Michigan is shaped by The Great Lakes, these majestic bodies of water carving the State into its well-known mitten shape. In fact, the Great Lakes State’s name comes from “meshi-gami,” the Native American Ojibwa people’s word for “big lake.”
Surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, namely Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie, Michigan is divided into two peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula is rural and rugged; the Lower Peninsula, more urbanized. Both peninsulas offer scenic coastline and beautiful and serene inland lake areas alike. The last of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario, lies to the far east of Michigan, where it forms part of the border between New York and Ontario.
The Great Lakes and Michigan
When the last Ice Age ended, glaciers receded and created The Great Lakes. These lakes are a vital part of the Earth’s ecology, containing 21% of the world’s fresh water. The Great Lakes are also home to almost 150 species of fish and their ecosystems are used as waypoints by migratory birds.
The Great Lakes carve out around 3,200 miles of coast, providing Michigan with 100 public beaches, two national lakeshores, and natural wonders like the colorful sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear, the tallest freshwater sand dunes in the world.
Prevailing winter winds from the west can pick up the air and moisture from the slightly warmer surface of Lake Michigan, causing lake effect snow on Michigan’s west coast. But the lakes also moderate seasonal temperatures, protecting against frost during transitional weather and keeping summer temperatures cooler on the coasts. As a result, Michigan is one of the leading producers in the nation of apples, cherries, and blueberries; wineries and vineyards here enjoy a thriving business, as well.
Often identified as two separate lakes, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are hydrologically considered as one body as they are connected by the Straits of Mackinac, and the water flowing between them allows them to maintain equilibrium. As such, Lake Huron-Michigan is the largest fresh water lake by area in the world.
The much smaller Lake St. Clair connects Lake Huron to Lake Erie through the St. Clair River and the Detroit River. Nearby, you can find the communities of Royal Oak, Bloomfield Hills, Troy, and Birmingham, where Vanderhoef Properties can help you find the home of your dreams in Southeastern Michigan.
Lake Erie’s primary inlet is the Detroit River, and its main natural outflow is through the Niagara River, home to the world-renowned Niagara Falls. Lake Erie is the smallest of The Great Lakes and the shallowest, but a favorite among area anglers. Despite its relatively small size, Lake Erie’s fish population accounts for almost 50% of the Great Lakes’ fish supply. It’s known to be “loaded with superstars” such as walleye, smallmouth bass, perch, and steelhead, among many other species.
In addition, Lake Erie has been important to the growth of Michigan, as it led to the development of shipping lanes and the expansion of the populations coming down the lake. On a visit to Detroit’s Riverwalk, you’ll be amazed at the size of the Great Lakes freighters transporting their cargo through the river.
To the far north lies Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes unless you consider Lake Huron-Michigan as a single lake. The deepest point of Lake Superior is 1,300 feet below the surface. The white pine, Michigan’s state tree, thrives along Lake Superior’s coastline.
“Up North” …
When a Michigander tells you they’re headed “up north,” they often mean they’re visiting the middle-to-northern part of either Michigan’s Lower Peninsula or the Lake Huron coast in the “thumb” area of the mitten.
Up north you’ll find quaint towns, like Port Austin in the thumb, Traverse City near the Leelanau Peninsula, or Petoskey, Harbor Springs or Charlevoix on the Lake Michigan coastline, just to name a few. Or you could head to the popular Higgins Lake and Houghton Lake areas in the middle of the state. There’s plenty in between, too! See for yourself – wherever you’re headed up north, whatever the season, there’ll be plenty of beauty surrounding you and a variety of things to do.
Or the “U.P.”?
If a Michigander uses the acronym “U.P.” in describing their vacation destination, there can be no doubt they’re headed to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where you’ll find stunning wilderness and pristine natural features. The Straits of Mackinac may connect Lake Huron-Michigan, but it also separates the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula, with the southern portion home to the more urban areas.
Despite making up 29% of Michigan’s area, only 3% of Michigan’s population is found in the U.P. Most of the residents descended from those who worked in two of Michigan’s earliest industries – lumber and copper mining. Many U.P. residents are proud of their very distinct heritage and culture.
Bordered by the massive Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan to the south, and Lake Huron to the east, and having 90% of its landmass covered with hardwood forest, the U.P. offers a plethora of outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, swimming, boating, camping, fishing, and more.
Take in the splendor of sights like the colorful sandstone Pictured Rocks and the powerful crashing of Tahquamenon Falls. You can climb the 1,328-foot Brockway Mountain for amazing views, explore the historic sites of the town of Marquette, or walk along the beaches where the early miners worked along Keweenaw Peninsula. If you have more time to enjoy the U.P., head to the remote Isle Royale National Park, an archipelago at Michigan’s extreme northwestern corner in Lake Superior, for an outdoor experience where you’ll truly commune with nature.
If you only have time for U.P. “lite,” take a ferry from Mackinaw City and spend a few days on Mackinac Island, which sits between the lower and upper peninsulas in Lake Huron. Automobiles have been banned on the island since 1898, so once there, walking, bicycling, and horse and carriage rides will be your primary means of transportation. Once back in Mackinaw City, it’s an easy trip across the Mackinac Bridge and about an hour’s drive to the U.P.’s northeastern border with Canada, Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Soo Saint Marie). There, you can marvel at the wonders of the Soo Locks, one of the world’s busiest canal systems. Each day freighters, barges and other boats traverse the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron across the locks.
Living in Michigan
For easy access to Michigan’s lush natural wonders, explore your real estate options in Oakland County, where Vanderhoef Properties will find the right Michigan home for you. Call us today at (248) 953-3305 or email us at Sales(at)VanderhoefProperties(dotted)com.