“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you,” reads the Michigan State motto. A peninsula is a strip of land that reaches out into water.
Michigan is made up of two peninsulas that are completely separated by water. They make Michigan one of the most unique states in the nation.
Michigan is located in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
It borders four of the five Great Lakes—Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. Michigan has over 3,300 miles (5,300 kilometers) of shoreline. That’s more shoreline than any other state except Alaska!
But the water isn’t just around the edges of Michigan. The state has more than 11,000 lakes.
TWO PENINSULAS LINKED BY A BRIDGE
Michigan’s two peninsulas are usually called the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula is the larger of the two. It’s shaped like a big mitten. The Upper Peninsula is farther north, between Wisconsin and Canada. Sometimes it’s just called the UP for short.
For most of Michigan’s history, the peninsulas were connected only by ferryboats. In 1957, the Mackinac Bridge opened. The bridge links the peninsulas by road.
WHAT’S IN THE LOWER PENINSULA?
The Lower Peninsula is mostly flat with gently rolling hills. This makes it easy to farm, and most of the state’s crops are grown there. Most of Michigan’s people live in the Lower Peninsula, too—especially in the south. That’s where you’ll find Lansing, the state capital, and Detroit, the biggest city.
The Lower Peninsula is famous for its industry. More cars are made in the Detroit area than any other place in the world. It’s also known for its scenic lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, especially in the north. You can find coastal sand dunes, towering trees, and many kinds of birds and wildlife.
WHAT’S IN THE UPPER PENINSULA?
The Upper Peninsula has low mountains in the west but is flatter in the east. It has fewer people than the Lower Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula is home to Michigan’s lumber and mining industries. It gets very cold in winter.
The Upper Peninsula is a place of great natural beauty, and many people vacation there. It has cabins, campgrounds, ski resorts, great fishing, and scenic drives. It also has the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Here, wind and water have shaped sandstone rocks into strange and colorful forms.
Michigan has islands, too. The biggest is Isle Royale. It’s the largest island in Lake Superior. Isle Royale National Park is home to moose, beavers, timber wolves, mink, eagles, and other wildlife. But you can’t drive around Isle Royale—there aren’t any roads!
THE FUR TRADE
The first European settlers came to Michigan seeking animal furs. In 1668, a French missionary named Jacques Marquette built the first permanent settlement, way up north at Sault Sainte Marie on the Canadian border. Then in 1701, the French built a fort at Detroit to protect the growing fur trade.
The prize fur was that of the wolverine. This badger-like animal was once abundant in northern Michigan. Today, the wolverine is the Michigan State mascot.
MICHIGAN BECOMES A STATE
The Michigan Territory was formed in 1805. On January 26, 1837, Michigan became the 26th state in the Union.
The name Michigan comes from a Native American word. Many people believe it comes from the Algonquian word michigama, which means “big water” or “great lake.”
CARS, CARS, CARS
The fur industry gave Michigan its start. But the automobile industry built up the state. Today, Michigan is a leading manufacturing state.
In 1903, Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford soon became one of the world’s great carmakers. The company’s huge River Rouge plant is like a city all by itself.
In addition to Ford, two other major carmakers have their headquarters in Michigan. They are the General Motors Corporation and DaimlerChrysler AG. The auto industry is the state’s biggest employer.
THE MOTOR CITY
Because of the auto industry, Detroit’s nickname is The Motor City. But there is more to Detroit than just cars. It’s a city of nearly 1 million people. More than half of Michigan’s population lives in the greater Detroit area!
Detroit is Michigan’s largest and biggest port, even though it’s inland. The Saint Clair River connects the city to Lake Huron. Cargo ships from Detroit carry huge loads of manufactured goods across the Great Lakes and beyond.
For outdoor fun, Detroit has Belle Isle. It’s a large park that has a children’s zoo, an aquarium, riding stables, picnicking areas, and other facilities.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta