went to the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula, if we included the actual state borders of Michigan (beyond Isle Royale), the Lower Peninsula probably wouldn’t reach the northern third of the map.

Naturally, at Yooper Steez we’re a little biased about what actually constitutes “Northern” Michigan. We hope that this can shed some light on the issue for all of you as well.

Another side note comes from Kid Rock’s latest hit song All Summer Long
in which the lyrics say “It was summertime in Northern Michigan”. We don’t know Kid Rock personally, but if you do please let him know that we would love to know where he was talking about when he wrote those lyrics.

We would love to hear your thoughts, let us know what you think.

Some questions from us to you

  • What is “Northern” Michigan?
  • Is it as simple as Upper and Lower Peninsula?
  • Is Traverse City really “going up north”?
  • What slogan would you give Clare County?
  • How does Central Michigan University fit into the picture?

*As a reminder, this is not the northern most point in Michigan, but the nothern most point of the mainland in the Upper Peninsula. If we were to take the true northern most part of the border it would push the north/south center of the state even further north.

70 Wonderful Comments

  1. “Is Traverse City really “going up north”?”

    Technically if you coming from South of it- Yes, it would be…lol

  2. Jen Ismirle
    Jun 30, 2008

    I was just about to say that . . . heh.

    Personally, I’m sorta annoyed by the use of the phrase “going up north” cause when a lot of people I know use it, it simply means going an hour or two to the north to go to a lake or something. To me, the phrase sounds much more pronounced, like they should be going much further, like to the U.P. But us Southerners apparently say “going up north” when we’re going to the north of the L.P., and actually say we’re going to the faraway land called the U.P. when we’re going to cross the bridge . . . and go to Mackinac Island.

  3. Byron Sailor
    Jul 1, 2008

    Great research on what’s UP North. I always conceeded that Gaylord might be up north for most folks, since it is half way to the north pole. I think Clare took the phrase because that is where the first large blocks of public land (state & federal) starts so people can recreate in large areas.

    It’s like Newberry claims to be the moose capitol of MI. But actually, the most moose are in northern Iron Co. and southern Baraga Co. Newberry got to the politicians first.

  4. I love the article, a great read. I visit downstate quite a bit and people get very confused about this ‘up north’ thing. The biggest thing that bugs me though: Houghton is -not- Houghton Lakes!

  5. Brittany
    Jul 8, 2008

    I am from the UP and I will say “north” is over the bridge, in the upper peninsula. It’s not about longitude/latitude, its about lifestyle.
    I also go to central michigan university- and will say, its not central if you consider the whole state. its only central of the lower peninsula. I really think that lower michigan just hates the UP and we should become our own state. =)
    But, please, tourists and other uninformed individuals- we have running water/electricity/etc.
    But, if ever in escanaba, stop as Saykllys for some candy and gifts and tourist items!

  6. It’s not that we hate the U P, it’s just that we forget about our other peninsula.

  7. Mitchell Treadwell
    Jul 10, 2008

    Actually, the whole “up north” idea has more to do with population than geography. By far most of the residents of Michigan live south of Clare (with more than a third in greater Metro Detroit), and the UP has (relatively) few people. Also, the phrase “where the North begins” implies something of a directional reference. “North” is thus considered to be a region that may not be where the person reading it is from. Accounting for the fact that most of the visitors to the area north of Clare (and therefore the people who would be traveling long distances by car) would come from Southern Michigan or beyond (such as Ohio, Indiana, or Chicago), they would be reaching the “Northern” part of the state at about Clare, this being the part of the state with a lower population density and a greater variety of recreational opportunities.

    Also, as public universities draw people from predominantly across their home state, their names (Like Eastern, Western, and Central) are meant to designate what would be that part of the state in terms of population, which (as you remember) is concentrated in the South. Thus, Kalamazoo would be considered “Western” to most of the people in Michigan, Ypsilanti is “Eastern”, and Mount Pleasant is “Central”. In fact, substantially more people live south of Mount Pleasant than North of it. However, if you consider population density and distance to be roughly inversely proportional (as people have to go farther where they are fewer), CMU can be generally viewed as “Central” for most of the state’s residents.

    The map above (dividing the state into Northern, Central, and Southern) places the southern part of the Western UP (including Menominee in the “Central” region. I’ve never heard of anyone from ANY part of the Upper Peninsula consider Menominee to be “central” in ANY sense, as it distinctly fits in with the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define the UP as Michigan’s “Northern Frontier”.

    And finally, if you are going to divide the state into various “regions” on a map “geographically”, without giving any regard to where people LIVE, at least deal with it in terms of land area. Looking only at one measurement (latitude) to determine regions that are supposedly equivalent is short-sighted and misleading.

  8. Chris Cavalieri
    Jul 11, 2008

    Mr. Sailor,

    I’m a proud Yooper from Iron Mountain. I was born and raised here. I attended Michigan State University for the past 6 years, and this topic has always been of great interest to me. I really enjoyed the article and your map, which divides Michigan (excluding Isle Royale) into geographical thirds by latitude. Although I understand what Mr. Treadwell has written, I like the Yooper Steez take on “Northern” Michigan. As a Yooper and a Michigan geography enthusiast, I was frequently irritated while attending MSU in East Lansing, part of “Mid-Michigan.” My friends and acquaintances alike would always speak of “up north” Michigan. Many people would say they went “up north,” to places like Houghton Lake, Big Rapids, or Traverse City. That didn’t bother me too much, but I still got a little agitated.

