Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Coordinates: 46°14′00″N 86°21′00″W / 46.23333°N 86.35000°W / 46.23333; -86.35000
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The U.P.
Coordinates: 46°14′00″N 86°21′00″W / 46.23333°N 86.35000°W / 46.23333; -86.35000
Country United States
State Michigan
Largest cityMarquette
 • Total93,600 km2 (36,139 sq mi)
 • Land42,420 km2 (16,378 sq mi)
 • Water51,180 km2 (19,761 sq mi)  54.7%
 • Total301,609
 • Density3.2/km2 (8.3/sq mi)
Time zones
Most of the Upper PeninsulaUTC−05:00 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−04:00 (EDT)
Counties bordering WisconsinUTC−06:00 (Central)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−05:00 (CDT)
Area code906[a]

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan—also known as Upper Michigan or colloquially the U.P.—is the northern and more elevated of the two major landmasses that make up the U.S. state of Michigan; it is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of Mackinac. It is bounded primarily by Lake Superior to the north, separated from the Canadian province of Ontario at the east end by the St. Marys River, and flanked by Lake Huron and Lake Michigan along much of its south. Although the peninsula extends as a geographic feature into the state of Wisconsin, the state boundary follows the Montreal and Menominee rivers and a line connecting them.

First inhabited by Algonquian-speaking native American tribes, the area was explored by French colonists, then occupied by British forces, before being ceded to the newly established United States in the late 18th century. After being assigned to various territorial jurisdictions, it was granted to the newly formed state of Michigan as part of the settlement of a dispute with Ohio over the city of Toledo. The region's exploitable timber resources and the discovery of iron and copper deposits in the 19th century brought immigrants, especially French Canadian, Finnish, Swedish, Cornish, and Italian (the peninsula includes the only counties in the United States where a plurality of residents claim Finnish ancestry).[3] With the exhaustion of readily available minerals, the area's economy declined in the 20th century, largely becoming dependent on logging and tourism.

The Upper Peninsula contains 29% of the land area of Michigan but only 3% of its total population; at the height of the mining and timber era in the early 20th century it had as much as 11% of the state's population. Residents are nicknamed Yoopers (derived from "UP-ers") and have a strong regional identity, enhanced by the perception that the rest of the state neglects them. Proposals have been made to establish the UP as a separate state but have failed to gain traction. Its largest cities are Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee, Houghton, and Iron Mountain. Because of the surrounding waters and northern latitude, it receives more snow than most of the eastern U.S. The heavily forested land, soil types, short growing season, and logistical factors (e.g. long distance to market, lack of infrastructure) make the Upper Peninsula poorly suited for agriculture. The region is home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, wolves, coyotes, deer, foxes, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, eagles, hawks, and owls.


The Upper Falls of the Tahquamenon River, near the northern shore of the peninsula

The first known inhabitants of the Upper Peninsula were tribes speaking Algonquian languages, specifically the Algonquian branches of Ojibway and Menominee. They arrived roughly around 800 C.E. and subsisted chiefly from fishing. Early tribes included the Menominee, Odawa, Ojibwa, Nocquet, and Potawatomi. Étienne Brûlé of France was probably the first European to visit the peninsula, crossing the St. Marys River around 1620 in search of a route to the Far East.[4] French colonists laid claim to the land in the 17th century, establishing missions and fur trading posts such as Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace. Following the end of the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years' War) in 1763, the territory was ceded to Great Britain. Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest European settlement in Michigan and the site of Native American settlements for centuries.

American Indian tribes formerly allied with the French were dissatisfied with the British occupation, which brought new territorial policies. Whereas the French cultivated alliances among the Indians, the British postwar approach was to treat the tribes as conquered peoples. In 1763, tribes united in Pontiac's Rebellion to try to drive the British from the area. American Indians captured Fort Michilimackinac, at present-day Mackinaw City, then the principal fort of the British in the Michilimackinac region, as well as others and killed hundreds of British. In 1764, they began negotiations with the British, resulting in temporary peace and changes in objectionable British policies.

Although the Upper Peninsula nominally became United States territory with the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the British did not give up control until 1797 under terms of the Jay Treaty. As an American territory, the Upper Peninsula was still dominated by the fur trade. John Jacob Astor founded the American Fur Company on Mackinac Island in 1808; however, the industry began to decline in the 1830s as beaver and other game were overhunted.[5]

When the Michigan Territory was first established in 1805, it included only the Lower Peninsula and the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. In 1819, the territory was expanded to include the remainder of the Upper Peninsula, all of what later became Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota (previously included in the Indiana and Illinois Territories). When Michigan applied for statehood in the 1830s, the proposal corresponded to the original territorial boundaries. However, there was an armed conflict known as the Toledo War with the state of Ohio over the location of their mutual border. Meanwhile, the people of Michigan approved a constitution in May 1835 and elected state officials in late autumn 1835. Although the state government was not yet recognized by the United States Congress, the territorial government effectively ceased to exist. President Andrew Jackson's government offered the remainder of the Upper Peninsula to Michigan if it would cede the Toledo Strip to Ohio. A constitutional convention of the state legislature refused, but a second convention, hastily convened by Governor Stevens Thomson Mason, consisting primarily of his supporters, agreed in December 1836 to the deal. In January 1837, the U.S. Congress admitted Michigan as a state of the Union.

