The Great Lakes State

Where is it?

State Flag




Geographic coordinates:
41°41'N to 47°30'N
82°26'W to 90°31'W
total: 96,810 sq mi
land: 40,001 sq mi
water: 2,717 sq mi
Great Lakes: 38,192 sq mi
coastline: N/A
shoreline: N/A
Bordering States:
Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota (water border), Ohio, Wisconsin
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 0 ft
highest point: Mount Arvon 1,979 ft
Michigan consists of two peninsulas that lie between 82°30' to about 90º30' west longitude, and are separated by the Straits of Mackinac. The state is bounded on the south by the states of Ohio and Indiana, sharing both land and water boundaries with both. Michigan's western boundaries are almost entirely water boundaries, from south to north, with Illinois and Wisconsin in Lake Michigan; then a land boundary with Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, that is principally demarcated by the Menominee and Montreal rivers; then water boundaries again, in Lake Superior, with Wisconsin and Minnesota to the west, capped by Ontario to the north. The northern boundary then runs completely through Lake Superior, from the western boundary with Minnesota to a point north of and around Isle Royale, thence travelling southeastward through the lake in a reasonably straight line to the Sault Ste. Marie area. Ontario is the sole neighbour to the north and east, and is Michigan's largest trading partner. Windsor, Ontario, once the south bank of Detroit, Upper Canada, has the distinction of being the only part of Canada which lies to the due south of a part of the lower 48 continguous United States. The eastern boundary ends in Lake Erie with a three-way convergence of Michigan, Ohio and Ontario. Michigan also shares a water boundary with the Canadian First Nation reserve of Walpole Island.

The heavily forested Upper Peninsula is relatively mountainous in the west. The Porcupine Mountains, which are the oldest mountains in North America, rise to an altitude of almost 2,000 feet above sea level and form the watershed between the streams flowing into Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The surface on either side of this range is rugged. The state's highest point is Mount Arvon at 1,979 feet (603 m). The peninsula is as large as Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island combined, but has less than 330,000 inhabitants, who are sometimes called "Yoopers" (from "U.P.'ers") and whose speech (the "Yooper dialect") has been heavily influenced by the large number of Scandinavian and Canadian immigrants who settled the area during the mining boom of the late 1800's.

There are numerous lakes and marshes in both peninsulas, and the coast is much indented. Keweenaw, Whitefish, and the Big and Little Bays De Noc are the principal indentations on the Upper Peninsula, while the Grand and Little Traverse, Thunder, and Saginaw bays indent the Lower Peninsula. After Alaska, Michigan has the longest shoreline of any state—2,288 miles (3,681 km). An additional 879 miles (1,415 km) can be added if islands are included. This roughly equals the length of the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida. The state has numerous large islands, the principal ones being the Manitou, Beaver, and Fox groups in Lake Michigan; Isle Royale and Grande Isle in Lake Superior; Marquette, Bois Blanc, and Mackinac Islands in Lake Huron; and Nebish, Sugar, and Drummond Islands in St. Mary's River (see also Islands of Michigan).

The state's rivers are small, short and shallow, and few are navigable. The principal ones include the Au Sable, Thunder Bay, Cheboygan, and Saginaw, all of which flow into Lake Huron; the Ontonagon, and Tahquamenon, which flow into Lake Superior; and the St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Grand, and Escanaba, which flow into Lake Michigan. (See List of Michigan rivers). The state has 11,037 inland lakes and 38,575 square miles (62,067 km) of Great Lakes waters and rivers and 1,305 square miles of inland water on top of that. No point in Michigan is more than 6 miles (10 km) from an inland lake or more than 85 miles (137 km) from one of the Great Lakes.




9,909,877 (2014)
Largest City:
Detroit: 680,250 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.4%
<18 years old: 25.1%
65 years and over: 12.3%
Male: 49.1% Female: 50.9%
Population growth rate:
1.8% (2000-2005)
Population density:
179 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 78.1%
Hispanic: 3.7%
Black: 14.3%
Asian: 2.2%
Native American: 0.6%
Multi-Race: 1.4%
Christian: 82%
Jewish: 1%
Muslim: 2%
Other: <1%
Non-Religious: 15%




Michigan was home to various Native Americans centuries before colonization by Europeans. When the first European explorers arrived, the most populous and influential tribes were Algonquian peoples - specifically, the Ottawa, the Anishnabe (called "Chippewa" in French, after their language, "Ojibwe"), and the Potawatomi. The Anishnabe were the most populous, estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000 within Michigan, where they were located throughout in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula. The Anishabe also lived in northern Ontario, northern Wisconsin, southern Manitoba, and northern and north-central Minnesota. The Ottawa lived primarily south of the Straits of Mackinac in northern and western Michigan, while the Potawatomi were primarily in the southwest. The three nations co-existed peacefully as part of a loose confederation called the Council of Three Fires. Other First Nations people in Michigan, in the south and east, were the Mascouten, the Miami, and the Wyandot, who are better known by their French name, "Huron".