    What really bothers me is when fellow Michiganians/Michiganders totally neglect the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Americans in general do this too. I see this on poorly created maps of the U.S.A., showing the U.P. as part of Canada or part of a “larger” Lake Superior/Michigan. I like your map and points Bugsy and friends, showing all those interested where the true Northern, Central, and Southern regions of Michigan lie, as far as latitudes go. If you’re reading this, please give the U.P. the respect and credit it deserves; and be glad we have our entire, beautiful peninsula instead of the small strip of land that includes Toledo, Ohio. And to any of you who aren’t interested in the U.P., don’t come, you wouldn’t like it here…

    – Chris
    The U.P. Forever

  9. um who cares? why does it matter. from what ive heard, there’s northern michigan and the UP. thats how its always been. but who really cares.

  10. Nils Stenvig
    Jul 11, 2008

    I think there is a logical explanation for the original division of Michigan’s land area as show in the first map above (of just the lower peninsula). The Mackinac Straits once served as a geographic barrier between the upper and lower peninsulas (Mighty Mac wasn’t completed until 1957). Sure, there were ferries to haul people across the 5 mile stretch, but it can be reasonably assumed that for residents of the lower peninsula, the U.P. was much less considered a part of the state than it is now.

    So for a large chunk of MI history, the northern part of the L.P. was understandably considered Northern Michigan. This label could have been applied both geographically and culturally, as the area was much less populated and ‘wild’ at that time. So if you look at that first map of the L.P. and consider that the U.P. didn’t exist (which is how most trolls would have viewed it 60 yrs ago), the boundaries seem to make sense.

    The opening of the Mackinac Bridge has allowed much easier travel between the peninsulas. The U.P. has gradually become accepted by the L.P. as part of Michigan, although the geographic/cultural landmarks dividing the state have not shifted. I think the label ‘Northern Michigan’ has lost its original meaning to most people (defining something far North or wild) and now simply defines a geographic area which everyone will recognize in conversation. So although these labels are long outdated, I feel it is okay to continue using them so long as nobody confuses Northern Michigan and the U.P.

    Personally, when someone refers to Northern Michigan I immediately think of the northern L.P. since this is the area referred to as such. Never do I consider that someone is speaking of the U.P. unless they specifically label it so. I, for one, do not wish for the U.P. to be called anything but ‘Da U.P.’ I say we let the trolls keep Northern Michigan to themselves.

    But if we are to divide the state up geographically, I would agree, Bugsy, with the map you invented. Where people live makes absolutely no difference in this case. And it makes much more sense to split the state into thirds based on latitude than by land area…

    So to answer the questions…

    I say Northern Michigan ends South of the bridge. I’d rather be called Da U.P.

    I think it is as simple as Upper Peninsula, but not as simple as Lower Peninsula.

    Traverse City is going up North for anyone who lives at least 50 (or so) miles South.

    Clare County – “Where Norther Michigan Begins – But Not The Ash Trees.”

    CMU can stay right where they are…

  11. Well… if you’re coming up from Detroit, then yes, Traverse City is going “up north”.
    However, being from Traverse City, I considered going “up North” to be going anywhere north of the bridge.

    It really is a matter of perspective.

  12. Stephanie
    Jul 12, 2008

    I grew up around Clare. The village of Lake to be exact and with all the lakes around I would meet people who would call that “up north”. It always buged me because up north is across the bridge for me. When going towards the north and you hit around Clare, its true that you are farther north than you were but you are still only in Central Michigan. I currently attend CMU and students from farther down state say that they attend school up north. Which makes absolutely no sense. Its called Central Michigan for a reason. True it is located in Central Lower Michigan but still its not up north.

  13. I was raised in ‘downriver’ Detroit and moved to ‘Northern Michigan’ 17 yrs. ago. I am in Gaylord, just north of the 45th parallel. Having lived in both of these places, I consider ‘up north’ anything beyond the Zilwaukee Bridge, but yes, the U.P. has always been called the U.P. as Nils mentioned. I always give a sigh of relief once I’m north of Flint, though, actually. Northern Michigan is more about a’laid-back’ lifestyle and it’s about long, harsh winter endurance. I think we relate better to the Yoopers in these regards than do the ‘Flatlanders’. Proud to be a Troll : )

  14. I grew up in the ‘burbs (they suck) but went to school at Hillsdale, which probably constitutes the southernmost 4-year institute of higher learning in the state of Michigan (I haven’t done my research on this, though, so it could be Adrian College…either way, it’s one of the two). Anyway, the point is, at least for us anyway, when you’re all the way the hell down here (and all of an hour and a half from both Ann Arbor and K-Zoo, and an hour from even JACKSON, for chrissakes), pretty much everything past Lansing is “Far North” to us.

    So look at it this way: from the Hillsdale to Mt. Pleasant, it’s (roughly) a three hour drive. Then, from Mt. Pleasant to Sault Ste. Marie it’s another three hours. That’s going almost exactly north (I think they’re even on the same longitude).

