Michigan: Iosco County

Iosco County (pop. 25,887) is on Lake Huron, south of Alcona County.

The county seat of Iosco County is Tawas City (pop. 1,827), which is known for its collection of statues of cartoon characters.


The nearby city of East Tawas (pop. 2,808) is the home of the 70-foot-tall Tawas Point Light Station.

Built in 1876

The lighthouse is within Tawas Point State Park – “The Cape Cod of the Midwest.”

At the end of the sand spit that forms Tawas Bay

The Family Theatre in East Tawas is about 70 years old.

Still showing first-run movies

The unincorporated community of Oscoda is the home of the 14-foot Lumberman’s Monument (1931).

A Forest Service visitor center is open in summer.

The state of Michigan has declared Oscoda as the official birthplace of Paul Bunyan.

Paul Bunyan statue, Oscoda

From 1923 to 1993, a U.S. air base was just northwest of Oscoda; it was named Wurtsmith Air Force Base beginning in 1953. Today it has a public airport and a variety of other tenants, including Alpena Community College.

The 379th Bomb Wing was there.

The 22-mile River Road National Scenic Byway runs along the Au Sable River, ending in Oscoda.

Established in 2005

In the city of Whittemore (pop. 384), the quarter-mile Whittemore Speedway has hosted summer races since 1948.

Michigan’s oldest operating speedway


michigan counties working

Michigan: Alcona County

Alcona County (pop. 10,942) is on Lake Huron, east of Oscoda County. Alcona is Michigan’s first county (alphabetically).

The county flag

Alcona is one of Michigan’s ten county names invented by Henry Schoolcraft to sound like Indian words. The others are Allegan, Alpena, Arenac, Iosco, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Lenawee, Oscoda, and Tuscola.

The county seat of Alcona County is Harrisville, third-smallest county seat in Michigan with a population of 493.

Sunrise on Lake Huron, Harrisville

Harrisville was the hometown of Hall of Fame baseball player Hazen Shirley “Kiki” Cuyler (1898-1950).

Lifetime .321 average

Harrisville’s Detroit and Mackinac Railway depot, built in 1901, is still standing.

Built of cut stone

Harrisville State Park, along Lake Huron, was established in 1921.

Popular for camping

The Sturgeon Point Light Station, built in 1869 in Cape Cod style, is north of Harrisville.

Open to the public in summer

Hubbard Lake, one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes, is popular for fishing both summer and winter.

Hubbard Lake in autumn

The unincorporated community of Curran has an annual Black Bear Festival.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Oscoda County

Oscoda County (pop. 8,640) is east of Crawford County. It’s the only Oscoda County in the U.S.

The word “Oscoda” was a neologism created by Henry Schoolcraft, apparently from the Ojibwa words “ossin” (stone) and “muskoda” (prairie).

The community of Oscoda is in nearby Iosco County, not Oscoda County.

The county seat of Oscoda County is the unincorporated community of Mio (pop. 1,826). It was named for an early settler named Marla Deyarmond, whose nickname was “Aunt Mioe.”

The wood-frame courthouse is in Classical Revival style.

Mio is in the Au Sable River Valley. The river flows into Lake Huron.

A “blue-ribbon” trout stream

The unincorporated community of Fairview calls itself “The Wild Turkey Capital of Michigan.”

Hunting season is in April and May.

Fairview is also the home of the Au Sable Valley Railroad.

Open on summer weekends


michigan counties working

Michigan: Crawford County

Crawford County (pop. 14,074) is in the middle of Northern Michigan, about halfway between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. It is one of 11 Crawford counties in the U.S.

There are three different people for whom Crawford counties have been named; this one was named for Col. William Crawford (1732-1782), a soldier and surveyor who was tortured and burned at the stake during an Army expedition against Indian villages in Ohio.

Crawford’s execution

Camp Grayling, the largest National Guard training site in the U.S., is primarily in Crawford County.

Founded in 1913

The county seat of Crawford County is the city of Grayling (pop. 1,884), named for a species of fish that was found in the area.

The Grayling Fish Hatchery was founded in 1914.

The Rialto Theater in Grayling dates from 1930.

Art Deco style

The Bottle-Cap Museum is inside Dawson and Stevens Classic 50′s Diner in downtown Grayling.

Lots of Coca Cola memorabilia

The Crawford County Historical Museum is in the Grayling Railroad Depot.

Built in 1882

Grayling calls itself “The Canoe Capital of the World.” The annual 120-mile Au Sable River International Canoe Marathon goes from Grayling to Oscoda.

Canoers paddle nonstop through the night.

The Hanson Hills Recreation Area has downhill and cross-country skiing.

Mountain biking in summer

Hartwick Pines State Park, north of Grayling, is Michigan’s fifth-largest state park. It has an old-growth forest of white pines and red pines.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Kalkaska County

Kalkaska County (pop. 17,153) is east of Grand Traverse County. It’s the only Kalkaska County in the U.S.

Kalkaska County has about 80 lakes – many of them popular for fishing.

Little Twin Lake

The “National Trout Memorial” is in the village of Kalkaska (pop. 2.020), the county seat.

Centerpiece for a fountain since 1966

Much of downtown Kalkaska burned down in fires in 1908, 1910, and 1925.

The 1908 fire

Kalkaska is the home of the National Trout Festival every April. The festival started in 1936.

Kalkaska also has an annual off-road bicycle race in November called the Iceman Cometh Challenge.

29 miles to Traverse City

“Kalkaska sand” is the state soil of Michigan.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Grand Traverse County

Grand Traverse County (pop. 86,986) is at the southern end of Grand Traverse Bay.

The county’s name was derived from a French phrase meaning “long crossing,” which referred to the water crossing of the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay along Lake Michigan.

The 17-mile-long Old Mission Peninsula separates the bay’s West Arm and East Arm.

The Old Mission Peninsula has eight wineries. The Old Mission Point Lighthouse is at the northern tip of the peninsula.

Built in 1870, deactivated in 1933

The county seat of Grand Traverse County is Traverse City (pop. 14,674), largest city in the 21-county “Northern Michigan” region (which does not include the Upper Peninsula).

On many lists of America’s best small towns

Traverse City is well-known for the National Cherry Festival, which draws about 500,000 visitors during eight days in July.

The festival began in 1926.

The renovated State Theatre (1949) in downtown Traverse City is the home of the annual Traverse City Film Festival, co-founded by Michael Moore in 2005.

The theater shows movies all year.

The 710-seat City Opera House in Traverse City was built in 1891 and restored 1985-2005.

It hosts a variety of concerts.

Traverse City is the home of “The World’s Largest Cherry Pie Pan” – about 50 miles from the previous record-holder in the city of Charlevoix.

A pan in Canada also held the record for a time.

The former Traverse City State Hospital (originally the Northern Michigan Asylum, built in 1881) is now The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a residential and commercial development.

The last remaining Kirkbride building in Michigan

The Interlochen Center for the Arts, nationally known for education in the arts, is southwest of Traverse City. Its Interlochen Arts Camp was founded in 1928 as the National Music Camp.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Benzie County

Benzie County (pop. 17,525) is south of Leelanau County. It’s the only Benzie County in the U.S.

The county has 60 miles of Lake Michigan coastline and 57 inland lakes.

And part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore

The county’s largest lake is eight-mile-long Crystal Lake, located just inland from Lake Michigan.

Known for its clear water

The county seat of Benzie County is the village of Beulah (pop. 342), second-smallest county seat in Michigan.

Benzie County’s first courthouse was originally built as a hotel in 1912; it was converted into a courthouse in 1916 and served in that role until 1976.

A new courthouse was built in the 1970s.

The Cherry Hut in Beulah has been a popular stop for visitors since 1937. It is well-known for its cherry pies and other cherry products.

It started as a roadside pie stand in 1922.

The village of Honor (pop. 328) is the home of the Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theater – the only remaining drive-in in northern Michigan.

It opened in 1953.

Frankfort (pop. 1,286), on Lake Michigan, is the largest city in Benzie County.

Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse (1912)

The Frankfort Land Company House (1867) is now the Stonewall Inn Bed and Breakfast.

Built in the Italianate style


michigan counties working


Michigan: Leelanau County

Leelanau County (pop. 21,708), located on Lake Michigan, is known for its cherry orchards. It is Michigan’s number-one producer of cherries.

Cherries in bloom

The county also has about 20 wineries. Local varietals include Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Leelanau County is on the 30-mile-long Leelanau Peninsula, between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay.

The county’s name (pronounced “LEE-lan-awe”)  is among many faux-Indian names invented by Henry Schoolcraft in the 19th century.

The Grand Traverse Lighthouse (1858) is at the northern tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.

In Leelanau State Park

Lake Leelanau extends 21 miles north-south through the county.

About 1.5 miles wide at its widest

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, created in 1973, covers 35 miles of Lake Michigan coastline.

There are many campgrounds in the area.

Glen Lake, just inland from the dunes, is known for its clear, blue water. The lake is popular for boating, fishing, and swimming.

Actually two bodies of water separated by a narrow channel

North and South Manitou Islands are part of the National Lakeshore. Ferry service is available.

North Manitou Island

From 1883 to 2008, the unincorporated community of Leland was the county seat of Leelanau County. In 2008, the county seat was moved to Suttons Bay Township (pop. 2,982).

The new courthouse

The only movie theater in the county is the Bay Theatre in the village of Suttons Bay (pop. 618). It opened in 1946.

271 seats

The Fountain Point Resort, on Lake Leelanau, dates from 1889.

Famous for its fountain of artesian spring water

Glen Arbor Township  (pop 788) is the home of the “Olympic-size cherry-pit-spitting arena.”


michigan counties working

Michigan: Antrim County

Antrim County (pop. 23,580) is south of Charlevoix County, along Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

It was named for County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Dunluce Castle Tower

The 19-mile-long Torch Lake is Michigan’s longest inland lake. It is separated by narrow strips of land from Grand Traverse Bay in the northwest and Elk Lake in the southwest.

Popular for fishing

YMCA Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, on the east side of the lake, is reportedly the oldest American summer camp that is located on its original site.

The camp dates from 1904.

The county seat of Antrim County is the village of Bellaire (pop. 1,086).

The Courthouse was built in 1904.