Smelter at Quincy Hill, Hancock, Michigan, circa 1906

At the time, Michigan was considered the losing party in the compromise. The land in the Upper Peninsula was described in a federal report as a "sterile region on the shores of Lake Superior destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness."[4] This belief changed when rich mineral deposits (primarily copper and iron) were discovered in the 1840s. The Upper Peninsula's mines produced more mineral wealth than the California Gold Rush, especially after shipping was improved by the opening of the Soo Locks in 1855 and docks in Marquette in 1859. The Upper Peninsula supplied 90% of America's copper by the 1860s. It was the nation's largest supplier of iron ore by the 1890s, and production continued to a peak in the 1920s but sharply declined shortly afterward. The last copper mine closed in 1995, although the majority of mines had closed decades before. Some iron mining continues near Marquette.[4] The Eagle Mine, a nickel-copper mine, opened in 2014.[6]

Thousands of Americans and immigrants moved to the area during the mining boom, prompting the federal government to create Fort Wilkins near Copper Harbor to maintain order. The first wave were the Cornish from Great Britain, with centuries of mining experience; followed by Irish, Germans, and French Canadians. During the 1890s, Finnish immigrants began settling there in large numbers, forming the population plurality in the northwestern portion of the peninsula. In the early 20th century, 75% of the population was foreign-born.[5]

From 1861 to 1865, 90,000 Michigan men fought in the American Civil War, including 1,209 from the Upper Peninsula. Houghton County contributed 460 soldiers, while Marquette County sent 265.[7]


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Lake Superior

Including extensive parts of the Great Lakes, the Upper Peninsula contains about 36,139 square miles (93,600 km2) of total area. Of that, about 16,378 square miles (42,420 km2) is its land area,[1] about 29% of the state.[citation needed] It is bounded on the north by Lake Superior, on the east by St. Marys River, on the south by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and on the west by Wisconsin and (counting the water border on Lake Superior) by Minnesota. It has about 1,700 miles (2,700 km) of continuous shoreline with the Great Lakes. There are about 4,300 inland lakes, the largest of which is Lake Gogebic, and 12,000 miles (19,000 km) of streams.[8] Its lowest elevation is along the shoreline of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, averaging 577 feet (176 m) above sea level.[9] Its highest elevation is Mount Arvon, at 1,979 feet (603 m).[10]

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is bounded on land by Wisconsin to the southwest and west; and in territorial waters by Minnesota to the west, Ontario to the west, north and east, and the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin extends into Lake Michigan east of the western Upper Peninsula.

Five Michigan Upper Peninsula counties include nearby major islands: Mackinac Island, Round Island and Bois Blanc Island in Lake Huron are in Mackinac County; Sugar Island and Neebish Island in the St. Marys River, and Drummond Island in Lake Huron are in Chippewa County; Grand Island is in Alger County; Summer Island is Delta County; and Isle Royale is part of Keweenaw County.The peninsula is divided between the flat, swampy areas in the east, part of the Great Lakes Plain, and the steeper, more rugged western half, called the Superior Upland, part of the Canadian Shield.[11] The rock in the western portion is the result of volcanic eruptions and is estimated to be at least 3.5 billion years old (much older than the eastern portion) and contains the region's ore resources. Banded-iron formations were deposited 2 billion years ago; this is the Marquette Range Supergroup. A considerable amount of bedrock is visible. Mount Arvon is within the Huron Mountains, located in Marquette and Baraga counties. The Porcupine Mountains are located in the extreme northwest of the peninsula. All of the higher areas are the remnants of ancient peaks, worn down over millions of years by erosion and glaciers.[12]

The Keweenaw Peninsula is the northernmost part of the peninsula (not counting Isle Royale, which is politically part of the UP). It projects into Lake Superior and was the site of the first copper boom in the United States, part of a larger region of the peninsula called the Copper Country.[13] Copper Island is its northernmost section. About one-third of the peninsula is government-owned recreational forest land today, including the Ottawa National Forest and Hiawatha National Forest. Although heavily logged in the 19th century, the majority of the land was forested with mature trees by the 1970s.[4]

There was a boundary dispute over the border with Wisconsin. The northwesternmost portion of the border follows a line from Lac Vieux Desert to the headwaters of the Montreal River. An 1847 survey established the east branch of the Montreal River as the border. However, the 1908 revision of the Constitution of Michigan specified that the west branch of the Montreal River was the proper border, which would have placed an additional 360 square miles of land on the Michigan side of the border.[14] A 1926 Supreme Court decision awarded this tract of land to Wisconsin.[15]