    Basically, Mt. Pleasant is (again roughly) halfway between the two. Thus, I see no problem with dubbing the institute of higher learning in Mt. Pleasant “Central” Michigan University. For MOST OF THE STATE, it’s fairly centrally located. Sure, maybe someone in Ironwood or Houghton might have problems getting there, but, not everything’s perfect. A lot of us trolls have problems if we really had out hearts set on going to Michigan Tech. I mean, I’m still amazed at how high the travel costs in the GLIAC must be…especially with all those Pennsylvania teams in the mix. (Even more amazing is why Hillsdale is in D-II, but that’s another problem altogether.)

    Maybe the greater point should be: Michigan is a big f***ing state. And that makes it the sweetest state in the union. Kickass.

  15. how can you forget about “the other Peninsula” if you ask me, the UP is the greatest part of Michigan…..i live in Marquette and love it. your not up north until you cross over “the bridge”. damn straight…trolls!!

  16. Since your article is primary based on accuracy, I thought I’d mention that the first paragraph after the map that splits the state into thirds… says “country” when it should read “county”.

  17. Yooper Steez
    Jul 29, 2008

    Meg, thanks for letting me know! It’s been fixed. :-)

  18. Eric John Vandrick
    Aug 4, 2008

    I live in Clare, MI and we have always been the “gateway to the north.” You talk to any old time resident of the state, and they will tell you that “north of Clare” was the common phrase for what was considered “up north.” This isn’t just latitude, it was geography and ecosystem. Just north of the city of Clare is James hill, and it is the beginning of hilly northern country. South of Clare is Flat farm land. North of Clare is the beginning of coniferous trees. People who suffered from allergies would be told they needed to get “north of Clare” because that was where the plant species changed.
    The U.P. is the U.P. that is the true “Up North” but it is true that for most southern michigan residents, It might as well not exist.. and Thats just fine as far as I’m considered, because one of the best things about the U.P. is the lack of people.

  19. well personally i was born and raised a yooper and i think that anyone south going north says im going up north, and i would rather be called or said to live in da UP then up north thats how its always been.. and all the trolls can just stay under the bridge and think what they want.. us yoppers need to stick together.. cause the UP is a great place..

  20. Now this is interesting…I was raised in Marquette, MI. I spent most of my life in the U.P. Currently, I reside in Petoskey, and people around here say they live in Northern Michigan, which is fine, but you’d be surprised how many people come from out of the area in the summer that are shocked to hear that there is much more to Michigan that is North of us. They seem to think that when you drive across the bridge you are in some foreign land. While this is not the majority, it certainly is more people than you would think, I would estimate about 20%. I even ran into one person who asked where I was from, when I told her Marquette, she asked “Where’s that” I told her it was across the Mackinac Bridge, she replied “Oh, you’re from Canada” So, while I currently live in Northern Lower Michigan, I will never say I live in Northern Michigan, unless I move back to the U.P.

  21. Jeff Bouman
    Nov 22, 2008

    I was born in Gaylord and Lived up here in Marquette (Harvey) since I was 1. When we go to camp from here (Harvey) To Boot Jack road (Lake Linden, Houghton, hancock) we always called it going up north! Yet we live in the upper peninsula! It’s just saying going up north! Anyone from any state says that. I think Mr. Stenvig has the right answer. I’m a true proud yooper. As anyone’s Troll friends would say besides Yoopers is, that were southern canadians. I wish we were our own state, but that could never happen.

  22. Debbie Kennedy
    Jan 12, 2009

    I was born and raised in Grand Rapids and the farthest North I ever made it was to Mackinaw City. My family always made a trip to cross the bridge and maybe grab a bite and head back to the L.P. In 2005, I made my very first trip to the U.P. driving West to Lake Gogebic to my best friend’s cabin on the lake. What a beautiful drive. Stopping along the way to grab some pasties and seeing some very beautiful locations. It was September and the colors were just the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Breathtaking is the word that first comes to mind. They outshined the colors I have seen in the upper portion of the L.P. I was even fortunate to go on a 3 day two night hike into the Porcupine Mountains. This was truly another amazing site. I am in my 40’s and never stepped in the waters of Lake Superior until that visit. I was truly impressed with the night sky and the way the stars seemed so close I could almost touch them. During our stay we were able to actually see a satellite we were told would be crossing the sky during our stay. Back at the cabin our time was spent taking walks on trails around the area, sitting in the gazebo watching the boats go by and seeing and hearing for the first time the Loon. The occasional thunderstorm at night was one of my favorite highlights as well. Taking the canoe out to see more of the shoreline. It was the best 2 weeks I spent with no husband and no kids. I had the perfect tour guide as my friend has been to the cabin every year since she was born. Even today she brings her family there. Of course, there is so much more to see and now that I have had my first taste of the U.P., I will be back for more. As far as what is North, South, East and West it does not matter to me. Michigan has a Lower Peninsula and an Upper Peninsula and we should all be lucky to have such a diverse State where we can go anywhere and see the most amazing things and be able to do anything our hearts desire. I am a Troll but I wish I was a Yooper as well.

  23. The map posted by the author is quite well thought out but for one thing; there is Michigan and then there is the U.P.

