The Upper Peninsula
The Upper Peninsula
The Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan is a unique landscape with a variety of characteristics. The U.P. is a land mass that is connected to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan by the five mile long Mackinac Bridge. The Mackinaw Bridge is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world and was opened on November 1st, 1957.
The Upper Peninsula contains 29% of Michigan’s land but only has about 3% of the population. The Upper Peninsula is home to 311,361 people as of 2010 and this is spread over 16,452 sq. miles. Marquette County has the largest population in the U.P., whereas Keweenaw County contains the smallest population. There are 15 counties total in the Upper Peninsula including; Alger, Baraga, Chippewa, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft.
An important distinction to make between the counties is that four of the counties are in the Central Time Zone; Iron, Dickinson, Gogebic and Menominee. One of the most attractive features of the Upper Peninsula is that it is surrounded by three of the Great Lakes — Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. This area also has 4,300 inland lakes, 12,000 miles of river/streams and more than 1,000 waterfalls.
With hearty winters and quick summers it is important to find recreational activities to enjoy throughout the changing seasons. The U.P. offers a variety of different activities from hiking and bird watching to snowmobiling and ice climbing. If you enjoy downhill skiing, the U.P. offers 9 different ski areas to test your skills. For cross country lovers, every county in the U.P. has numerous groomed trails for your pleasure. Another popular winter activity the area offers is snowmobiling — with over 3,000 miles of groomed trails! In the summer you can fish or hike throughout U.P.. One of the more popular trails being the North County Tail which will take you along Lake Superior. Winters in this area usually start in November and can last through April with temperatures that can range from 30 to -30 degrees. Certain areas in the U.P. are heavily affected by lake effect snow, and these areas include Alger, Keweenaw and Marquette counties. The average snow fall is around 164.3 inches for the U.P.. Summers will vary from year to year, the average temperature is in the mid 70’s but can get as low the 40’s or as high as 100’s.
The wildlife in this area is vast and sightings of different animals is commonplace. The U.P. is home to over 400 different species of birds. Some of the more common birds are bald eagles, robins, sand hill cranes, turkeys, grouse, etc. Other wildlife in the UP includes; black bear, coyote, moose, cotton tail rabbit, hare, river otter, beaver, white tail deer, porcupine, fox, raccoon, bat, salmon, brook trout, whitefish, walleye, along with many more.
Mining has a long history in the U.P. which brought settlers from Finland, England, Italy and other countries. In fact, the U.P. has the largest population of Finnish-Americans in all of the U.S. Starting in the mid-1800’s, copper was the primary mineral being mined here. One of the more popular areas that was mined for copper was the Keweenaw Peninsula, where there are still many historical sites to see that are dedicated to the rich mining history. Currently, the Eagle Mine has an active copper and nickel mine operating in Marquette County. Cleveland Cliffs is another company that has an active mine that is currently producing iron ore. This then gets shipped by train to the ore docks along Lake Superior where iron ore ships load and distribute. There are other mines being developed by various companies and it appears that an industry that was at one time on the decline is starting to prosper once again in the area.
The onrush of settlers also brought a diverse culture to Upper Peninsula. The Finnish settlers brought with them their love and tradition for saunas. It is common to see a sauna built into homes across the U.P. or attached to a camp. The traditional sauna is made out of cedar wood with a wood-stove and hot rocks to heat the building. Another U.P. tradition that was developed out of the mining industry is a local dish known as the pasty. The origins are not exactly known, but it was believed that this filling dish was easily brought to work with the miners which is why it became so popular. A pasty is traditionally filled with steak, rutabaga and potato wrapped in flaky dough.
The Upper Peninsula has a lot to offer and something for almost everyone to enjoy. Come and experience our unique piece of Michigan for yourself!