The Upper Peninsula contains a large variety of wildlife. Some of the mammals found in the UP include shrews, moles, mice, white-tailed deer, moose, black bears, cougar, gray and red foxes, wolves, river otters, martens, fishers, muskrats, bobcats, coyotes, snowshoe hares, cotton-tail rabbits, porcupines, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, opossum and bats. There is a large variety of birds, including hawks, osprey, owls, gulls, hummingbirds, chickadees, robins (the state bird), woodpeckers, warblers, and bald eagles. In terms of reptiles and amphibians, the UP has common garter snakes, red bellied snakes, pine snakes, northern water snakes, brown snakes, eastern garter snakes, eastern fox snakes, eastern ribbon back snakes, green snakes, northern ringneck snakes, eastern milk snakes (Mackinac and Marquette counties) and eastern hognose snakes (Menominee County only), plus snapping turtles, wood turtles, and painted turtles (the state reptile), green frogs, bullfrogs, northern leopard frogs, and salamanders. Lakes and rivers contain many fish such as walleye, muskie, northern pike, trout, salmon, bullhead catfish, and bass. Invasive species like the alewife and sea lamprey can be found in the Great Lakes. The UP also contains many shellfish, such as clams, aquatic snails, and crayfish. The American Bird Conservancy and the National Audubon Society have designated several locations as internationally Important Bird Areas.[16]

Juvenile bald eagle in the Keweenaw Peninsula

After being nearly extirpated from the conterminous United States, gray wolves survived in the remote northeastern corner of Minnesota and Ontario. The repopulation of wolves in this region has occurred naturally as they have expanded their territory.

There is significant discussion and studies over the presence of eastern cougars in the UP.[17] Historically, the last of the species, or subspecies, was extirpated near Newberry in 1906, although there have been sightings of the creatures over the years since.[18][19] These reports increased in number over the first decade of the 21st century. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE)[b] formed a four-person team to investigate sightings in the state. The biologists with the DNRE currently do not believe that there is a breeding population anywhere in the state, rather that the sighted animals are visitors to the state.[21] As late as January 2007, the DNRE's official position was that no cougars lived in Michigan.[22] Several residents in the state disagree with both current and previous positions on the part of the DNRE.[22][23] Researchers at Central Michigan University and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy in 2006 published the findings of a study using DNA analysis of fecal samples taken in the Upper and Lower peninsulas that showed the presence of cougars at the time.[24] These results were disputed in a second journal article in 2007 by other researchers from Eastern Michigan University and the U.S. Forest Service.[25] A citizen's group, the Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition (MCCR), independently tracked sightings and in 2009 listed Delta County as the location with the greatest number of reports in the state.[26] The DNRE verified five sets of tracks and two trail camera photos in Delta, Chippewa, Marquette, and Menominee counties since 2008.[27] DNRE officials acknowledge that there are cougars in the UP, but not elsewhere in the state. Critics of the DNRE's position on the species, including the founder of the MCCR, say that the department is attempting to "avoid paying for a cougar management program".[23]

There also many invasive species that are primarily brought in the ballast water of foreign ships, usually from the ocean bordering northeastern Asia. This water is dumped directly into the Great Lakes, depositing a variety of fresh and salt water fish and invertebrates, most notably the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha. There are also many plant species that have been transported to the Great Lakes, including purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria[28] and Phragmites australis, both of which are considered to be a threat to native hydrophyte wetland plants.[29][30] The emerald ash borer was first reported in the UP at Brimley State Park[31] and is considered to be a serious ecological threat to the habitat and economy.


A cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan after a snowfall

The Upper Peninsula has a humid continental climate (Dfb in the Köppen climate classification system). The Great Lakes have a great effect on the larger part of the peninsula. Winters tend to be long, cold, and snowy for most of the peninsula, and because of its northern latitude, the daylight hours are short—around 8 hours between sunrise and sunset in the winter. Lake Superior has the greatest effect on the area, especially the northern and western parts. Lake-effect snow causes many areas to get in excess of 100–250 inches (2.5–6.4 m) of snow per year—especially in the Keweenaw Peninsula and Gogebic County, and to a lesser extent Baraga, Marquette and Alger counties, making the western UP a prominent part of the midwestern snowbelt.