    The culture and mindset of the U.P. has been and always will be separate and unique when measured against that of Michigan’s lower peninsula. If it was possible I am certain the residents of the U.P. would create their own state of Superior in a heartbeat.

    I submit when northern, central and southern Michigan are being referred to it is a reference to the lower peninsula. All references to the U.P. are made in that exact manner, and rightly so.

  24. All of us in the lower peninsula must apologize for so often forgetting the UP (or casually and purposefully omitting it as part of the state ;)). Regions are a strange thing and I’ve spent some years studying them and how they are separated and defined. It’s a personal interest, not to mention I have a degree in geography.

    I live in Fremont, which is technically West Michigan. Now of course, “west” doesn’t really mean west. It means southwest, because as rather accurately according to the sign in White Cloud, 14 miles northeast of me, the town is “where the north begins and the pure water flows.” It looks like the north. It feels like the north. There is a very definite cultural (as well as landscape) difference starting in that area as well, while here in Fremont, where we’re more economically connected to Muskegon and the lakeshore cities, more people go to the beach in the summer and less people are doing those winter things you all do up north. A lot of radio and TV here is from Milwaukee and oftentimes Chicago and Green Bay too. Watching the two TV channels that we DO get from the north feels like watching something from a foreign land to me, while I listen to Milwaukee radio stations while driving to work every day without giving it a second thought. After all, they’re along the lake too and only 95 miles away, while Northern Michigan is hilly and isolated.

    I’ll admit it — I only go any more than 10 miles north of my town about once every 5 years, with the exception of going up to Silver Lake for the sand dunes, which I consider West Michigan and the lakeshore, not Northern Michigan. There’s no reason to go up that way. I go to Chicago 40 or 50 times for every 1 time I go up north, mostly for concerts, events, or to hang out. Usually that one time is a few days in Mackinaw City or the island, about as touristy as it gets.

    So I think a lot of the separation we see in regions is cultural, historical, and for the most part, largely media based. Draw a map of support for sports teams and it’s equally interesting. About half the people along the lakeshore from Muskegon to the south are Bears fans. Go 15 or 20 miles inland and your in Lions country (although I’m not sure why they keep supporting them over there…). I bet there are a good deal of Packers fans along the shore north of Ludington and plenty of Milwaukee and Green Bay fans up in the U.P., because I’d imagine they can identify better with Green Bay than Detroit, which is an insanely long drive, despite being in the same state, and a lot of radio stations play Milwaukee NBA games, not so much Detroit.

    Sure makes politcal and regional boundaries seem… meaningless.

  25. Northern Michigan is when you get to the north side of the bridge.

    Yes it is as simple as upper and lower, hello there is a body of water between the two, how much more of a seperation do you want?

    The only way that Traverse City is north is if you are traveling from the south. It is no way the Michigan’s description of “UP North”.

    What other nickname fits the town of Clare… How about “The City of Drunken Irish People”

    Central Michigan University fits into this because Eastern and Western were already taken.

  26. born YOOPER now Troll
    Feb 18, 2009

    This website is what I’ve said since I was 8 and moved south to Traverse City area.
    I’ve done school projects & reports on the matter. But to find the answer, you have to think like a tourist, like now I can. Many have stated the other states and down-staters in general do not even think of the U.P. it’s just to far for them to fathom. So, when they think of Michigan they think of the mitten and the other is just the panhandle of Wis. like I’ve been shown on countless news programs during this last voting race. (the UP would glow the same color as Wis and not the rest of MI.)
    and Kid Rocks song was about Torch Lake near Elk Rapids that I don’t believe he came to until the mid-90’s if even then maybe the 2000’s

  27. I work in Detroit. Raised in L’Anse.

    A coworker said to me lately “oh, I was up north this weekend” and I asked where.

    They had made it all the way to Frankenmuth.

    Which…I guess is north of Detroit, but I wouldn’t consider it north.

  28. I live in the DC Metro area and was raised in Gwinn. I’m so tired of hearing, when I say I’m from “Upper Michigan,” things like, “We have a cabin on Houghton Lake,” or “I go to Traverse City all the time.” Whatever! Northern Michigan is the U.P. to me, but I will let up a little and say that it’s everythig north of the 45th parallel.

    Sigh reading this comments makes me want to take a trip back–lots of growing up done in Michigan! Cheers!

  29. Nancy Syrjala Holwerda
    Jun 25, 2009

    What is “Northern” Michigan? Anything Over Da Bridge

    Is it as simple as Upper and Lower Peninsula? YES

    Is Traverse City really “going up north”? Only if you live South of Kalamazoo

    What slogan would you give Clare County? Mid Michigan

    How does Central Michigan University fit into the picture? I’ve no Idea but it seems to fit where they are located.

  30. Erik Honnila
    Jun 25, 2009

    North only counts when you cross the Mackinac Bridge. I am so tired of hearing the trolls say they are “Going UP NORTH” only to be heading to Houghton Lake or Traverse City. While it IS north of Detroit or Grand Rapids, it misses the true feeling and meaning of being in the U.P. North.

  31. Anony Yooper
    Jun 25, 2009

    Don’t be so sensitive about “forgetting” the U.P. exists, folks. I think that is actually a GOOD thing for us up here!

