For years people have debated what northern Michigan actually means and at what point do you cross into northern territory. Even clothing lines have made thousands of dollars off this with t-shirts and hoodies that say “Up North” (though you find most of this apparel in the area of Traverse City rather than the Upper Peninsula).
And of course there is Northern Michigan University. There is no denying that NMU, located in Marquette, is clearly across the border of Michigan’s northern territory. But some other things may shock you…
Clare County’s official slogan is “Where the North Begins”. It’s also interesting to see the Northern Michigan entry on Wikipedia. Particularly the map (below) that is listed on the page, as it does not even represent the Upper Peninsula. However, in the first sentence in the article someone was kind enough to insert “or more properly Northern Lower Michigan”.
So we did some research…
Thanks to the handy position finder tool on Google maps to find the approximate (though pretty darn accurate) latitudinal points in Michigan.
Northern most land point in the Upper Peninsula: 47.479779
Southern most land point in the Lower Peninsula: 41.696671
A difference of: 5.783108 degrees
According to these coordinates the geographic north/south center of the state is at latitude 44.588225.
However, the latitude of Clare (“Where the North Begins”) is 43.822927, which is nearly a full degree south of the geographic center.* That may not sound like much, but that tiny difference in degree means Clare is about 52 miles (there are 69 miles in one degree of latitude) south of the geographic center.
Interesting! Technically, if you split the state in to halves, estimated the latitudes, ignored the border being north of Isle Royale, then yes, perhaps Clare could be where southern and northern Michigan are divided in two if you throw a dart at the map. But depending which way you’re headed, it could just as well be “Where the South Begins”, correct?
So where is the geographic center?
According to our measurements it is at the intersection of highway US-127 and Interstate 75 (about 5 miles south of Grayling). However, there are still some questions at hand, and some interesting points to make.
Menominee is the southern most point of land in the Upper Peninsula. Latitude: 45.095782
This means there is approximately 50 miles of distance shared between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan stretching from their most southern (Menominee) and most northern (Mackinaw City) points respectively.
With all this said, we want to provide a map of the State of Michigan that is divided into Northern, Central, and Southern Michigan as a way for people to know exactly which third of the state they are located in.
We also made a larger version without notes if you would like to see that
According to this map, if any county in the lower peninsula can bare the slogan “Where the North Begins” it would have to be Emmet County, the northern most county in the Lower Peninsula. Everything else is central.
Some other facts, points, and arguments…
- Just south of Gaylord is the 45th parallel, exactly half way between the equator and the North Pole
- For all of those who love “going up north” it looks like Traverse City doesn’t even make the cut. T.C. is much closer to the exact center line than the northern third of the state
- The coordinates we used above mean that all three areas combine for 399 miles at 5.783108 degrees.
- Each third is 133 miles
- If anything Clare should be considered Southern Michigan
- Central Michigan University is just about exactly on the central/southern border, hardly making it “central”
- With this map, yes, Menominee county is technically not part of Northern Michigan. However, with the extra 200 miles it takes driving there from the Lower Peninsula we’re giving it a free waiver to officially be part of Northern Michigan
- In our example we only went to the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula, if we included the actual state borders of Michigan (beyond Isle Royale), the Lower Peninsula probably wouldn’t reach the northern third of the map.
Naturally, at Yooper Steez we’re a little biased about what actually constitutes “Northern” Michigan. We hope that this can shed some light on the issue for all of you as well.
Another side note comes from Kid Rock’s latest hit song All Summer Long in which the lyrics say “It was summertime in Northern Michigan”. We don’t know Kid Rock personally, but if you do please let him know that we would love to know where he was talking about when he wrote those lyrics.
We would love to hear your thoughts, let us know what you think.
Some questions from us to you
- What is “Northern” Michigan?
- Is it as simple as Upper and Lower Peninsula?
- Is Traverse City really “going up north”?
- What slogan would you give Clare County?
- How does Central Michigan University fit into the picture?
*As a reminder, this is not the northern most point in Michigan, but the nothern most point of the mainland in the Upper Peninsula. If we were to take the true northern most part of the border it would push the north/south center of the state even further north.