The Henry Richardi House in Bellaire is now the Grand Victorian Bed and Breakfast.

Built in 1895

The village of Elk Rapids (pop. 1,642), located between Elk Lake and Grand Traverse Bay, has a 15-foot swan statue in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

It carried Miss Elk Rapids in a float in 1966.

At Kewadin, northeast of Elk Rapids, is a rock pyramid honoring Hugh J. Gray, “Dean of Michigan’s Tourist Activity.” It is built with rocks from each of Michigan’s 83 counties.

Erected in 1938

In the eastern part of Antrim County is Deadman’s Hill Scenic Overlook, where the land drops 400 feet to the Jordan River Valley below.

A popular area for hiking


michigan counties working

Michigan: Charlevoix County

Charlevoix County (pop. 25,949) is on Lake Michigan. Its county seat, the city of Charlevoix (pop. 2,513), is between Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan.

From left: Lake Michigan, Round Lake, Lake Charlevoix

It is the only Charlevoix (char-le-VOY) County in the U.S.

The city of Charlevoix has been a summer resort area since the late 19th century.

Drawbridge over Pine River Channel, Charlevoix

The city, county, and lake were named for Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix (1682-1761), a Jesuit traveler and historian.

He was on Lake Michigan in 1720.

Lake Charlevoix is the third-largest lake located entirely in Michigan.

The four-car Ironton Ferry, on the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix, saves drivers about 18 miles between Ironton and Boyne City.

Beaver Island (pop. 365), the largest island in Lake Michigan, is in Charlevoix County and reached by auto ferry from Charlevoix.

About 30 miles from Charlevoix

Fisherman’s Island State Park, just south of Charlevoix, has five miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan.

Three miles of hiking trails

Charlevoix is the home of the former World’s Largest Cherry Pie Tin.

Now only third-largest


michigan counties working

Michigan: Otsego County

Otsego County (pop. 24,164) is west of Montmorency County. “Otsego” is a Native American word meaning either “place of the rock,” “clear water,” or “meeting place.”

Or it may have been invented by Henry Schoolcraft

The only other Otsego County is in New York – where the county seat is Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.)

The county seat of Otsego County, Michigan, is the city of Gaylord (pop. 3,645). Downtown Gaylord has an “Alpine village” architectural theme.

Gaylord has had a summer Alpenfest since 1965.

Gaylord is the home of the Call of the Wild Museum and Gift Shop, established in 1965.

Timber wolf exhibit

East of Gaylord is the Treetops Resort. Its ski area has three lifts and 23 runs.

In warmer months, Treetop is a popular golf resort, with a total of 81 holes.

Five separate courses

Otsego County has about 100 lakes; the largest is Otsego Lake, south of Gaylord.

Otsego Lake State Park


michigan counties working

Michigan: Montmorency County

Montmorency County (pop. 9,765) is west of Alpena County. The sparsely settled county has no stoplights.

The county seat of Montmorency County is the unincorporated community of Atlanta (pop. 827), the fourth-smallest county seat in Michigan. It was named for Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta in 1949

Atlanta is known as “The Elk Capital of Michigan.” The state’s elk-hunting season is in August-September and in December.

Atlanta has an annual Elk Pole Contest.

Montmorency County is the home of the annual Sno*Drift rally race, which goes over snow-covered gravel roads in January. It is the season’s first race in the Rally America National Rally Championship.

Clear Lake State Park is north of Atlanta. It is popular for boating and fishing in summer and cross-country skiing in winter.

Elk are often visible in the park.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Alpena County

Alpena County (pop. 29,598) is along the shore of Lake Huron, south of Presque Isle County. “Alpena” is a pseudo-Native American word invented by Henry Schoolcraft, Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie.

The city of Alpena (pop. 29,598), the county seat, is at the mouth of the Thunder Bay River on Thunder Bay. It is the largest city in the northeastern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Alpena Community College, with about 2,000 students, is the home of a statue of Paul Bunyan made of automobile parts.

Built in the ’60s from Kaiser car parts

The Alpena County Courthouse was built in 1934 in the Art Deco style.

The previous courthouse was destroyed by fire.

The Alpena Light is at the entrance to the Thunder Bay River.

Built in 1914

The unincorporated community of Ossineke (pop. 938) is the home of the Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo.

Open summer only

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, in Lake Huron, protects the sites of about 116 shipwrecks in the area.

The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena has displays about Lake Huron shipwrecks.

Open all year and free


michigan counties working

Michigan: Presque Isle County

Presque Isle County (pop. 13,376) is along Lake Huron, east of Cheboygan County.

That’s not really Lake Michigan.

Presque Isle (“presk-EEL”) means “almost an island” in French. The county got its name from the area between Grand Lake and Lake Huron, which has narrow strips of land connecting it to the mainland at both ends.

The seven-mile-long Grand Lake is popular for fishing.

The county seat of Presque Isle County is Rogers City (pop. 2,827), historically an important port on Lake Huron.

“The Nautical City”

Rogers City has the world’s largest open-pit limestone quarry; it is operated by Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company.

Production began in 1912.

West of Rogers City is Onaway, “The Sturgeon Capital of Michigan.” In the Onaway area are large metal busts of Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and Ford.