Records of 390 inches (9.9 m) of snow or more have been set in many communities in this area.[32] The Keweenaw Peninsula averages more snowfall than any other location east of the Mississippi River.[33] Because of the howling storms across Lake Superior, which cause dramatic amounts of precipitation, it has been said that the lake-effect snow makes the Keweenaw Peninsula the snowiest place east of the Rockies. Herman averages 236 inches (5.99 m) of snow every year.[34] Lake-effect snow can cause blinding whiteouts in just minutes, and some storms can last for days. Hancock is found frequently on lists of the snowiest cities in America.[35]

The banana belt along the Wisconsin border has a more continental climate since most of its weather does not arrive from the lakes. Summers tend to be warmer and winter nights much colder. Coastal communities have temperatures tempered by the Great Lakes. In summer, it might be 10 °F (5.6 °C) cooler at lakeside than it is inland, and the opposite effect is seen in winter. The area of the Upper Peninsula north of Green Bay through Menominee and Escanaba (and extending west to Iron River) does not have the extreme weather and precipitation found to the north.[4] The coldest temperature officially recorded in the Upper Peninsula was −48 °F (−44 °C) in Humboldt in January 1915.[36]

Time zones[edit]

Like the entire Lower Peninsula, most of the Upper Peninsula is within the Eastern Time Zone. However, the four counties bordering Wisconsin are in the Central Time Zone. In 1967, when the Uniform Time Act came into effect, the Upper Peninsula went under year-round Central Standard Time, with no daylight saving time.[37] In 1973, the majority of the peninsula switched to Eastern Standard Time;[38] only the four western border counties of Gogebic, Iron, Dickinson, and Menominee continue to observe Central Standard Time. Daylight saving time is observed peninsula-wide.


The Upper Peninsula remains a predominantly rural region. As of the 2020 census the region had a population of 301,608, just more than 3% of Michigan's total population and a decline of 3.2% from 2010.[2]

According to the 2010 census, 103,211 people live in the 12 towns of at least 4,000 people, covering 96.5 square miles (250 km2). A total of 116,548 people live in the 18 towns and villages of at least 2,000 people, which cover 108.5 square miles (281 km2)—less than 1% of the peninsula's land area.

Ruins found in the western Upper Peninsula

Federal censuses indicate that the population of the Upper Peninsula grew throughout the 19th century as European settlers moved into the region, then boomed around the turn of the century, and experienced gradual decline overall during most of the 20th century.[41][42] The decline was uneven, however: the population in the largest cities – Marquette, Sault Ste Marie, and Escanaba – grew somewhat, while smaller cities and non-urban areas have generally declined in population. The six westernmost counties experienced the largest decrease, from a 1920 population of 153,674 to a 2020 population of 79,392. Many ghost towns exist in the region.[43]

A "Increase" indicates an increase in population from the previous census, and a "Decrease" indicates a decrease in population from the previous census.

Population by census year of the Upper Peninsula by county
County 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Alger 1,238Increase 5,868Increase 7,675Increase 9,983Increase 9,327Decrease 10,167Increase 10,007Decrease 9,250Decrease 8,568Decrease 9,225Increase 8,972Decrease 9,862Increase 9,601Decrease 8,842Decrease
Baraga 1,804Increase 3,036Increase 4,320Increase 6,125Increase 7,662Increase 9,168Increase 9,356Increase 8,037Decrease 7,151Decrease 7,789Increase 8,484Increase 7,954Decrease 8,735Increase 8,860Increase 8,158Decrease
Chippewa 626Increase 534Decrease 898Increase 1,603Increase 1,689Increase 5,248Increase 12,018Increase 21,338Increase 24,472Increase 24,818Increase 25,047Increase 27,807Increase 29,206Increase 32,655Increase 32,412Decrease 29,029Decrease 34,604Increase 38,543Increase 38,520Decrease 36,785Decrease
Delta 1,172Increase 2,542Increase 6,812Increase 15,330Increase 23,881Increase 30,108Increase 30,909Increase 32,280Increase 34,037Increase 32,913Decrease 34,298Increase 35,924Increase 38,947Increase 37,780Decrease 38,520Increase 37,069Decrease 36,903Decrease
Dickinson 17,890Increase 20,524Increase 19,456Decrease 29,941Increase 28,731Decrease 24,844Decrease 23,917Decrease 23,753Decrease 25,341Increase 26,831Increase 27,427Increase 26,168Decrease 25,947Decrease
Gogebic 13,166Increase 16,738Increase 23,333Increase 33,225Increase 31,577Decrease 31,797Increase 27,053Decrease 24,370Decrease 20,676Decrease 19,686Decrease 18,052Decrease 17,370Decrease 16,427Decrease 14,380Decrease
Houghton 708Increase 9,234Increase 13,879Increase 22,473Increase 35,389Increase 66,063Increase 88,098Increase 71,930Decrease 52,851Decrease 47,631Decrease 39,771Decrease 34,654Decrease 34,652Decrease 37,872Increase 35,446Decrease 36,016Increase 36,628Increase 37,361Increase
Iron 4,432Increase 8,990Increase 15,164Increase 22,107Increase 20,805Decrease 20,243Decrease 17,692Decrease 17,184Decrease 13,813Decrease 13,635Decrease 13,175Decrease 13,138Decrease 11,817Decrease 11,631Decrease
Keweenaw 4,205Increase 4,270Increase 2,894Decrease 3,217Increase 7,156Increase 6,322Decrease 5,076Decrease 4,004Decrease 2,918Decrease 2,417Decrease 2,264Decrease 1,963Decrease 1,701Decrease 2,301Increase 2,156Decrease 2,046Decrease
Luce 2,455Increase 2,983Increase 4,004Increase 6,149Increase 6,528Increase 7,423Increase 8,147Increase 7,827Decrease 6,789Decrease 6,659Decrease 5,763Decrease 7,024Increase 6,631Decrease 5,339Decrease
Mackinac 877Increase 923Increase 3,598Increase 1,938Decrease 1,716Decrease 2,902Increase 7,830Increase 7,703Decrease 9,249Increase 8,026Decrease 8,783Increase 9,438Increase 9,287Decrease 10,853Increase 9,660Decrease 10,178Increase 10,674Increase 11,943Increase 11,113Decrease 10,834Decrease
Marquette 136Increase 2,821Increase 15,033Increase 25,394Increase 39,521Increase 41,239Increase 46,739Increase 45,786Decrease 44,076Decrease 47,144Increase 47,654Increase 56,154Increase 64,686Increase 74,101Increase 70,887Decrease 64,634Decrease 67,077Increase 66,017Decrease
Menominee 1,791Increase 11,987Increase 33,639Increase 27,046Decrease 25,648Decrease 23,778Decrease 23,652Decrease 24,883Increase 25,299Increase 24,685Decrease 24,587Decrease 26,201Increase 24,920Decrease 25,109Increase 24,029Decrease 23,502Decrease
Ontonagon 389Increase 4,568Increase 2,845Decrease 2,565Decrease 3,756Increase 6,197Increase 8,650Increase 12,428Increase 11,114Decrease 11,359Increase 10,282Decrease 10,584Increase 10,548Decrease 9,861Decrease 8,854Decrease 7,818Decrease 6,780Decrease 5,816Decrease
Schoolcraft 16Increase 78Increase 1,575Increase 5,818Increase 7,889Increase 8,681Increase 9,977Increase 8,451Decrease 9,524Increase 9,148Decrease 8,953Decrease 8,226Decrease 8,575Increase 8,302Decrease 8,903Increase 8,485Decrease 8,047Decrease
Total 1,503Increase 1,457Decrease 5,745Increase 21,414Increase 43,700Increase 85,030Increase 180,522Increase 261,362Increase 325,626Increase 332,556Increase 318,676Decrease 323,544Increase 302,258Decrease 304,952Increase 304,347Decrease 319,757Increase 313,915Decrease 317,213Increase 311,361Decrease 301,608Decrease