  32. I consider Northern Michigan starting where US-10 goes west from Bay City towards Clare and the line continues west over to
    Ludington. Not a straight line but a line that most of the population of the state lives south of.

  33. Funny that I spotted this post on Twitter yesterday, because I posted my own answer to the “Where is Up North?” question just last month http://www.midwestguest.com/2009/05/where-is-up-north.html

    Fascinating discussion about the meaning of “Up North” or “northern Michigan”, although I’m surprised no one else advanced the reasoning I cited about the division line between northern and southern Michigan being roughly M-46 because it is the state’s official line between between where rifle deer hunting is allowed during the season to the north and with shotgun hunting allowed during the season to the south.

    Other folks here talked about “Up North” as being more of a state of mind, rather than a specific location…and that pretty much sums up my feeling about it. I usually feel I’m “Up North” as I hit M-115 in the Lower Peninsula and head on up towards Cadillac–or when I approach the Bridge to cross over into the U.P.

  34. I was raised in Gaylord. Born in Grand Rapids in 1965, moved to Big Rapids for about eight months in 1968-69, then up to Gaylord in 1969. This means from 1969-onward, I lived in what I determine to be Northern Lower Michigan, by my own experience.

    I spent my entire childhood in Gaylord. My Elementary School (1971-1976), Middle School (1976-1980), and High School (1980-1984) education were accomplished in Gaylord.

    I was introduced to snowmobiling when I was Eight, and obtained my Michigan Snowmobile Safety Certification–along with Boating and Hunting Certificates, as well–when I was Twelve.

    My Upper Peninsula experiences have been among the most memorable of my short 43 years, as well as making up some of my most formative. My more salient favorite places are: Kitchitikipi/Palms Book State Park (The Big Spring), Taquamenon Falls State Park, River Mouth Unit (picked lot of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries at that one!), and Mackinac Island (See, I even used the ‘c’ at the end of ‘Mackinac’!)

    Straits State Park is my favorite Upper Peninsula Michigan State Park. It has a magic I cannot quite classify, almost as if when one is walking among the huge, old white and red pines, that one could–if one would just turn a corner, just-so–walk into another time and place and disappear for a while; then, upon returning, being forever changed, with everyone wondering why you’ve turned into a more gentle, loving human being.

    I have had the pleasure and privilege of hiking Isle Royale National Park for one glorious week in 1981 with a local Explorer (Boy Scouts) post of which I was a member. Now *that* was an experience I just can’t put into words. Seeing the fog on the Siskiwit Ridge on the northern central part of the island was worth the entire trip!

    Being raised outside of the hustle and bustle of a large metropolitan area created the kind of person I am today, and I doubt I would have the kind of attitudes I do without being raised by parents who were tired of all the rioting going on in nearby Chicago and Detroit during the tumultuous years of the early Nineteen Seventies.

    The latter reason is the reason my father and mother moved up there in the first place–so they could have a place to raise their two children (I have one sister) without all the city crime and callousness.

    I just wanted to give a little background about myself so that everyone may understand that I definitely do not consider myself to be from Southern Michigan; the latter, to me, begins South of Clare, Michigan…at least if I’m traveling on I-75 ;-).

    During my Michigan tenure, I rarely took I-75, save for when I was heading to Grayling, or Houghton Lake, or out-of-state when we were on our way to Florida to visit both sets of Grandparents during the winter seasons.

    Most of the time I took US-131 south to Grand Rapids, or to Kalkaska to go to Traverse City, or Alba (a little town with a single flasher, and with the distinction of winning the Michigan Odyssey of the Mind competition! Who says that small towns of less than 800 people can’t produce smart kids?) to Petoskey, where my Mom and me did a lot of shopping for new clothing at the old J.C. Penny Store.

    Much has changed in Gaylord now. Much has changed in Petoskey since they revamped the waterfront; I think Petoskey’s harbor is, by far, the most beautiful I have ever had the pleasure of photographing in the summer!

    Summarizing, although being what I like to lightheartedly refer to as a ‘Northern Troll,’ I have had a great many experiences in the Upper Peninsula. I can’t call myself a Yooper, but I most certainly have–and give–a great deal of respect to the class of hearty citizens who make up the population of the ‘U.P.’

    My ‘floppy-furred-ear-warmer hunting cap’ tip-o-the-hat,

    Warmest Regards,
    Stephen Brown
    Jefferson City, Missouri


    1. Isle Royale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isle_Royale

    2. Odyssey of the Mind: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey_of_the_Mind

  35. michael kusmitch
    Aug 13, 2009

    It is nice to see a website such as this. I thought I was the only one who questioned the ignorance of the individuals living south of the Mackinac Bridge. They seem to know nothing of geographical direction or even the geographical- political borders of their own state. The State of Michigan consists of two peninsulas(motto on state flags states “if you seek a pleasent peninsula, look about you”). There is a lower peninsula and an upper peninsula-that is the State of Michigan. It is not Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. And, even though I might be going out on a limb here, isn’t the determination of North vs. South and East vs. West based on scientifically established determined and known continuous lines of longitude and latitude encompassing the entire earth. The bottom line is the individuals don’t see the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as Michigan. A classic example of this is the people living in the Grand Rapids area. According to them, their local media and govermnents, they live in western Michigan. When I point out to them, that well over 2/3 of Michigan’s upper peninsula lies well west of Grand Rapids, they say “oh that’s the U.P.” When I then announce that is where I am currently living and actually have a Michigan’s drivers license and pay Michigan state income tax,they don’t have an answer for me. The State of Michigan doesn’t even implicitly recognize the U.P. as Michigan. Why is there a state run Welcome to Michigan Center 30 miles south of the Mackinac Bridge.Just who are they welcoming to Michigan? Are they the drivers coming from western areas of Michigan’s upper peninsula-who might of been welcomed to Michigan at Michigan’s Wisconsin State borders or is it the drivers who crossed the Canadian border and were welcomed to Michigan at Sault St. Marie,Michigan and then drove the next 70 or so miles, through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to the Mackinac Bridge. The Mackinac Bridge is entirely in the state of Michigan, why is the State of Michigan welcoming drivers once again as they enter the Lower Peninsula of Michigan?
    Obviously I am born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enjoy it here very much. But it is irritating that individuals, and probably my own state lawmakers don’t what the State of Michigan consists of or what even is North or South or East or West.

    Mike Kusmitch
    Kingsford, Michigan

  36. I have a question for all of you. Where is the central hemisphere? Does the equator separate the northern and southern hemisphere? My point is if you are using directional terms to define an area, you can’t technically claim that the northern LP is central Michigan. North Michigan is any place in the North half of the state.

    “Northern” is a very subjective term. There is no system of breaking the state up into thirds. Northern Michigan is a region and regions can be defined by physical characteristics, human characteristics, and functional characteristics. More people live in the LP and most in the state consider the northern half of the LP to be Northern Michigan. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

    To the people claiming I can’t say I’m going “up north”. Seriously, wtf am I supposed to say if I’m going north? That’s the direction I’m heading; not south, east or west. I didn’t know the U.P. trademarked the term. Can I not say I went “down south” to Detroit because the people in Georgia might get upset? How about the Midwest? I don’t want anything to do with the Dakotas and really wish people would stop claiming that Michigan is part of the Midwest. I’m just going to change the name to Mideast so that I can feel special. Technically when people say they are going “out west”, they should mean Alaska and California should be in the Midwest. I mean really, Alaska is farther west then California. All these ignorant westerners know nothing about Alaska. I never knew yoopers could be so snobby.

    Grew up in Northern Michigan, went to school in the Upper Peninsula to get a Geography degree.

  37. Born and raised in Iron River. Live in Traverse City for the past 25 years. U.P. is north. Traverse City = Northern Lower MI!

  38. I was born a troll and moved to da U.P. (which is where I’d love to spend the rest of my life, but instead am living out of state). From what I always understood, Northern MI was the northern Lower and da U.P. was, well da U.P.. I grew up in the thumb and my cousins would always say they were going “up north” when really they were going about an hour north of our house. I never understood this, but I think the point it is…if you’re heading north, you’d consider it “going up north”, no matter where you’re going. But, I’d agree with many others that the northern lower and the U.P. definitely have a different culture than down state. No matter what you call it, Michigan is a lot further north than where I’m living now, so I love the whole state. Keep it mean and green and just remember, it doesn’t matter where in the state you’re from, it’s all one big happy.

  39. Jim Bicigo
    Mar 8, 2010

    If when Yoopers cross the Mackinaw bridge, they’re going down-state, shouldn’t going to the UP be going up-state?

    Actually, I always thought of the UP as Northern Michigan and the northern lower peninsula as just that. Either way, there is definitely a cultural difference when you cross the bridge.

  40. Andrew Wilkinson
    Mar 11, 2010

    Im from the Lansing area and have a cottage at Higgins Lk. I always figured that when your “Up North” is when your anywhere north of Clare. Partially because there used to be a billboard sign that read “Clare..Gateway to the North.” Plus the air starts to smell alot fresher from that point on.lol!I do smile alot harder though when I do cross the Mighty Mac! ( Smiling BIG right know just thinking about that!)

  41. This is for Chris of the UP forever remark and any other UP lifers. Have you read Joseph Heywoods “Woods Cop” mysteries. What do you think about them?

  42. Thomas Kovach
    Jul 9, 2010

    I have lived in Northern Michigan all my life and according to the state of Michigan on where they divide their line such as Wildlife management units for the DNRE it is a line going across the Southern boundry of St. Clair, Lapeer, Tuscola, Saginaw, Gratiot, Montcalm, Newaygo and Oceana Counties. They refer to this when they speak of Black Bear Distribution and I have spent a substantial amount of time in St. Clair and Sanilac counties with family and have seen quite a few black bears which I would consider a symbol of the North, so in a round-a-bout way is the dividing line of Northern Michigan.