George Washington, along Highway 33-68

Onaway built a courthouse building in 1908 in hopes of becoming the county seat. The building now houses city offices and a library.

Also the Onaway Historical Museum

The village of Posen (pop. 234), where the majority of the population is of Polish descent, has an annual Potato Festival.

Polka dancing is popular.

Presque Isle County has several historic lighthouses; the Forty Mile Point Light dates from 1897.

Part of the building is now a museum.

Ocqueoc Falls State Forest has the largest (and possibly only) waterfall in the Lower Peninsula.

Pronounced “ah-key-ock”


michigan counties working

Michigan: Cheboygan County

Cheboygan County (pop. 4,876) is just east of Emmet County, along the shore of Lake Huron at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s the only Cheboygan County in the U.S.

The village of Mackinaw City (pop. 896), at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge, is in both Emmet and Cheboygan counties. Ferries from Mackinaw City serve Mackinac Island.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse (1889), Mackinaw City

The county seat of Cheboygan County is the city of Cheboygan (pop. 4,876), which got its start as a lumber-mill town at the mouth of the seven-mile Cheboygan River.

U.S. Highway 23 drawbridge over Cheboygan River

The Kingston Theatre in downtown Cheboygan dates from 1920.

Still showing movies

Ferries from Cheboygan serve the 34-square-mile Bois Blanc Island (pop. 71). The name is pronounced “Bob Low.”

Fewer tourists than Mackinac

Cheboygan State Park is east of town. The park offers hiking, swimming, camping, and cross-county skiing.

Along Lake Huron

Just west of Cheboygan is the gift shop known as Sea Shell City, in operation since 1957.

The unincorporated community of Indian River is the home of the Nun Doll Museum.

More than 500 dolls


michigan counties working

Michigan: Emmet County

Emmet County (pop. 32,694) is along Lake Michigan, just across the Straits of Mackinac from the Upper Peninsula. The only other Emmet County is in Iowa.

The county was named for Robert Emmet (1778-1803), an Irish nationalist who was hanged by the British for treason.

He never visited Michigan.

The county seat of Emmet County is Petoskey (pop. 5,670), located on the south side of Little Traverse Bay.

Ernest Hemingway spent boyhood summers in the area.

The Lake Michigan shore at Petoskey is known as a good place to find “Petoskey stones” – the fossilized coral rock that is Michigan’s state stone.

Polished Petoskey stones

The Archangel Grotto in Petoskey is the only grotto in the U.S. dedicated to St. Michael, St. Raphael, and St. Gabriel.

The statues are nine feet tall.

About six miles south of Petoskey is a historical sign that commemorates the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Millions of the birds were killed at their nesting colony in the area in 1878.

Just east of Petoskey is Bay View, a resort community established in 1875 by the United Methodist Church that became part of the Chautauqua movement. Every summer it has a program of music and lectures.

Two hotels and 440 cottages

Highway M-119 north of Harbor Springs is known as the “Tunnel of Trees.” It goes through the woods and along the shore of Lake Michigan.

No centerline

Wilderness State Park is in the northern part of Emmet County. Animals in the park include black bear, beaver, bobcat, mink, muskrat, and otter.

Waugoshance Point, Wilderness State Park

Fort Michilimackinac, a restored 18th-century trading post, is in Mackinaw City on the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac.

Part of Colonial Michilimackinac State Park


michigan counties working

Michigan: Mackinac County

Mackinac (pronounced “Mackinaw”) County (pop. 11,113) is the gateway to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Originally called Michilimackinac County, it is connected to the Lower Peninsula by the 8,614-foot Mackinac Bridge over the Straits of Mackinac.

The world’s fifth-longest suspension bridge

The Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The county seat of Mackinac County, St. Ignace (pop. 2,452), is at the northern end of the Mackinac Bridge.

Lake Michigan on left, Lake Huron on right

Father Jacques Marquette founded a mission at St. Ignace (today pronounced Saint IG-nus) in 1671. A later mission chapel, dating from 1837, is now the Museum of Ojibwa Culture. Father Marquette is buried at the site.

The oldest Catholic church structure in Michigan

Tourist attractions in St. Ignace include the Mystery Spot, Deer Ranch, and Indian Village.

Nearby, Castle Rock has statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Protected by a fence

St. Ignace is a 16-minute ferry ride from Mackinac Island – one of Michigan’s premier destinations for visitors. Motor vehicles (other than emergency vehicles) are not allowed on the island.

The city of Mackinac Island (permanent pop. 492) officially occupies the entire island, but three-fourths of the island is in Mackinac Island State Park. From 1875 to 1895, it was Mackinac National Park – America’s second national park.

The population grows by thousands in the summer.

Transportation on Mackinac Island is by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, horse, and foot.

Downtown Mackinac Island

The island has a variety of hotels and other lodging. The most famous is the Grand Hotel, built in 1887, which claims to have the world’s largest porch.

Featured in the 1980 movie with Christopher Reeve

Mackinac Island is circled by the eight-mile Highway M-185, the only state highway in the U.S. on which motor vehicles are banned.

It was paved in the 1950s.

West of St. Ignace on Lake Michigan is the 30-acre  Garlyn Zoo, “the largest zoo in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.”