The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has three state universities (Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Technological University in Houghton, and Northern Michigan University in Marquette) and five community colleges (Bay Mills Community College in Brimley, Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba and Iron Mountain, Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, and Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga).


"Da Yoopers Tourist Trap", near Ishpeming, features a host of items in its museum and store that play up Yooper stereotypes

Early settlers included multiple waves of people from Nordic countries, and people of Finnish ancestry make up 16% of the peninsula's population. The Finnish sauna and the concept of sisu have been adopted widely by residents of the Upper Peninsula. The television program Finland Calling was for a long period the only Finnish-language television broadcast in the United States; it aired on Marquette station WLUC-TV from March 25, 1962, until March 29, 2015.[44] Finlandia University, America's only college with Finnish roots, was located in Hancock, but has shut down as of spring 2023.[45] Street signs in Hancock appear in English and Finnish to celebrate this heritage.

Other sizable ethnic communities in the Upper Peninsula include French-Canadian, German, Cornish, Italian, and Ojibwe ancestry.

Upper Peninsula natives speak a dialect influenced by Scandinavian and French-Canadian speech. A popular bumper sticker, a parody of the "Say YES to Michigan" slogan promoted by state tourism officials, shows an outline of the Upper Peninsula and the slogan, "Say ya to da UP, eh!" The dialect and culture are captured in many songs by Da Yoopers, a comedy music and skit troupe from Ishpeming.

Newspapers of the Upper Peninsula include The Daily News in Iron Mountain, The Menominee County Journal in Stephenson, The Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, The Daily Press in Escanaba, and the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News. The Mining Journal, based in Marquette, is the only daily newspaper that publishes a Sunday edition, which is distributed, with the exception of Chippewa and eastern Mackinac counties, across the entire UP (the other six days are distributed in its local area only).

The Keweenaw Peninsula is home to several ski areas. Mont Ripley, just outside Houghton, is popular among students of Michigan Technological University (the university actually owns the mountain). Further up the peninsula in the small town of Lac La Belle is Mt. Bohemia. A skiing purist's resort, Bohemia is a self-proclaimed "experts only" mountain, and it does not groom its heavily gladed slopes.[46] Other ski areas are Pine Mountain located in Iron Mountain, Norway Mountain in the town of the same name, and the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area located in Ontonagon.

Houghton is where professional ice hockey was first started in 1904.[47][48]

Regional identity[edit]

A Yooper pasty (beef)

As of 2018, the western Upper Peninsula is home to about 173,887 people, while the eastern Upper Peninsula is home to about 133,499 people, a total of 307,386—only about 3% of the state's population—living in almost one-third of the state's land area.[49][50] Residents are known as Yoopers (from "UP-ers"), and many consider themselves Yoopers before they consider themselves Michiganders.[51] (People living in the Lower Peninsula are commonly called "trolls" by Upper Peninsula residents, as they live "Under the Bridge".) This regionalism is not only a result of the physical separation of the two peninsulas, but also the history of the state.

Residents of the western Upper Peninsula take on some of the cultural identities of both Wisconsin and Michigan. In terms of sports fandom, residents may support Detroit professional teams or those of Wisconsin—particularly the Green Bay Packers. This is a result of both proximity and the broadcast and print media of the area. The four counties that border Wisconsin are also in the Central Time Zone, unlike the rest of Michigan, which is on Eastern time. In some cases, commercial cartographers draw incorrect maps that inadvertently annex the Upper Peninsula into Wisconsin.[52]


The Upper Peninsula has a distinctive local cuisine. The pasty (pronounced "pass-tee"), a kind of meat turnover originally brought to the region by Cornish miners, is popular among locals and tourists alike. Pasty varieties include chicken, venison, pork, hamburger, and pizza, all of which many restaurants serve.[51] Many restaurants serve potato sausage and cudighi, a spicy Italian meat.

Finnish immigrants contributed nisu, a cardamom-flavored sweet bread; limppu, an Eastern Finnish rye bread; pannukakku, a variant on the pancake with a custard flavor; viili (sometimes spelled "fellia"), a stretchy, fermented Finnish milk; and korppu, hard slices of toasted cinnamon bread, traditionally dipped in coffee. Some Finnish foods such as juusto (squeaky cheese, essentially a cheese curd, like Leipäjuusto) and saunamakkara (a ring-bologna sausage) have become so ubiquitous in Upper Peninsula cuisine that they are now commonly found in most grocery stores and supermarkets.

Maple syrup is a highly prized local delicacy.[53] Fresh Great Lakes fish, such as the lake trout, whitefish, and (in the spring) smelt are widely eaten. There is minimal concern about contamination of fish from Lake Superior waters.[54] Smoked fish is also popular. Thimbleberry jam and chokecherry jelly are a treat.[55]



The Quincy Mine near Hancock mined copper until 1945.

The Upper Peninsula is rich in mineral deposits, including iron, copper, nickel, and silver. Small amounts of gold have also been discovered and mined. In the 19th century, mining dominated the economy, and the UP became home to many isolated company towns. For many years, mines in the Keweenaw Peninsula were the world's largest producers of copper (see Copper mining in Michigan). The mines began declining as early as 1913, with most closing temporarily during the Great Depression. Mines reopened during World War II, but almost all quickly closed after the war ended. The last copper mine in the Copper Country was the White Pine mine, which closed in 1995. Marquette County sits along the Marquette Iron Range, which sent out a significant portion of the iron ore mined in the United States for many years.[56] As of 2020, Marquette County is home to one remaining iron ore mine and one nickel and copper mine.[57][58]

From approximately 1870 to 1915, about 32 quarries mined Jacobsville Sandstone in the Upper Peninsula, particularly near Marquette and the community of Jacobsville. The sandstone was used in many buildings, both locally and around the United States.[59]

Since logging of white pine began in the 1880s, timber has been an important industry.[60] Stands of hemlock and hardwood in the western reaches of the forest experienced larger scale selection-cutting beginning in the mid-20th century. Because of the highly seasonal climate and the short growing season, agriculture is limited in the Upper Peninsula, though potatoes, strawberries and a few other small fruits are grown.

Tourism has become the main industry in recent decades. In 2005, ShermanTravel, LLC listed the Upper Peninsula as #10 in its assessment of all travel destinations worldwide.[61][62] The peninsula has extensive coastline on the Great Lakes, large tracts of state and national forests, cedar swamps, more than 150 waterfalls, and low population densities. Because of the skiing, camping, boating, fishing, snowmobiling, hunting, and hiking opportunities, many Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin families spend their vacations in the UP, and tourists visit from Detroit, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and other metropolitan areas. The opening of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957 (see below) has made the Upper Peninsula easily accessible to tourists from the Lower Peninsula and southeast of Michigan, and has helped make the UP a year-round tourist destination.

During the Cold War, the U.P. was home to two U.S. Air Force bases, Kincheloe south of Sault Ste. Marie, and K.I. Sawyer, south of Marquette. Both were bases of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), with B-52H bombers; Kincheloe closed in 1977, and Sawyer in 1995.

In 2004, microbreweries began opening across the Upper Peninsula; 14 opened by 2014, and 23 by 2019.[63][64] In 2019, their annual economic impact totaled $346 million.[64][65] As of 2018, three of Michigan's fifty largest breweries were in the Upper Peninsula: Keweenaw Brewing Company, Blackrocks Brewery, and the Ore Dock Brewing Company.[66]


Upper Peninsula welcome sign along I-75
Counties in the Upper Peninsula

There are 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula.

