The Upper Peninsula is about 16,452 square miles, almost one-third of the land area of the state.
Maximum east to west distance is about 320 miles and maximum north to south distance is about 125 miles.
The UP is roughly bordered on the north by Lake Superior, on the east by St. Mary's River, on the south by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and on the west by Wisconsin.
The Straits of Mackinac separate the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The peninsulas are connected by the Mackinac Bridge, which is five miles long. Until the bridge was completed in 1957, travel between the two peninsulas was difficult and slow (and sometimes even impossible during winter months). Car ferries ran between the two peninsulas, and at the busiest times of year the wait could be hours. In winter, travel was only possible over the ice after the straits had solidly frozen over.
The Upper Peninsula is rich in mineral deposits including iron, copper and silver. Small amounts of gold have also been discovered and mined. From the 1840s on iron ore and copper mining spurred development in the region. At one point in the 1880s the UP produced 90% of the nation's copper. In the 1890s the UP became the nation's primary iron ore suppler. Iron ore is still mined at the Tilden and Empire mines in Marquette County.
Large scale logging began in the Upper Peninsula in the 1860s. Logging continues to be an important industry.
Because of the highly seasonal climate and the short growing season, agriculture is somewhat limited in the Upper Peninsula.
Tourism is the main industry. The peninsula has large tracts of state and national forests, eastern arborvitae swamps, coastline, over 150 waterfalls, and very low population densities. Because of the camping, boating, fishing, snowmobiling, hunting, and hiking opportunities, many families take their summer vacations there.
Early settlers included multiple waves of people from Nordic countries. There are still active Swedish- and Finnish-speaking communities in many areas of the Upper Peninsula today.
People of Finnish ancestry make up 16% of the peninsula's population, the highest concentration of Finns outside Europe.
Some aspects of Finnish culture, such as the sauna and the concept of sisu, have been adopted generally by residents of the Upper Peninsula.
(Sisu is a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, acting rationally in the face of adversity.)
The Upper Peninsula has a distinctive local cuisine. The pasty, a kind of meat turnover originally brought to the region by Cornish miners, is extremely popular among locals and tourists alike. Finnish immigrants contributed nisu (a cardamom-flavored sweet bread) and korpu (rock-hard slices of toasted cinnamon-bread, traditionally dipped in coffee). Thimbleberry jam and maple syrup are highly prized local delicacies. Fresh Great Lakes fish, such as the lake trout, salmon and whitefish, are widely eaten. Smoked and pickled fish are also popular.
Some Upper Peninsula Attractions:
Cities and Towns of the Upper Peninsula
City Population Area
(sq. miles) City Population Area
|Sault Ste. Marie
TOTAL 138,191 162.3
Counties of the Upper Peninsula
(per sq. mile)
American Fact Finder (U.S. Census Bureau)
Former Detroit Lions head coach Steve Mariucci and Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo are both natives of Iron Mountain, near the Wisconsin border in Dickinson County. Both went to Northern Michigan University, where Mariucci was quarterback of the Wildcats' 1975 NCAA Division II national championship team.
George Gipp, the "Gipper," who would be immortalized in film by Ronald Reagan, was born in Laurium, in the Keweenaw Peninsula. He would be the first ever All-American in the history of the Notre Dame football program.
Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, aircraft engineer and aeronautical innovator, was born in Ishpeming.
Glenn T. Seaborg, a chemist and major player in the discovery of several of the transuranium elements, was born in Ishpeming. Before his death in 1999, he was the only living person ever to have a chemical element named after him (seaborgium, abbreviated as Sg and with atomic number 106). Though he lived most of his life in California, the Seaborg Center at Northern Michigan University is named in his honor.
John Voelker, who wrote under the pen name Robert Traver, wrote Anatomy of a Murder which was filmed near Ishpeming and Marquette.