It opened in 1994.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Chippewa County

Chippewa County (pop. 38,520) borders the far southeastern corner of Lake Superior at Whitefish Bay and extends along the Canadian border to the northwestern corner of Lake Huron.

Minnesota and Wisconsin also have Chippewa counties.

The county seat of Chippewa County is Sault Ste. Marie (pop. 14,144), the second-largest city on the Upper Peninsula.

Seen across the St. Marys River from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

“Sault” (pronounced “Soo” in English) is an archaic spelling of a French word meaning “rapids” – referring to the rapids of the St. Marys River. The Soo Locks bypass the rapids, allowing ships to pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

About 10,000 ships a year go through the locks.

The site of Sault Ste. Marie was a longtime Native American settlement. In 1668, Father Jacques Marquette founded a mission there – the first European settlement in the Midwest.

It became a center of fur trading.

Today, Sault Ste. Marie is the northern terminus of Interstate 75, which goes 1,786 miles south to Hialeah, Florida.

Via Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Tampa

Saulte Ste. Marie is the home of the International 500, the largest and longest snowmobile race in the world.

Riders go 500 miles on a one-mile oval.

Lake Superior State University is in Sault Ste. Marie. Established in 1946, it is Michigan’s smallest public university, with about 3,000 students.

The athletic teams are called the Lakers.

In the northwestern part of Chippewa County is Whitefish Point, where the lighthouse safeguards the route from Lake Superior into Whitefish Bay and the St. Marys River.

The current structure dates from 1861.

Nearby is the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, dating from 1985.

The area has been called “The Graveyard of the Great Lakes.”

At the opposite end of Chippewa County – and at the easternmost point in the Upper Peninsula – is DeTour Township. Three miles offshore, in Lake Huron, is the DeTour Reef Light (1931).

Protecting the route north to Lake Superior

Just east of DeTour Township is Drummond Island (pop. 992), which is reached by car ferry.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Luce County

Luce County (pop. 6,631), on the southeastern shore of Lake Superior, is the site of Tahquamenon Falls State Park – which has two waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River.

The upper falls are more than 200 feet across.

Luce County is Michigan’s second-smallest county in population. Much of the county is forested wilderness.

The 23-mile Two-Hearted River flows through the county to Lake Superior. Ernest Hemingway used the name for his famous short story, published in 1925.

Hemingway camped in the UP in 1919.

The county seat of Luce County is the village of Newberry (pop. 1,519).

Downtown Newberry

The Michigan State Legislature has designated Newberry “The Moose Capital of Michigan.” Luce County has more moose-sightings than any other county in the state.

The former Sheriff’s House and Jail (1894) in Newberry is now the Luce County Historical Museum.

It opened as a museum in 1976.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch, near Newberry, has about 30 bears in a variety of habitats. It is the largest bear-only bear ranch in the U.S.

Opened to the public in 1997

Also near Newberry is the Toonerville Trolley, a five-mile, narrow-gauge train through the woods.

Closed in winter

The 217-acre Muskallonge Lake State Park is located between Lake Superior and Muskallonge Lake, on the site of the former lumber mill town of Deer Park.

Muskallonge Lake at sunset


michigan counties working

Michigan: Schoolcraft County

Schoolcraft County (pop. 8,485), Michigan’s fourth-smallest county in population, is located at the northern end of Lake Michigan.

The county was named for Henry Schoolcraft (1793-1864), a geographer and geologist who explored the upper Mississippi River and served as Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie.

He named many of Michigan’s counties.

Much of the western part of the county is in Hiawatha National Forest.

The forest is divided into two parts.

The county seat of Schoolcraft County is Manistique (pop. 3,097), located where the 71-mile-long Manistique River flows into Lake Michigan.

The original spelling was “Monistique.”

Manistique – which is one of several cities claiming to be the hometown of Paul Bunyan – has a Paul statue outside the Schoolcraft County Chamber of Commerce.

About 15 feet tall

Manistique was once famous among civil engineers for the “Siphon Bridge” (1919); the bridge’s original roadway was actually below the level of the Manistique River.

Today the river is below the bridge.

The octagonal Manistique Pumping Station was built in 1922.

Now the Schoolcraft County Museum

Germfask Township, northeast of Manistique, got its name from the surname initials of its eight founding settlers, whose last names were Grant, Edge, Robinson, Mead, French, Ackley, Sheppard, and Knaggs.

Founded in 1881

Palms Book State Park is best known for the “Kitch-iti-kipi,” Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring. A self-operated observation ramp, running on a cable, allows visitors to look down into the clear water.

The water is 40 feet deep.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Alger County

Alger County (pop. 9,601) is on the southern shore of Lake Superior. It’s the only Alger County in the U.S.

The county was named for Russell A. Alger (1836-1907), a lumber baron who later served as governor of Michigan, U.S. senator, and secretary of war for President William McKinley.

Also an officer in the Civil War

The county seat of Alger County is Munising (pop. 2,355), located at the south end of Munising Bay and at the mouth of the seven-mile-long Anna River.

Downtown Munising

The Munising area is known for its scenic waterfalls.

Wagner Falls

“Munising” is derived from the Ojibway language, meaning “near the island.” The city is a half-mile from Grand Island; a passenger ferry connects Munising with Grand Island National Recreation Area.

Hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting are available.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, east of Munising, extends for 42 miles along the shore of Lake Superior.

America’s first national lakeshore

Just west of Munising is the unincorporated community of Christmas, which once had a factory making gifts for sale at Christmas time.

The factory burned down in 1940.

The unincorporated community of Trenary is known for its annual outhouse races at the Trenary Outhouse Classic, held Feb. 22 this year.

The outhouses are placed on skis and pushed.

Trenary is also known for the Trenary Home Bakery, which makes the popular Trenary cinnamon toast, available by mail order.

The bakery dates from the 1930s.

The Eben Ice Caves are a local attraction in winter. They are in the Rock River Wilderness in Hiawatha National Forest.

Pronounced “Eh-ben,” not “Ee-ben”

The “Pickle Barrel House,” in Grand Marais, is a two-story cabin that was built (in 1926) to resemble two barrels. It was originally a family’s summer cabin.

Now restored and open for tours


michigan counties working

Michigan: Delta County

Delta County (pop. 37,069) is east of Menominee County on the north shore of Lake Michigan, mostly along the Big Bay de Noc and Little Bay de Noc.

Texas and Colorado also have Delta counties.

The county was named for the Greek letter “delta.” The Bays de Noc were named for the Noquet (or Noc) Indians, who once lived in the area.

The county originally had a triangular shape.

Delta County’s many historic lighthouses include the Poverty Island Light Station, which was in operation from 1875 to 1976. In 2011, Lighthouse Digest called it “America’s Most Endangered Lighthouse.”

About six miles south of the Garden Peninsula

A few miles west of Poverty Island, on St. Martin Island, is the St. Martin Island Light, built in 1905.

A rare “exoskeletal” lighthouse

The county seat of Delta County is Escanaba (pop. 12,616), which has been an important port town (for copper, lumber, and iron ore) since the mid-19th century.

Iron ore being loaded at Escanaba

The 52-mile-long Escanaba River flows into the Little Bay de Noc, just north of the city.

Escanaba means “land of the red buck.”

The Historic House of Luddington, built in the 1880s, still operates as a hotel and restaurant.

Built in Queen Anne style

The five-story Delta Hotel in downtown Escanaba  (1914) now has apartments.

It closed as a hotel in 1962.

The city of Gladstone, nine miles north of Escanaba, is well-known for the factory tours at the Hoegh Pet Casket Company.

8 sizes, 30 styles

In Nahma Township is the 100-foot Bay de Noquet Lumber Company Waste Burner (approx. 1893), now on the National Register of Historic Places.

It burned waste wood and bark from a sawmill.

Fayette Historic State Park, on the Big Bay de Noc, has reconstructed an industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron in the late 19th century.

More than 20 buildings are open.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Menominee County

Menominee County (pop. 24,029) is southeast of Dickinson County. “Menominee” is a Native American word meaning “wild rice.”

The county seat is the city of Menominee (pop. 8,599), located on Green Bay (an arm of Lake Michigan), across the Menominee River from Marinette, Wisconsin.

Michigan on the right, Wisconsin on the left

The Menominee River begins about 115 miles to the north, near the city of Iron Mountain.

In the late 1800s, when Michigan was America’s leading producer of lumber, Menominee’s sawmills produced more lumber than any other city in the country.

The red-brick Menominee County Courthouse was built in 1875.

In Classical Revival style

St. John the Baptist Church in Menominee (1922) is now the Heritage Museum of the Menominee County Historical Society.

It closed as a church in 1972.

The Menominee North Pier Lighthouse is still in operation.

Built in 1927

A small car known as the “Dudly Bug” was manufactured by the Dudly Tool Company in Menominee from 1913 to 1915.

Only about 100 were ever made.

J.W. Wells State Park, northeast of Menominee along Green Bay, was established in 1925, thanks to a donation of land by the children of John Walter Wells, a pioneer lumberman in the county.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Dickinson County

Dickinson County (pop. 26,168) is south of Marquette County. The only other Dickinson counties are in Iowa and Kansas.

Dickinson is the newest county in Michigan. It was created in 1891 from parts of Marquette, Menominee, and Iron counties.

The county seat of Dickinson County is Iron Mountain (pop. 7,624). The Dickinson County Courthouse was built in 1896.

Romanesque style

The Immaculate Conception Church in Iron Mountain was built by Italian Catholics in 1902.

Italian Renaissance Revival style

The Millie Hill Bat Cave in Iron Mountain is an abandoned vertical iron mine. It has one of North America’s largest hibernating and breeding bat colonies, with up to a million bats.

They mainly emerge in April and September.

The Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum in Iron Mountain has the largest steam-driven pumping engine ever built in the United States. It was designed to pump water from the Chapin Mine.

The museum was built around the pump.

The Pine Mountain Ski Jump is just outside of Iron Mountain.

Part of Pine Mountain Golf and Ski Resort

Steve Mariucci, former coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, and Tom Izzo, longtime basketball coach at Michigan State University, were both born in Iron Mountain in 1955.

Three-sport teammates at Iron Mountain High School

In the city of Kingsford (pop. 5,133), the high school’s athletic teams are known as the Flivvers, in honor of the Ford Motor Company, which employed many local residents in its sawmill and parts plant.