  43. And I agree with Thomas’ comment about the DNRE line. Here in Newaygo County though, that northern/southern line splits the county in half. White Cloud is considered where the north begins (and proud of it, given the big sign they have just outside of town). The towns in the northern part of the county are affiliated with… nowhere really. The towns in the southern half are all economically tied to Muskegon and Grand Rapids, where just about everybody works. But that DNRE line can’t split a county in half, so it’s all or nothing. Since most of the state and federal forest land is in the northern half of the county – almost none of it in the southern half – they throw Newaygo County into the north instead. I think given our ties to the lakeshore, Grand Rapids, and West Michigan, most people where I live would cringe at being considered northern Michigan. But unlike most places in the state, the line here is very distinctly drawn through the county and even marked, both mentally as well as physically in the land where the farmland turns into federally-owned forest. When we say we’re going camping up north, it can often mean we’re driving 15 miles north of the house… ’cause it’s a whole different world there. Always hard to imagine I can drive home in less than a half hour and the scene and social culture is absolutely and drastically different!! If only it were that simple everywhere else, this page wouldn’t exist ;).

  44. mike in detroit
    Oct 9, 2010

    I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and have never been to the UP and I doubt I’ll ever go there. You can keep northern lower michigan too. Anything outside southeast is just a barren wasteland devoid of any value.

  45. Thomas Kovach
    Oct 29, 2010

    I response to Mike’s comments: Where do you live in Detroit? Because if you don’t live anywhere in the Detroit area you would realize that it would be a smart idea to leave there and come to an area like this where houses are farther away than any gun can shoot and you won’t have to worry about putting your bulletproof vest on in the morning, your electric putt-mobile stalling out on your 5 mile, 2 hour commute or that your neighbor may steal anything out of your house without breaking or entering.

  46. Does anyone know where I can get a map of the UP, showing it bigger than everything else surrounding it.

  47. Mike in Detroit… clueless (p.s. I’ve lived in Detroit, and I’ve lived in the UP)

  48. I lived in Sault Ste. Marie for a little, but i’m really from around flint. We don’t hate the U.P., its just that people are way too busy in the burbs and most of them prefer going to florida or something over the U.P. Most of the people down here arn’t as tough as yoopers, and can’t handle the winters.(i personally love the snow). Once you go north of midland, the life style is much more laid back. I really wish i could go back up there, and would take a trip to houghton over florida any day.

    P.S. northern michigan is past saginaw for most people, but anywhere past petosky should really be considered up north since it is more north than menominee.

  49. Northern Mi is synamous with the UP. Isle Royale, an island north of the Keweenaw Pennisula, is still in the State of Michigan and Michigan’s northern most point is north of Isle Royale because the boundry line runs through Lake Superior separating Michigan from Ontario. Living in Sault Ste Marie, culturally we are different from the far western portions of the UP. Someone mentioned that we should be another state. It was tried but in reality it could never happen. It would have been called Superior and Marquette the capital. It still makes sense. Interestingly, when you cross into Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, they consider themselves and those along that line Northern Ontario. It is in all the media and radio broadcasts. Well look at a map of Ontario and you will see that more than 3 quarters of the province is NORTH of Soo, Ontario! Go figure.

  50. I would have to say with the color-coded map, you need to add another area: The Thumb. Take the 3 counties (Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola) and make it its own entity. No one around there thinks of themselves as part of the Flint/Tri-cities area. Maybe the ones closer to Flint or Bay City or the lower eastern end of Sanilac, but I would feel safe saying those 3 counties are their own “area” of Michigan.

  51. Thomas Kovach
    Sep 26, 2011

    I agree with those comments except a better definition of the Thumb would include St. Clair and Lapeer Counties because they really are too far from Flint and Bay City to be included with them, even though they are frequented by people from all the Thumb counties and they don’t fit in with any other regions because of how closely they all align with each other. And on top of all this, I would most definitely include this in the definition of Northern Lower Michigan. I have no way of explaining how well it fits without everyone having knowledge of the area, but if you were to go there, it looks very much like the rest of Northern Michigan with not too much more agriculture.

  52. Being from and living in the Genesee Co/Flint area my whole life when saying “up north” I always thought of the upper peninsula, but when saying northern MI, I think of any are north of probably Gladwin area across east to west. But when thinking about the outdoor activities of Mi hunting, snowmobiling, ice fishing, forests, low population density and thinks of that sort, I think north of Mt Pleasent area as being seperate form the rest of the lower peninsula. But hell, people in Ohio and Indiana and every where else might be talking as far south in MI as the Detroit are when they say up north, gotta keep in mind the state of Michigan is completely different than every other when it comes to the make up and location of the land compared to the other states.

  53. Born and raised in DA UP EH!! Don’t want to live anywhere else but NORTHERN MICHIGAN! Kid Rock sure seems to know the difference. We’ve got the “sisu” in us!! YEAH HEY

  54. Anyone from Michigan will tell you “Up North” starts exactly at the Zilwaukee Bridge!!

  55. Growing up in the Sault, Northern Michigan is the UP. The rest was downstate or above Mt. pleasant was Norther Lower Michigan.

  56. When I lived in Traverse City, I used to blanch when people would refer to it as Northern Michigan or “UP North.” After commenting to a friend that Northern Michigan is the U.P., he stated, “no, this is Northern Michigan. The U.P. is the U.P.” I’ve now come to like this distinction. The U.P. is a separate place, part of Michigan politically but not part of it culturally or socially. The Straits are more than a physical barrier.

  57. @ Dante. I like that.

  58. So Northern Michigan University, in Marquette Michigan is not in Northern Michigan by this definition. Sounds like troll speak to me.