State prisons are located in Baraga, Marquette, Munising, Newberry, and Kincheloe.


Upper Peninsula vote
by party in presidential elections [67]
Year REP DEM Others
2020[68] 57.34% 95,351 41.04% 68,249 1.62% 2,695
2016[69] 56.40% 82,018 37.77% 54,923 5.83% 8,476
2012[70] 50.80% 73,529 47.49% 68,747 1.71% 2,477
2008[71] 46.12% 69,647 51.82% 78,257 2.06% 3,108
2004[72] 51.52% 78,276 47.31% 71,888 1.17% 1,781
2000[73] 50.61% 70,256 45.95% 63,791 3.43% 4,768
1996[74] 36.75% 48,134 51.05% 66,856 12.20% 15,974
1992[75] 33.37% 47,447 46.46% 66,060 20.18% 28,695
1988[76] 47.86% 63,151 51.65% 68,152 0.49% 645
1984[77] 54.07% 75,591 45.56% 63,695 0.37% 516
1980[78] 47.78% 71,025 44.12% 65,579 8.10% 12,046
1976[79] 48.04% 67,596 50.70% 71,338 1.25% 1,762
1972[80] 54.08% 72,967 44.23% 59,670 1.69% 2,279
1968[81] 44.75% 55,070 50.26% 61,858 4.99% 6,141
1964[82] 32.40% 41,267 67.46% 85,923 0.14% 183
1960[83] 48.05% 64,764 51.76% 69,765 0.19% 252
1956[84] 58.72% 77,576 41.12% 54,326 0.17% 219
1952[85] 55.09% 74,639 44.45% 60,230 0.46% 625
1948[86] 47.28% 58,346 48.46% 59,801 4.27% 5,265
1944[87] 45.63% 58,704 53.88% 69,310 0.49% 630
1940[88] 46.14% 69.164 53.26% 79.835 0.67% 1,003
1936[89] 39.21% 54,153 58.78% 81,176 2.02% 2,784
1932[90] 48.73% 61,473 47.57% 60,012 3.71% 4,677
1928[91] 61.53% 65,913 37.04% 39.677 1.44% 1,542
1924[92] 68.51% 61,396 8.10% 7,261 23.39% 20,964
1920[93] 74.50% 61,475 19.24% 15,876 6.27% 5,171
1916[94] 59.51% 34,269 35.31% 20,333 5.17% 2,979
1912[95][96] 31.41% 15,825 19.46% 9,803 49.14% 24,757
1908[97] 72.69% 37,194 21.12% 10,805 6.20% 3,170
1904[98] 79.83% 37,400 14.87% 6,965 5.31% 2,486
1900[99] 73.00% 34,180 24.31% 11,382 2.69% 1,258
1896[100] 68.39% 29,591 28.65% 12,397 2.95% 1,278

During most of the "System of 1896", the Upper Peninsula was overwhelmingly Republican even by the standards of Michigan during this era. However, the region's politics shifted from 1924, when the Upper Peninsula was the strongest region in Michigan for the insurgent candidacy of Progressive Robert M. La Follette,[101] and in the following years with the increasing unionization of its large mining workforce. From the New Deal until the Clinton era, the Upper Peninsula tended to vote for the Democratic Party due to its legacy of mining and high union membership. As union strength in the peninsula declined since the turn of the century, the region has become more leaning towards the Republican Party (though split-ticket voting at the local level became a common practice).[citation needed] In the 2012 presidential election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney carried all but two counties. In the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Republican candidate Donald Trump won all counties except Marquette County.

2012 presidential election[102][103]
County Registered voters Votes cast Romney/Ryan Obama/Biden Result
Alger 4,671 4,618 2,330 2,212 REP
Baraga 3,540 3,490 1,866 1,574 REP
Chippewa 15,790 15,564 8,278 7,100 REP
Delta 18,968 18,050 9,534 8,330 REP
Dickinson 12,950 12,810 7,688 4,952 REP
Gogebic 7,689 7,576 3,444 4,058 DEM
Houghton 15,477 15,282 8,196 6,801 REP
Iron 6,065 5,988 3,224 2,687 REP
Keweenaw 1,411 1,392 774 582 REP
Luce 3,401 2,596 1,580 991 REP
Mackinac 6,170 6,099 3,397 2,652 REP
Marquette 32,551 32,194 13,606 18,115 DEM
Menominee 11,043 10,923 5,564 5,242 REP
Ontonagon 3,599 3,539 1,906 1,586 REP
Schoolcraft 4,104 4,048 2,142 1,865 REP
Total 147,429 144,168 73,529 70,639 REP

All counties in the UP are part of Michigan's 1st congressional district. Jack Bergman, a Republican, has been the U.S. representative for this district since January 2017.