A “Flivver” was a nickname for the Ford Model T.

The Iron Mountain Iron Mine in the unincorporated community of Vulcan offers regular tours.

Big John, the World’s Largest Miner


michigan counties working

Michigan: Marquette County

Marquette County (pop. 67,077) is the most populous county on the Upper Peninsula and the largest county (in land area) in Michigan.

The only other Marquette County is in Wisconsin.

It was named for Father Jacques Marquette, the French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan’s first European settlement (at Sault Ste. Marie) and explored the northern part of the Mississippi River with Louis Jolliet.

Pere Marquette (1637-1675)

Iron ore in the county’s Marquette Iron Range has been mined since 1847. The Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum is in Ishpeming (pop. 6,470).

Cliffs Shaft Headframe (1919)

Ishpeming, known as the birthplace of organized skiing in the U.S., is the home of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum. The Suicide Hill Ski Jump is in the nearby city of Nagaunee (pop. 4,568).

In existence since 1925

Parts of the movie “Catfish” (2010) took place in Ishpeming.

Da Yoopers Tourist Trap is a popular attraction in Ishpeming. (The “Yoop” in Yoopers comes from U.P., or Upper Peninsula.)

Ishpeming is also well-known for its statue of “Old Ish.”

Erected in 1884

The county seat of Marquette County is the city of Marquette (pop. 21,355), largest city in the Upper Peninsula. Marquette has long been a major port (mostly for iron ore) on Lake Superior.

Presque Isle Park, Marquette

The Marquette County Courthouse was built in 1904.

Built of local sandstone over a steel frame

Much of the 1959 movie “Anatomy of a Murder” was filmed in the courthouse and in other locations around Marquette.

James Stewart in the Marquette courthouse

Marquette is the home of Northern Michigan University, which has about 9,000 students. The Superior Dome (“The World’s Largest Wooden Dome”) is located there.

Home of the NMU football team

St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette was built in 1890 and rebuilt after a fire in 1935.

Mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette

About 15 miles east of Marquette is Lakenenland, a free outdoor sculpture park.

Created by Tom Lakenen

The unincorporated community of Gwinn was designed as a “Model Town” by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company. Today, Gwinn High School’s sports teams are still known as the Modeltowners.

In Ishpeming, the teams are called the Hematites.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Baraga County

Baraga County (pop. 8,860) is on the shore of Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior.

It was named for Bishop Frederic Baraga (1797-1868), a Slovenian missionary who founded missions for the Native Americans in the area in the 1840s. He was known as “The Snowshoe Priest” because he traveled hundreds of miles in winter on snowshoes.

Bishop Baraga shrine on Highway 41

L’Anse (pop. 2,011) is the county seat of Baraga County. L’Anse (“the cove,” in French) is at the southern end of Keweenaw Bay.

L’Anse from across the bay

From the 1920s to the 1940s, the Ford Motor Company owned extensive forests in Baraga County – as well as sawmills and entire towns. Lumber was shipped via Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake St. Clair to the River Rouge factory in Dearborn.

Henry Ford had this summer home in Pequaming.

The L’Anse Indian Reservation, which occupies about a third of the county, is the oldest and largest Indian reservation in Michigan.

Mount Arvon (elev. 1,979 feet), in Baraga County, is the highest point in Michigan.

About 12 miles east of L’Anse

Mount Arvon is in the Huron Mountains, which extend from Baraga County into Marquette County.


michigan counties working

Michigan: Iron County

Iron County (pop. 11,817) is east of Gogebic County. It’s one of four Iron counties in the U.S. – the others are in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Utah.

Iron County was a center of iron-ore mining and logging starting in the late 1800s; the last mine closed in 1979, but logging continues to be an important part of the local economy.

Ottawa National Forest

The county seat of Iron County is Crystal Falls (pop. 1,469). The Iron County Courthouse was built in 1890.

Richardsonian Romanesque style

Crystal Falls is renowned among mycologists for the “Humungus Fungus” – a 1,500-year-old, 11-ton mushroom colony (armillaria gallica) that covers 37 acres (mostly underground) in a nearby forest.

Crystal Falls has an annual Humungus Fungus Fest.

The largest city in Iron County is Iron River (pop. 3,029).

Milwaukee Road station (1913)

St. Mary’s Assumption Catholic Church in Iron River was built in 1922.

Now Calvary Chapel

The town of Caspian (pop. 906) began as a mining village in 1901.

Caspian water tower


michigan counties working

Michigan: Gogebic County

Gogebic County (pop. 16,427) is the westernmost county in Michigan. It borders Lake Superior and Wisconsin.

Pronounced “GO-gih-bick”

The name is derived from an Ojibwe word meaning “rock.” The county was a center of iron-ore mining beginning in the late 1880s.

Mining slowed by the 1930s.

The county seat of Gogebic County is Bessemer (pop. 1,914).

Gogebic County Courthouse (1888)

The Bessemer area has several downhill ski areas, including Big Powderhorn, Indianhead, and Blackjack.

400-foot vertical drop

Ironwood (pop. 5,387), the largest city in Gogebic County, is just seven miles from Bessemer.

