Michigan Unveiled Beyond the Lakes is a Treasure Trove of Wonders


Photo by Dave Kenyon. Courtesy of MDNR.

Nestled in the heart of the Great Lakes region, the state of Michigan is a tapestry of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and unique geographical features. But to think of Michigan as merely a collection of lakes and peninsulas would be a grave injustice to this state's rich diversity and charm. The 26th state to enter the Union on January 26, 1837, Michigan has grown into a place of wonders that appeals to adventure seekers, nature lovers, and history buffs alike.

Lakes, Forests, and More

The name “Michigan” comes from the Native American words “Michi-gama” or “mishigamaa,” meaning “large lake” or “large water,” which is why it is known as the Great Lake State.

In Michigan, you're never more than six miles from a lake. With 11,037 inland lakes and a staggering 3,288 miles of freshwater coastline—the longest in the world. It is the second longest coastline in the U.S. and second only to Alaska’s saltwater coast. It's no wonder the state is synonymous with water. Michigan's freshwater shoreline is adorned with 116 lighthouses and navigational lights that guide the way for sailors and delight onlookers.

Inland lake near Flushing. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

Beyond the lakes, the state is home to over 20 million acres of forest land, comprising about 53% of the state, with 14 billion trees proudly standing. These forests are interwoven with 51,438 miles of river and punctuated by six fish hatcheries, 104 state parks, and 300,000 acres of sand dunes. It's a nature lover's paradise.

Geographical Wonders

Covering a total area of 96,714 square miles, Michigan's unique geography is split into two peninsulas. The upper peninsula extends 334 miles east-west and 215 miles north-south. The lower peninsula's maximum east-west extension is 220 miles, and its longest north-south length is 286 miles.

This Wikipedia file map highlighting Keweenaw County shows the actual state boundaries, which extend into the Great Lakes, looking more like a middle-aged Bart Simpson bowing his head than a mitten.

The total area of Michigan (excluding Great Lakes waters) is 58,527 square miles, of which land takes up 56,954 square miles and inland water 1,573 square miles.

Located in the eastern north-central U.S., Michigan ranks as the 3rd-largest state east of the Mississippi River and 23rd in size among the 50 states. Detroit, uniquely positioned as the only major city in the U.S. directly north of Canada, is famously home to the first mile of concrete highway on Woodward Ave.

Other fun facts

Michigan leads the nation in tart cherry production and ranks corn as its top agricultural commodity.

Grand Haven Lighthouse. Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash.

Michigan's highest point, Mt. Arvon in Baraga County, stands at an elevation of 1,979 feet on private land. The only National Park in Michigan, Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior—one of the least visited National Parks in the U.S.—is closer to Minnesota and Canada (18 miles) than Michigan (60 miles). Isle Royale’s moose and wolves are the subject of the world’s longest-running predator-prey study. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world and the third largest in volume.

Michigan has the largest stadium in the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere by seating capacity. The Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan can accommodate over 107,000 people.

Michigan was the first state to outlaw the death penalty. It was the first state with civil rights laws. The Calcite limestone quarry near Rogers City is the largest in the world. Michigan ranks 8th in the nation for the most Bigfoot sightings.

State symbols

  • Capital: Lansing
  • Nickname: Great Lakes State
  • Gem: Isle Royale Greenstone
  • Fossil: Mastodon
  • Soil: Kalkaska Sand
  • Wildflower: Dwarf Lake Iris
  • Stone: Petoskey Stone
  • Reptile: Painted Turtle
  • Mammal: White Tail Deer
  • Fish: Brook Trout
  • Tree: White Pine
  • Bird: Robin
  • Flower: Apple Blossom

We could go on for quite a while because from its freshwater coastlines to its lush forests, from its agricultural triumphs to its industrial innovations, from its cultural diversity and history, Michigan offers a vibrant and multifaceted experience that extends far beyond its famous lakes and peninsulas.

As the state motto reminds us, Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circum spice, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”


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