Michigan was explored and settled by French voyageurs in the 17th century. The first Europeans to reach what later became Michigan were Étienne Brûlé's expedition in 1622. The first European settlement was made in 1641 on the site where Father (or Père, in French) Jacques Marquette established Sault Sainte-Marie in 1668.

From 1660 to the end of French rule, Michigan (along with Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, two-thirds of Georgia, and small parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and Maine) was part of the Royal Province of New France, administered from the capital city of Québec. In 1759, following the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in the French and Indian War (1754–1763), Québec City fell to British forces. Under the 1763 Treaty of Paris, Michigan and the rest of New France passed to Great Britain.

Detroit was an important British supply center during the American Revolutionary War, but most of the inhabitants - almost all of them - were either Aboriginal people or French Canadians. Because of imprecise cartography and unclear language defining the boundaries in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the British retained control of Detroit and Michigan. When Quebec was split into Lower and Upper Canada in 1790, Michigan was part of Kent County, Upper Canada, and held its first democratic elections in August 1792, to send delegates to the new provincial parliament at Newark, (Now Niagara-on-the-Lake). Under terms negotiated in the 1794 Jay Treaty, Britain withdrew from Detroit and Michilimackinac in 1796. However, questions remained over the boundary for many years and the United States did not have uncontested control of the Upper Peninsula and Drummond Island until 1818 and 1847, respectively.

The population grew slowly until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which brought a large influx of settlers. By the 1830s, Michigan had some 80,000 residents, which was more than enough to apply for statehood. A state government was formed in 1836, although Congressional recognition of the state languished because of a boundary dispute with Ohio, with both sides claiming a 468 square mile (1,210 km²) strip of land that included the newly incorporated city of Toledo on Lake Erie and an area to the west then known as the "Great Black Swamp." The dispute came to be called the Toledo War, with Michigan and Ohio militia maneuvering in the area but never coming to blows. Ultimately, Congress awarded the "Toledo Strip" to Ohio, and Michigan, having received the western part of the Upper Peninsula as a concession, formally entered the Union on January 26, 1837.

Thought to be useless at the time, the Upper Peninsula was soon discovered to be a rich and important source of lumber, iron, and copper, which would become the state's most sought-after natural resources. Geologist Douglass Houghton and land surveyor William Austin Burt were among the first to document and discover many of these resources, which led to a nation-wide increase of interest in the state.

Henry Ford in the Quadricycle, 1905Michigan's economy underwent a massive change at the turn of the 20th century. The birth of the automotive industry, with Henry Ford's first plant in the Highland Park enclave of Detroit, marked the beginning of a new era in transportation. It was a development that not only transformed Detroit and Michigan, but permanently altered the socio-economic climate of the United States and much of the world. Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan, is also a center of automotive manufacturing. Since 1838, the city has also been noted for its thriving furniture industry.

Since the 1970's, Michigan's industrial base has eroded as the auto industry began to abandon the state's industrial parks in favor of less expensive labor found overseas and in the southern U.S. states. Nevertheless, with more than 10 million residents, Michigan continues to grow and remains a large and influential state, ranking eighth in population among the 50 states.

The Detroit metropolitan area in the southeast corner of the state remains the largest metropolitan area in Michigan (roughly 50% of the population resides there) and one of the 10 largest metro areas in the country. The Grand Rapids/ Holland/ Muskegon metro area on the west side of the state is the fastest growing metro area in the state presently, with over 1.3 million residents as of 2006.




January 26, 1837 (26th State)
State Tree:
Eastern White Pine
State Bird:
State Flower:
Lansing is the state capital and is home to all three branches of state government. The Michigan State Capitol building hosts the executive and legislative branches. The chief executive is the Governor, currently Jennifer Granholm. The legislative branch consists of the bicameral Michigan Legislature, with a House of Representatives and Senate. The Supreme Court of Michigan sits with seven justices. The Constitution of Michigan of 1963 provides for voter initiative and referendum (Article II, § 9, defined as "the power to propose laws and to enact and reject laws, called the initiative, and the power to approve or reject laws enacted by the legislature, called the referendum. The power of initiative extends only to laws which the legislature may enact under this constitution").

