MICHIGAN - Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the U.P., is decidedly different than its lower Michigan counterpart. The U.P. covers about a third of the state’s land area, but only about 3 percent of Michigan’s residents live there. The U.P.’s largest town, Marquette, has a population of around 19,000 (not much larger than Coshocton). With its rich Scandinavian heritage influencing its distinct regional dialect, the U.P. has a particularly strong regional identity. 

Western U.P. sports fans will typically back Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers rather than Michigan’s Detroit Lions or Tigers. Bordered by Lake Superior to the north and Lake Michigan to the south and filled with hundreds of small lakes, U.P. residents and visitors are never at a loss for outdoor recreation. Even in the winter, brave Yoopers enjoy skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.

The area is known for some great regional cuisine, fresh walleye and whitefish, smoked fish and the pasty (pronounced PASS-tee)... beef, potato, rutabaga and onion folded and baked within a semicurcular pie crust. Smoked fish and pasties are available at local restaurants and numerous roadside stands and stores.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is Michigan's second largest state park. Located near Paradise on the eastern end of the U.P., the park is well-developed, scenic park and worth a stop. The centerpiece of Tahquamenon Falls State Park's 50,000 acres is the Tahquamenon River with its orange-hued waterfalls. The Upper Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, has a drop of nearly 50 feet, more than 200 feet across and a water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second. It is accessible by a nearly half-mile hike from the parking area. The upper falls area is also home to the rustic Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub, a well-established brewpub featuring an array of tasty beers and a vast menu that includes steaks and burgers as well as Northwoods favorites like pasties, fried cheese curds and fried whitefish. The Lower Falls (more appropriately described as cascades) has parking right next to them. Visitors are permitted to swim and play among the Lower Falls.

One of the Upper Peninsula's signature attractions is located within a 30-minute drive of Tahquamenon Falls. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is a small, but high-quality museum situated at Whitefish Point, the nearest navigation point to one of the most dangerous shipping areas of the Great Lakes. Of the estimated 25,000 Great Lakes shipwrecks, approximately 240 vessels have been lost in the Whitefish Point area... more than any other part of Lake Superior. Among them is the "Edmund Fitzgerald", the ore freighter immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot's story-song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum contains exhibits and artifacts from many of these wrecks, including the ship bell from the ill-fated Edmund Fitzgerald. Whitefish Point is also home to the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, and the Whitefish Point Bird Sanctuary. The shore is decorated with agates and colorful igneous rocks smoothed by centuries of tossing and tumbling. 

​Farther west, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is adjacent to the south shore of Lake Superior near Munising. It's known for the dramatic multicolored Pictured Rocks cliffs. Unusual sandstone formations like Miners Castle and Chapel Rock define the park’s headlands. Twelvemile Beach has a trail through a nearby white birch forest. Remnants of shipwrecks dot the shoreline around Au Sable Point’s 19th-century lighthouse.

​Keweenaw Peninsula is the northernmost part of the U.P. Jutting about 50 miles north into Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula once had a population of about 100,000 at the height of the copper boom near the end of the 19th Century. Today, its major industries are logging and tourism. Copper mining has virtually ceased in the Keweenaw, but many relics of the industry remain. Ghost towns dot the rugged landscape. Provisions are being

considered for the preservation of the historic Quincy Smelter in Ripley. Tours of one of the defunct mines are a popular attraction. Gift shops sell copper art, jewelry and gifts.

The Keweenaw Waterway bisects the peninsula connecting to Lake Superior at each end and separates the northern Copper Island from the southern part of the peninsula. Only one bridge crosses the 30 mile waterway. The distinctive Portage Lake Lift Bridge connects the peninsula’s two largest communities, Houghton on the south and Hancock on the north. The bridge’s center section lifts vertically to allow boat and ship clearance. Constructed in 1959, the unusual bridge has become an area icon.

With a modest population of about 7000, Houghton is the region’s largest community. Located on the south side of the Keweenaw Waterway, the hilly town is home to Michigan Tech University, a historic downtown area and the Ranger III, the largest ship owned and operated by the National Park Service. The Ranger III transports freight and transportation service to the isolated Isle Royale National Park.

Easily accessible and within easy walking distance of downtown shops and restaurants, the 7-story Best Western Franklin Square Inn represents the Keweenaw Peninsula’s best lodging facilities. Amenities include indoor pool, steam room, hot tub, free wireless internet, free parking and a hot deeply-discounted hot full-service breakfast. The 7th floor conference center, full-service restaurant and large lively cocktail lounge all provide scenic views of the Keweenaw Waterway and Copper Island. Franklin Square Inn is genuinely friendly. The rooms are comfortably spacious... and true to the consistent Best Western brand, the hotel is clean, safe, well-maintained and has plenty of extras... all at affordable rates.

Located on US 41, the main drag through Ishpeming, "Da Yoopers Tourist Trap" wins the "Truth In Advertising" Award. While it's little more than a giant souvenir shop, and the grounds are slightly unkempt, it's a fun break during a day of driving. The oddities reflect the local culture parodied by Da Yoopers comedy band. The outdoor exhibits are especially entertaining. There's "Big Gus", the world's largest operating chainsaw... Big Ernie, the world's largest shotgun, a double-decker outhouse, and various rusty old vehicles with plows and snowmobile tracks attached.

 

Lakes, rivers, waterfalls and lighthouses are abundant. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is ideal for those seeking beautiful scenery and plentiful outdoor activities.

GALLERY

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