In Michigan's 2010 gubernatorial election Republican Rick Snyder carried every UP county but one, Gogebic, on his way to victory over his Democratic opponent, Virg Bernero.[104]

Proposed statehood[edit]

Due to the geographic separation and perceived cultural and political differences from the Lower Peninsula, at various times there have been proposals for the Upper Peninsula to secede from Michigan as a 51st state named Superior, sometimes including portions of northern Wisconsin and/or the northern Lower Peninsula. Several prominent legislators, including the region's long-serving state representative Dominic Jacobetti, attempted unsuccessfully to gain passage of such a bill in the 1970s.[105] It would be the least populous state in the union, and as stronger connections to the rest of Michigan have developed since completion of the Mackinac Bridge in the 1950s, the proposal has remained largely dormant since the 1970s.[106]

Notable attractions[edit]


American Indian casinos contribute to the tourist attractions and are popular in the UP. Originally the casinos were simple, one-room affairs. Some of the casinos are now quite elaborate and are being developed as part of resort and conference facilities, including features such as golf courses, pool and spa, dining, and rooms to accommodate guests.


Straits of Mackinac and bridge in winter looking south from St. Ignace

The Upper Peninsula is separated from the Lower by the Straits of Mackinac, five miles (8 km) across at the narrowest, and is connected to it by the Mackinac Bridge at St. Ignace, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Until the bridge was completed in 1957, travel between the two peninsulas was difficult and slow (and sometimes even impossible during winter). In 1881, the Mackinac Transportation Company was established by three railroads, the Michigan Central Railroad, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette Railroad, to operate a railroad car ferry across the Straits. Beginning in 1923, the State of Michigan operated automobile ferries between the two peninsulas. At the busiest times of year the wait was several hours long, much longer at holidays.[110] In winter, travel was possible over the ice only after the straits had solidly frozen.


There are one Interstate Highway, five US Highways and 24 other state highways in the Upper Peninsula. Interstate 75 is the only freeway in the region and runs from the Mackinac Bridge at St. Ignace to the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie. Two highways run the east–west length of the peninsula, US Highway 2 along the south and M-28 to the north. US 41 runs north–south through the central and western UP, connecting Menominee, Escanaba, Marquette and Houghton before terminating near the tip of the Keweenaw at Copper Harbor. M-185 encircles Mackinac Island as the only state highway in the country without motor vehicles.

The United States Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration have designated certain roads within the several National Forests in the UP as Federal Forest Highways.[111] State-maintained highways closest to the Upper Peninsula's Great Lakes shorelines are marked by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) with signs indicating that they are part of the Great Lakes Circle Tour, a designated scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.[112] MDOT has also designated five UP highways as Pure Michigan Byways for their historic, recreational or scenic qualities.[113][114] They are: US 2 in Iron County (Iron County Heritage Trail) and in Schoolcraft and Mackinac counties (Top of the Lake Scenic Byway), US 41 from Houghton to Copper Harbor (Copper County Trail, also a National Scenic Byway), M-35 (UP Hidden Coast Recreational Heritage Trail), M-123 (Tahquamenon Scenic Heritage Route) and M-134 (M-134 North Huron Byway)


There are 43 airports in the Upper Peninsula. Of these, six airports have commercial passenger service: Gogebic-Iron County Airport north of Ironwood, Houghton County Memorial Airport southwest of Calumet, Ford Airport west of Iron Mountain, Sawyer International Airport south of Marquette, Delta County Airport in Escanaba, and Chippewa County International Airport south of Sault Ste. Marie. There are 19 other public use airports with a hard surface runway. These are used for general aviation and charter. Notably, Mackinac Island, Beaver Island, and Drummond Island are all accessible by airports. There are five public access airports with turf runways and thirteen airports for the private use of their owners.[citation needed] There is only one control tower in the Upper Peninsula, at Sawyer.[115]

Ferries and bridges[edit]

The Cut River Bridge in Mackinac County is another notable bridge of the Upper Peninsula.

The Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority operates car ferries in its area. These include ferries for Sugar Island, Neebish Island, and Drummond Island. Two ferry companies run passenger ferries from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island.

The three major bridges in the Upper Peninsula are:

  • Mackinac Bridge, connecting the Lower Peninsula of Michigan with the Upper;
  • Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, which connects the city of Sault Ste. Marie to its twin city of Sault Ste. Marie in Canada; and
  • Portage Lift Bridge, which crosses Portage Lake. The Portage Lift Bridge is the world's heaviest and widest double-decked vertical lift bridge. Its center span lifts to provide about 100 feet (30 m) of clearance for ships. Since rail traffic was discontinued in the Keweenaw, the lower deck is used to accommodate snowmobile traffic in the winter. As the only land-based link between the north and south sections of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the bridge is crucial to transportation.


Bus systems[edit]

Despite its rural character, there are public buses in several counties of the Upper Peninsula.[116] These include MarqTran serving Marquette, as well as intercity services provided by Indian Trails.

Campus of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. MTU was founded as the Michigan Mining School in 1885.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]



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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]