Michigan's state universities are immune from control by the legislature, the governor and most aspects of the executive branch, and the cities in or near which they are located; but they are not immune from the authority of the courts. Some degree of political control is exercised as the legislature approves appropriations for the schools. Further, the governor appoints the board of trustees of most state universities with the advice and consent of the state Senate; only the trustees of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University are chosen in general elections.

Michigan was the first state in the Union to abolish the death penalty, in 1846. David G. Chardavoyne has suggested that the abolitionist movement in Michigan grew as a result of enmity towards the state's neighbor, Canada, which under British rule made public executions a regular practice.

As with other Rust Belt states, the Republican Party dominated Michigan until the Great Depression. In 1912, Michigan was one of the few states to support progressive third party candidate Theodore Roosevelt for President. In recent years, the state has leaned toward the Democratic Party in national elections. Michigan has supported Democrats in the last four presidential elections. In 2004, John Kerry carried the state over George W. Bush, winning Michigan's 17 electoral votes with 51.2% of the vote. Democrats have won each of the last three, and nine of the last ten, US Senate elections in Michigan. Republican strength is greatest in the western, northern, and rural parts of the state, especially in the Grand Rapids area. Democrats are strongest in the east, especially in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint, and Saginaw.




The Michigan economy is involved in information technology, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing. Michigan ranks 4th nationally in high tech employment with 568,000 high tech workers, including 70,000 in the automotive industry. Michigan ranks 3rd in overall Research & Development investment expenditures in the U.S. The domestic Auto Industry accounts directly and indirectly for one of every ten jobs in the U.S.

Michigan has been able to manage recent economic hardships brought on by the severe stock market decline following the September 11, 2001 attacks which caused a pension and benefit fund crisis for many American companies including General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler. The American Auto companies are proving to be more resilient than other affected industries as each company implements its respective turnaround plan. Nevertheless, Michigan ranked 2nd nationally in new corporate facilities and expansions in 2004. From 1997 to 2004, Michigan was listed as the only state to top the 10,000 mark for the number of major new developments, led by Metro Detroit.

Even though Michigan is known as the birthplace of the automobile industry, its diverse economy leads in many other areas. Michigan has a booming biotechnology and life sciences corridor. Pfizer makes Michigan one of its largest global employment locations; the company invests billions of dollars in Michigan based research. As leading research institutions, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University are both important partners in the State's economy. Michigan's workforce is well educated and highly skilled making it attractive to companies. Michigan's infrastructure gives it a competitive edge, Michigan has 38 deep water ports. Detroit Metropolitan Airport is one of the nation's most recently expanded and modernized airports with six major runways and large aircraft maintenance facilities capable of servicing and repairing the Boeing 747. Michigan's schools and colleges rank among the nation's best. Michigan is a leading grower of fruit including cherries, blueberries, apples, grapes, and peaches. It produces wines and a multitude of food products. Some of the major industries/products/services include automobiles (General Motors, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler), Amway, cereal (Kellogg's), information technology, computer software (Compuware, IBM), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer), medical products (Stryker), aerospace systems equipment (Smith Aerospace, Eaton Aerospace), military equipment (General Dynamics, Raytheon), lasers (Rofin-Sinar), financial services (Quicken Loans, Comerica, National City Bank), energy equipment (DTE Energy), fuel cells (Next Energy) seating (Lear), copper, iron, furniture (Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth, and La-Z-Boy). In July of 2006, Google announced it locate a new facility in Ann Arbor and add 1000 new jobs.

Michigan has a thriving tourist industry, with destinations such as Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Ludington, Muskegon, Saugatuck, the Upper Peninsula, Frankenmuth, Grand Haven, and Detroit, drawing vacationers, hunters, and nature enthusiasts from across the United States and Canada. Although it has an urban image to non-visitors, Michigan is actually fifty percent forest land, much of it quite remote. Both the forests and thousands of miles of beaches are top attractions. Tourists also flock to many of the museums, particularly those in Metro Detroit, including The Henry Ford. The Metro Detroit area offers four major casinos, MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown, Motor City, and Casino Windsor; moreover, Detroit is the largest city to offer casino gambling.