  59. I’m from Marquette County. We almost always refer to our area as the UP, not Northern Michigan. Actually, I worked at a radio station many years ago and a dj from out of state announced the weather once as “Northern Michigan weather” and got corrected. The manager, who was a local, explained to him that Northern Michigan referred to the LP.

    The reason for this is that the UP is very much a state within a state and quite separate in its identity. You have to almost live up here for awhile to fully get this. We are Yoopers first and Michiganders only distantly second, and much of the UP is tied more to Green Bay and even Minneapolis than Detroit. To call our area “Northern Michigan” ignores this fact, although maybe people closer to St Ignace feel closer to the rest of the state. NMU is a Michigan public university supported by the state of Michigan and is, indeed, in the northern part of the state, but most of us Yoopers don’t lump ourselves with Flint or Jackson or Clare. It’s another world up here.

  60. I grew up in the U.P. (Michigamme area) and moved to Ohio in l964. We go back every year to visit relatives and enjoy the area, and it amazes me how people here only know one city in Michigan, Detroit. Mention the U.P. or northern Michigan, and they all come up with Detroit. I don’t think a lot of them even know there is an Upper Peninsula.

  61. I can identify with that! I have relatives down near Cleveland, and many people there have never heard of the UP. People have asked me if I work in the auto industry, as though all of Michigan is Detroit. I try to explain that I live in the far northern part of the state and that iron ore, lumber, and snowmobiling are more our thing and that Detroit is a 7 hour drive away.

    I think we tend to subdivide the UP in our area. Marquette is the north central UP, everything east of Newberry the eastern UP, Escanaba the southern UP, and, of course, the Keweenaw is the Copper Country. There are a lot of differences within the peninsula: I once asked a woman in St Ignace who was selling pasties and was a St Ignace native if she also sold cudighi. She had never heard of cudighi!

    There is a unique sense of unity in the UP I haven’t seen too many other places. A man once rear ended me in the snow near Newberry, two hours from home. It turned out we had gone through elementary school together! When a UP high school goes to a state tournament, you will see “UP power” signs posted in many towns along the route to the bridge, often 100 miles away from the competing high school. When Ishpeming took state last year in football, the Munising fire department, in a rival town an hour away from Ishpeming, gave them an escort through the town upon their return in their honor. I can’t think of any other place where that would happen.

  62. I’m from Oakland County, and “Goin’ up north” is a summer slogan down here. For me it means I’m going to my cabin in Caseville. And if I am going to the UP then I say I am. Simple as that…

  63. Maria Johnson
    May 13, 2015

    Heading North on I-75 you immediately realize that you are Up-North when the traffic diminishes, the exits become less frequent and the trees more abundant. It doesn’t need to be demarcated, when you are Up-North you feel it and can breath it.

  64. I just want to say we moved from Detroit to a town named Glennie…an hour south of Alpena. We always referred it as going “up north”. Oh and fyi…Kid Rock I believe was referring to Long Lake Michigan…Watch Uncle Krackers video to the song “Smile” you’ll see Long Lake and Hale.

  65. I have lived in the western UP my whole life (43) yrs now and if we were to define this we would say that northern Michigan is the upper half of the lower peninsula. We dont much care where you divide the LP. We are the UP which to us is a total different place than northern Michigan. We go to lower Michigan which to us is the whole LP. The only time we differentiate is when we are asked this question.

  66. Dave McKinnon
    May 31, 2015

    just a note: in the section referring to the geographic center of Michigan, the article states that the center is at the intersection of “Interest” 75 and US127. Should be “Interstate”
    Terrific article, loved all the details.
    Dave McKinnon

  67. Bob Echola
    Jun 2, 2015

    In a book entitled “Ghost Towns of the Upper Peninsula” the author, whose name I just cannot remember, said this about our beloved Yooper Country. “The Upper Peninsula is attached to Lower Michigan by decree and by land to Wisconsin.” I was not born in the Upper Peninsula but I lived there from about the age of 5 until my family moved to Rhode Island where I had been born 16 years earlier. I graduated from High School in Rhode Island and still get invited to both Reunions. I have never been to one of those reunions in Rhode Island. I still attend the ones that are held in Crystal Falls every 5 years. I will attend the next one in 2019 if I am still able to. I identify with those who call themselves Yoopers and still call myself one.

  68. Dave Durocher
    Nov 24, 2015

    As far as I’m concerned having lived in Menominee, Stambaugh and Caspian, any thing north of Menominee is “UP NORT” as we say.

  69. The divide is simple. Below the Mackinaw is an entirely different state. An entirely different culture. An entirely different way of life in every way. That bridge divides northern and southern simple as that. You trolls under the bridge already suck in nearly all of our tax dollars never to be seen in the north again. You already have people who don’t even realize north of the bridge is still Michigan. You keep you terrible water. You keep your higher crime. You enjoy the poverty we up here have all been familiar with for decades. Now go back below your bridge and mind your manners troll’s for we have fire in the north and know how to use it. You take our money , you don’t get to take our name as well.

Leave Your Comments...

Upper Peninsula Gift Cards

Get Some!

Lake Superior - Tri BlendNine Oh Six - Women's White

Your Steez Photos

Steez Around the WorldSteez Around the World