The former railroad station in Ironwood, built in 1892, now houses the Ironwood Area Historical Society.

Copper Peak, north of Ironwood, has the highest ski jump in North America. It has been closed since 1994, but is now undergoing renovations for reopening.

Ironwood has the oldest continuously operating Carnegie Library in Michigan.

Built in 1901

Ironwood is the home of “The World’s Tallest Indian,” made of fiberglass and dating from 1964.

52 feet tall

Stormy Kromer caps are manufactured in Ironwood. Factory tours are available.

Lake Gogebic, partly in Ontonagon County, is the largest lake in the Upper Peninsula.

Lake Gogebic State Park


michigan counties working

Michigan: Ontonagon County

Ontonagon County (pop. 6,780) is along Lake Superior on the Upper Peninsula, west of Houghton County. It has the third-smallest population among Michigan’s counties.

The only Ontonagon County in the U.S.

“Ontonagon” is a word derived from a Native American word meaning “hunting river” or “bowl.”

Bond Falls, on the Ontonagon River

Ontonagon County is the westernmost county in the U.S. that is entirely in the Eastern Time Zone.

The county seat is the village of Ontonagon (pop. 1,494), located at the mouth of the Ontonagon River on Lake Superior.

Downtown Ontonagon in the rain

The Ontonagon Lighthouse dates from 1866; it was deactivated in 1964.

Summer tours are available.

The unincorporated community of Matchwood was named for the Diamond Match Company, which owned large pine forests in the area. Diamond was America’s largest manufacturer of matches in the late 19th century.

The Porcupine Mountains are in the western part of the county, near Lake Superior. They contain North America’s largest stand of old-growth northern hardwood forest west of the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

Lake of the Clouds


michigan counties complete

Michigan: Houghton County

Houghton County (pop. 36,628) was named for Douglass Houghton (HOE-tun), a geologist who explored the Keweenaw Peninsula and reported on the copper deposits in the area, leading to the 19th-century copper rush. The population reached its peak of 88,098 in 1910.

Houghton lived from 1809 to 1845.

The northeastern part of the county is separated from the rest of the county by Portage Lake and the Keweenaw Waterway – a partly artificial waterway that cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula and connects Lake Superior to itself.

The upper peninsula is often called “Copper Island.”

The city of Houghton (pop. 7,708), the county seat, is across the waterway from Hancock (pop. 4,634.). They are connected by the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

The current bridge dates from 1959.

The Houghton County Courthouse was built in 1886 in Second Empire style.

The only Houghton County Courthouse in the U.S.

The Michigan Mining School was established in 1885 in Houghton to train mining engineers for the local copper mines. Today it’s known as Michigan Technological University, and it has about 7,000 students.

Michigan Tech has an annual Winter Carnival.

Hancock was originally a company town for the Quincy copper mine.

Many miners immigrated to Hancock from Finland. Today, Hancock has an annual FinnFest in June and the Heikinpaiva Mid-Winter Festival in January.

The Heikinpaiva parade

Finlandia University opened in Hancock in 1896 as the Suomi College and Theological Seminary.

Affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The village of Calumet (pop. 798), originally known as Red Jacket, was a company town for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.

The Calumet Theatre (1900) is still used for concerts and films.

Many of the copper mine executives lived nearby in Laurium (pop. 1,977). The Thomas H. Hoatson House in Laurium is now the Laurium Manor Inn.

Built in 1908

The legendary Notre Dame football player George Gipp (1895-1920) was born in Laurium.

“Win one for the Gipper.”


michigan counties working

Michigan: Keweenaw County

We begin our tour of Michigan’s 83 counties in Keweenaw County – the most northerly county in the state. This is the route that we’ll be taking:

michigan counties complete

Keweenaw (pronounced “KEY-win-awe”) is Michigan’s smallest county, by population, with 2,156 residents (2010 U.S. Census). It reached its peak of 7,156 in 1910.

The county was a center of copper mining starting in the mid-1800s.

About 90 percent of the county is under the surface of Lake Superior. When the underwater part is counted, it’s the largest county in Michigan.

“Keweenaw” is an Ojibwe word meaning “portage.”

The county is at the end of the Keweenaw Peninsula – the part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that extends into Lake Superior.

Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, is officially part of Keweenaw County. Isle Royale National Park was established in 1940.

The island is about 45 miles long.

Isle Royale is mostly wilderness, but it does have a lodge and campground near the eastern end.

A seasonal ferry goes to and from Copper Harbor.

Copper Harbor (pop. 108) is also the site of Fort Wilkins State Historic Park. The fort was established in the 1840s during the area’s copper rush.

Abandoned by the Army in 1870

Tours are given of the former Delaware copper mine in Copper Harbor.

June through October

The county seat of Keweenaw County is the unincorporated community of Eagle River (pop. 71). It’s the smallest county seat in Michigan.

Keweenaw County Courthouse (1866)

The county has nine lighthouses on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sand Hills Light (1919) is now a bed and breakfast.

Near the community of Mohawk is the “snow stick,” which measures snow in the area every winter. The record is 32 feet in the winter of 1978-79.

The unincorporated community of Gay is known for its Gay Bar and its annual Gay Parade on Independence Day.


michigan counties working