Where Up North BeginsFor years there have been arguments about where Up North begins. It seems the answers changes depending on where you are starting from. For example if you live in Oakland County Up North is different than for those that live in Petoskey.

The Road to Heaven 1982. Freeway off the Mackinac Bridge heading into the Upper Peninsula

The Road to Heaven 1982. Freeway off the Mackinac Bridge heading into the Upper Peninsula

I think your answer will depend on where you are coming from. If you live in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, your view may be different than those in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula Michigan.  Those coming from the south may feel they are Up North when they go past US10 on I-75. For folks in the northern half,  we are already “up north Michigan”, is crossing the bridge our entrance to the north. For people that live in the Upper Peninsula, maybe Canada would be considered Up North. No matter where you start your journey heading north, road trips north are never forgotten.

Everyone has an Opinion

Should the Upper Peninsula be considered the only “up north” just because it is north of the mitten part of the state? Should you look for what is the true center point of the entire state and that point starts the north? 

When I lived in SE Michigan I always thought Up North began when we either passed the welcome center on US 10 or passed the West Branch exit on I-75 depending on which way we went. I have lived in NW Michigan for the last 25+ years and my idea of where Up North begins has changed. I now think of going Up North as crossing the bridge. Unless I am heading home from the south, then it is the welcome center that tells me I am getting closer. Funny, now that I have lived “Up North” for so many years, I don’t feel we are in the north until about halfway between US10 and 131 on 115. My Up North starting pointing has moved north closer to Marion. 

Mackinac BridgeYoopers, Trolls & Fudgies

I have friends that live in the Upper Peninsula (referred to as Yoopers) that are pretty vocal about where Up North begins. They insist that Up North does not start until you have crossed the Mackinaw Bridge. They like to remind us Trolls (we live under the bridge) that they are the true Up North. Yooper’s do not take kindly to anyone that suggests Up North is anywhere south of the bridge.

Those of us in Northern Lower Peninsula feel we live Up North too. Many Northern Lower Peninsula residents consider the dividing line to be the Southern borders of Manistee County on the western shore and Iosoco County on the eastern shore. Anyone that lives below that line are affectionately called Fudgies because they always leave with fudge.

Even the Experts do not Agree!

Researching where Up North begins I found that there is not a definitive answer. Surely there are surveys, state sanctioned boundaries or at the very least an accepted guide for this answer. It probably will not surprise you at what I discovered.  NOBODY agrees where Up North begins. Some claim Clare County, Cadillac, West Branch the 45th Parallel, the Zilwaukee Bridge and of course the Mackinaw Bridge.

I had hoped that Michigan’s tourism department will settle this once and for all right? Wrong! The State of Michigan’s Pure Michigan website did not offer a clue. They divided the state by East/West and South, Central and North and then East/Central/West Upper Peninsula. The state has wisely chosen to stay out of this debate.

Map showing The Center of the State of Michigan

The Center of the State of Michigan

Clare County claims to be “Where the North Begins” with a large billboard on US10. They offer no explanation as to how they got that name. Interestingly, the about page of their website says it is located in the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. There is a lot more to our state than just the Lower Peninsula. Determining the middle of the state you have to take both peninsulas into consideration.

We have the technology – GPS!

GPS should be able to settle where the center point of the State of Michigan is. Surprise! That location is up for debate too! According to Netstate and Wikipedia it is a point 5 miles north-northeast of Cadillac and provides the coordinates latitude 45 degrees 3.7’ N and Longitude -84 degrees 56.3’ W. Google Maps shows that these coordinates put the center of the state along the Jordan River north of Deadman’s Hill Overlook  in Otsego County (about 60 miles further north than Cadillac). Using the coordinates as the clear north/south line would mean that many communities Up North really are not, like Traverse City, Houghton Lake and Gaylord. Clare County would definitely not be “Where the North Begins”. But parts of the Lower Peninsula would still be considered Up North like Petoskey, Mackinaw City and Presque Isle.

Even Wikipedia is confused

Wikipedia map of Northern MichiganMac1island, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia CommonsLooking up Northern Michigan on Wikipedia there are 2 maps that show the Northern Lower Peninsula and are clearly marked as such. The heading for the map that shows both peninsulas is labeled Northern Michigan with a subheading of Northern Lower Michigan. But the caption below the map states that “Northern Michigan is highlighted in light green”.

The second map shows just the Lower Peninsula and has a caption that says “Northern Michigan is at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula”. An Northern Michigan is clearly marked on the map as starting in the Lower Peninsula.

Just like there is not a clear definition of Up North there is not one for Northern Michigan either.

Sounds like Up North begins in different places for everyone and that is okay. I saw a social media post that said that Up North is anywhere there is a cabin in the woods with water nearby. Although geographically incorrect, I love the sentiment.

We all cherish our time in Up North with family and friends. Nothing like jumping into Lake Michigan on a hot August day or skiing down Porcupine Mountains in the dead of winter. There are color tours throughout northern lower and upper peninsulas that will leave you breathless. In the spring the smell of cherry and apple blossoms fill the air. No matter the season, Northern Michigan does not disappoint.

I saw a social media post that said that Up North is anywhere there is a cabin in the woods with water nearby. Although geographically incorrect, I like the sentiment. Whatever your definition of Up North is, I think we all can agree that you know when you are Up North.

Watch for more facts and adventures in Northern Michigan!