Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the northern of the two major land masses that comprise the U.S. state of Michigan. It is commonly referred to as simply "the Upper Peninsula", "the U.P.", or "Upper Michigan", and more casually as the land "Above the Bridge". It is sometimes called "Northern Michigan" by non-Michiganders, but that term is more commonly applied within the state to the northern half of the Lower Peninsula.
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The Upper Peninsula is roughly bounded on the north by Lake Superior, on the east by St. Mary's River, on the south by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and on the west by Wisconsin. It is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Mackinac Straits, five miles across at the narrowest, and is connected to it only by the Mackinac Bridge. Until the bridge was completed in 1957, travel between the two peninsulas was difficult and slow (and sometimes even impossible during winter months). Car ferries ran between the two peninsulas, and at the busiest times of year the wait could stretch to hours. In winter, travel was only possible over the ice after the straits had solidly frozen over.
The peninsula is home to 328,000 people, about 3% of the state's population. Residents are colloquially known as Yoopers, (from "U.P.ers"), and many consider themselves Yoopers before they consider themselves Michiganders. (People living in the Lower Peninsula are commonly called "trolls" by Upper Peninsula residents, as they live "Below the Bridge.") This regionalism is not only a result of the physical separation of the two peninsulas, but also the history of the state.
When the Michigan Territory was first established, it only included the Lower Peninsula and the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. In 1819 the territory was expanded to include the remainder of the Upper Peninsula, all of Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota (previously included in the Indiana and Illinois Territories). But when Michigan was itself preparing for statehood in the 1830s, the boundaries proposed for it corresponded to the original territorial boundaries, with some proposals even leaving the Upper Peninsula out entirely. Meanwhile, the territory was involved in a border dispute with the state of Ohio in a conflict known as the Toledo War. The people of Michigan approved a constitution in May 1835 and had elected state officials in late autumn 1835. Although the state government was unrecognized by the U.S. Congress, the territorial government effectively ceased to exist. A constitutional convention convened by the state legislature refused a compromise to accept the full Upper Peninsula in exchange for ceding the Toledo Strip to Ohio. A second convention, hastily convened by Governor Stevens Thomson Mason, consisting primarily of Mason supporters, finally agreed to accept the U.P. for the Toledo Strip in December 1836 and the U.S. Congress admitted Michigan as a state in early January 1837. Although the Upper Peninsula was then considered the less valuable land and Michigan the losing party in the deal, the peninsula's rich mineral wealth soon became apparent, making Michigan instead seem the winner.
Today, many residents of the western half of the Upper Peninsula still associate themselves with Wisconsin, largely because its universities and urban areas (particularly Green Bay) are much more accessible than those in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan (which, furthermore, are mostly clustered in the southern half of the peninsula). Residents of the eastern part of the U.P. may cross the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie to Canada more often than they cross the Mackinac Bridge to the Lower Peninsula.
There have been extremely intermittent (and not always serious) calls for the Upper Peninsula to declare independence from the United States; these calls receive little popular support. Only slightly more serious is a movement for secession from the state of Michigan; secessionists propose making the peninsula into the state of "Superior" (named for Lake Superior). The region's economic dependence on aid from the Michigan state government makes such proposals very unlikely to be carried forth.
Economy and culture
The Upper Peninsula is very rich in mineral deposits including iron, copper and silver. (Small amounts of gold have also been discovered.) In the 19th century mining dominated its economy and it was home to many isolated company towns. Some mines are still active, though on a much smaller scale. Logging continues to be an important industry. Because of the climate and the short growing season, there is very little agriculture in the Upper Peninsula. Tourism is the main industry. The peninsula has large tracts of state and national forests, eastern arborvitae swamps, coastline, over 150 waterfalls, and very low population densities. Because of the camping, boating, fishing, snowmobiling, hunting, and hiking opportunities, many Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin families take their summer vacations there.
Early settlers included multiple waves of people from Nordic countries. There are still active Swedish- and Finnish-speaking communities in many areas of the Upper Peninsula today. People of Finnish ancestry make up 16% of the peninsula's population, the highest concentration of Finns outside Europe. Some aspects of Finnish culture, such as the sauna and the concept of sisu, have been adopted generally by residents of the Upper Peninsula.
Upper Peninsula natives speak a dialect influenced by Scandinavian and Canadian speech, which many of them take pride in. A popular bumper sticker, a parody of the "Say YES to Michigan" slogan promoted by state tourism officials, shows an outline of the Upper Peninsula and the slogan, "Say ya to da UP, eh?"
The Upper Peninsula has a distinctive local cuisine. The pasty, a kind of meat pie originally brought to the region by Cornish miners, rivals the hamburger in popularity as fast food. Finnish immigrants contributed nisu (a cardamom-flavored sweet bread) and korpu (rock-hard slices of toasted cinnamon-bread, traditionally dipped in coffee). Thimbleberry jam and maple syrup are highly prized local delicacies. Fresh Great Lakes fish, such as the lake trout and whitefish, are widely eaten, in spite of concerns about PCB contamination. Smoked and pickled fish are also popular.
Indian Casinos have become popular in the U.P. One of the first Indian casinos in the country was started in Baraga County by the Ojibwa nation. Originally the casinos were simple, one-room affairs. Some of the casinos are now quite elaborate.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has three state universities: Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie and Michigan Technological University in Houghton.
Larger cities of the Upper Peninsula by population
- Marquette, Michigan--19,661
- Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan--16,542
- Escanaba, Michigan--13,140
- Menominee, Michigan--9,131
- Houghton, Michigan--7,010
- Ishpeming, Michigan--6,686
- Gladstone, Michigan--5,032
Major Attractions of the Upper Peninsula.: