JAN. 26, 1837

As state turns 182, the U.P. remains a northern paradise

Story and photo by Lon Emerick

Michigan, admitted to the Union on Jan. 26, 1837, is still very youthful and beautiful at 182 years old. Especially my homeland, the Upper Peninsula.  We almost did not have this wondrous land above the Straits of Mackinac.

In 1835, the governor and legislators of the territory of Michigan would have gladly traded the Upper Peninsula lands for a much smaller strip of land (the Toledo Strip, 470 square miles) on the border with Ohio.  In fact, it took a mini-war between the state of Ohio and the territory of Michigan to settle the matter.

In the end, the federal government imposed a solution: Ohio was awarded the Toledo Strip and Michigan received statehood and, as a consolation prize, the 16,347 square miles north of the Mackinac Straits.

The political solons cried a loud foul. One legislator lamented, “The Upper Peninsula is a sterile region on the shores of Lake Superior, destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness.”

It is with gratefulness and pleasure that Yoopers dwell in our “wilderness.”  We love the superior peninsula and feel privileged to be residents in our northern paradise. Let me count the ways:

  • It is surrounded by the greatest lakes in the world, especially by the greatest, Superior.
  • It has hundreds of inland lakes and rivers, and more than 85 waterfalls.
  • It is covered with vast forests of pine, cedar, hemlock, maple, oak and basswood.
  • It has three national parks: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Keweenaw National Historic Park and Isle Royale National Park; two national forests; three state forests and numerous state parks.
  • It has several very good universities and community colleges.
  • It preserves our rich heritage with a number of historical centers and museums, memorials, restored lighthouses and ghost towns.


Although my affection encompasses the entire U.P. I have a very special attachment to the Keweenaw Peninsula.  My Cornish ancestors came to Central Mine in 1862. Copper had been found in abundance here, so much so that we still call it the Copper Country. The area has great appeal:

  • An incomparable shoreline.
  • More nature preserves than any other county in Michigan.
  • A divinely appointed opera house in Calumet, built in 1900.
  • A historic 1868 church building, site of annual reunions.

Go and spend some time in the Keweenaw and you will find many other features to cherish.

Take a few moments now with a song of this wondrous Upper Peninsula of ours.


This Land is Your Land


This land is your land, this land is my land,

From Drummond Island to the Porcupine Mountains,

From Copper Harbor to the Menominee River,

This land was made for you and me.


Verse 1.

As I went walking by the Big Bay Harbor,

A loon was calling me like a welcome,

As the mist was lifting, the sound came ringing

This land was made for you and me.


Verse 2.

I followed a roadway to Central ghost town,

And there before me near a rusted head frame,

An ancient miner was singing softly,

This land was made for you and me.


Verse 3.

I roamed and rambled this northern Eden,

By white pine forests and sparkling waters.

All around me, Yooper voices were soaring,

This land was made for you and me.


Thank you, Woody Guthrie.

Surely if we love this land, we have a responsibility to take such good care of it that a protected and treasured Upper Peninsula will be our legacy for the grandchildren and for the next seven generations.

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