Geography and Landforms:

The state of Michigan consists of two peninsulas separated by the Straits of Mackinac. The Upper Peninsula lies between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The Lower Peninsula is bordered on the West by Lake Michigan and on the East by Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and two rivers, the Detroit and the St. Clair.

The Superior Upland covers the western portion of the Upper Peninsula. It is an area of rugged, forested mountains that range from 600 to 1,980 feet above sea level. Michigan's highest point, Mount Curwood, is located here.

The eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula and the entire Lower Peninsula are part of the Great Lakes Plains. In the Upper Peninsula, limestone hills and swampy flats cover the shores of Lake Michigan while sandstone ridges rise from the waters of Lake Superior. In the Lower Peninsula, the land is fairly level with some areas of rolling hills. High bluffs and sand dunes border Lake Michigan. The state's lowest point (572 feet) is located along the shore of Lake Erie. The soil in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula is sandy and covered with pine trees, scrub, and stumps, but rich farmland is found in the lower portion of this region.

The shoreline of Michigan is more than 3200 miles long. No part of the state is more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes.


The French explorer Etienne Brule was the first European to reach the Michigan region. Brule landed at the narrows of Sault St. Marie in 1620 and named the area New France. In 1634, Jean Nicolet was sent by France to explore sections of the Upper Peninsula, and find a route to the Pacific Ocean.

Gradually, other French explorers, traders, and missionaries came to the area. A mission was built at Keweenaw Bay in 1660. Eight years later, Michigan's first permanent settlement was established by Father John Marquette at Sault St. Marie. By 1700, most of the Michigan region had been explored by the French. Forts, missions, and trading posts had been built throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain at the site of present-day Detroit.

The French did little to develop the region. They were primarily interested in converting the Native Americans to Christianity, establishing a profitable fur trade, and finding a northwest passage. Soon Britain and France began to struggle for control of North America. They fought in a series of conflicts known as the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763). The French were eventually defeated in 1763 and Britain won most of the French holdings in North America.

The Native Americans initially resented the coming of the British to the Michigan region. In 1763, under the leadership of Chief Pontiac, the Ottawa Indians attacked a number of forts and massacred many British settlers. The rebellion was short-lived, though, and the Native Americans eventually joined with the British against the Americans in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). When the war ended in 1783, Michigan fell under control of the United States. But the British, unwilling to give up their valuable fur trade, stubbornly held on to Ft. Mackinac and Ft. Pontchartrain (Detroit) until 1796.

Michigan became part of the Northwest Territory in 1787 after passage of the Northwest Ordinance. In 1805, Congress created Michigan Territory, which included the Lower Peninsula and the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. Detroit became its capital.

During the War of 1812, the Native Americans once again sided with the British against America. Britain captured Ft. Mackinac and the city of Detroit. American forces regained Detroit in 1813, and the British returned Ft. Mackinac to the United States at the war's end in 1814.

The Erie Canal was completed in 1825, enabling settlers to easily reach western territories. Soon many Americans began moving to Michigan from eastern states. A state constitution was drawn up and the people of Michigan ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1835. But a land dispute with Ohio delayed Michigan's admission to the Union. Congress settled the dispute in 1836, giving Michigan the entire Upper Peninsula. Michigan entered the Union as the 26th state in 1837.

The lumber industry expanded rapidly in the years after statehood and the population grew as German, Irish, and Dutch immigrants began settling in the state. By 1845, mining began to thrive in the Upper Peninsula. However, the miners needed some way to transport the valuable minerals and ore to the iron and steel factories along the Great Lakes. This need led to the construction of the Soo Canal, which was completed in 1855.

Although no battles were fought on Michigan soil during the Civil War (1861-1865), the state sent 90,000 soldiers to fight for the Union. In 1865, the Fourth Michigan Cavalry under Lt. Colonel B. D. Pritchard captured Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, near Irwinville, Georgia.

Between 1870 and 1900, the population of Michigan doubled. Settlers poured into the state, cleared land, and established farms. Saw mills were constructed and by 1870, Michigan became the nation's leading producer of lumber.


Michigan became the birthplace of the automobile industry in 1899 when Ransom Olds started the Olds Motor Works in Detroit. By 1903, Henry Ford had established the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn. Soon Detroit became known as the automobile capital of the world. The manufacture of automobiles is still Michigan's chief industry. Other manufactured products include metal products, chemicals, food products and non-electric machinery.

Michigan leads the nation in the production of cherries, which are grown in the state's "fruit belt" along the shores of Lake Michigan. Fields of corn and grain cover much of the southern counties of the Lower Peninsula. Dairy farming is the most lucrative agricultural business in the state.

The tourism industry is very important to the economy of Michigan. Abundant fish in lakes and streams, as well as bear, deer, and other game animals make the Upper Peninsula a rich hunting and fishing region. Scenic woodlands attract many campers while thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams draw swimmers, water skiers, and boaters to the state.

First Inhabitants:

When European explorers arrived in the Michigan region in the early 17th century it was already populated by Algonkian Indians. The Chippewa and Menominee tribes lived in the Upper Peninsula, while the Miami, Ottawa, and Potawatomi occupied the Lower Peninsula. The name "Michigan" actually came from the Chippewa word "Michigan," which means "great lake."

Before contact with the Europeans, these Native Americans lived by hunting, gathering, and fishing. Some tribes raised squash, corn, and rice. Clothing was made from the skins of animals they ate. Their tools were fashioned from animal parts such as bone and sinew. They constructed their homes of mud and bark.

The arrival of the white man had disastrous effects on Michigan's Native Americans. During the 1700s, nearly two-thirds of their population died from diseases brought by European settlers. Many tribes eventually lost their lands to the U.S. government. By 1838, almost all Indian villages in Michigan had been abandoned.

Books Related To Michigan

Bucking the Sarge - Christopher Curtis
(978-0440413318) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 1000, ESL level: 4 - 5
Luther tries to keep his goal of college philosophy in mind as he struggles to assist his mother in her questionable business, the Happy Neighbor Group Home for Men.

Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Curtis
(978-0553494105) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 950, ESL level: 4 - 5
Bud escapes from his foster home to try and find his famous father during the Great Depression.

Jam and Jelly by Holly and Nellie - Gloria Whelan
(978-1585361090) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 490, ESL level: 2
Mama turns her talents to jelly making to eke out enough money for her daughter to get a winter coat.

Kyle's Island - Sally Derby
(158-0893163) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, ESL level: 4
Kyle tries to take advantage of the fun at the lake despite his angry reaction to his parents' recent separation.

The Log Cabin Christmas - Ellen Howard
(823-413810) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 360, ESL level: 2
Elviry's family's new home in the Michigan countryside will be lonely without their mother's presence, but they decide to make their best of it.

M is for Mitten: A Michigan Alphabet - Annie Appleford
(978-1886947733) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about Michigan.

Memories of Summer - Ruth White
(978-0374349455) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 3
Lyric tries to adjust to her new life in Michigan and her sister's developing mental illness.

Mr. Chickee's Funny Money - Christopher Curtis
(978-0440229193) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 1010, ESL level: 4 - 5
Steven and his friends are faced with the mystery of a quadrillion-dollar bill.

Mrs. Mack - Patricia Polacco
(978-0698118874) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 610, ESL level: 2 - 3
A young girl is taken in by an older neighbor and learns to ride and love horses.

When Lightening Comes in a Jar - Patricia Polacco
(978-0399231643) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 540, ESL level: 2 - 3
A young girl enjoys the family reunion at her grandmother's place.

Famous Citizens:

Ralph Bunche
Ralph Bunche was born in Detroit, Michigan. Bunche was the foremost international mediator and peacekeeper of his time. He was the key drafter of the United Nations Charter. In 1950, Bunche became the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Edna Ferber
Edna Ferber was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was considered to be the greatest American female writer of her day. Her best known work is Showboat, a novel that was made into a Broadway musical and adapted into three motion pictures. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for her book So Big.

Henry Ford
Henry Ford, born in Dearborn, Michigan, was an automobile production pioneer. He founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and introduced the moving assembly line in 1913. Ford revolutionized the auto industry by mass-producing vehicles that were priced within reach of the middle class Americans.

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh, born in Detroit, Michigan, was an American aviator who made the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1927. Lindbergh won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for his autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis.

John C. Sheehan
John Sheehan was born in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was an inventor who developed the synthetic form of penicillin in 1957, revolutionizing the field of medicine by vastly expanding the availability of life-saving antibiotics. Sheehan was awarded more than 40 patents including one for the explosive RDX, which replaced TNT in rocket, bomb, and torpedo warheads.

Capital: Lansing
Entered Union: January 26, 1837
Population: 9,909,877
Area 96,716
Bird Robin
Flower Apple Blossom
Nickname: The Wolverine State, Great Lakes State
Governor Rick Snyder

Places to Visit in Michigan: (Click the links to learn more.)

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum - Ann Arbor
Discover the wonder of science, math, and technology in an interactive environment. The museum seeks to promote science literacy through experimentation, exploration, and education.

Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village - Dearborn
Experience the evolution of transportation, home-life, manufacturing, and technology in American society. Nine acres of unique exhibits and artifacts chronicle the history and growth of the United States while highlighting the innovative spirit of the American people.

Museum of Natural History - Ann Arbor
Located at the University of Michigan, this museum includes a planetarium as well as permanent exhibits on prehistoric life, Michigan wildlife, Native American culture, and anthropology. A wide range of creative, educational workshops and programs are offered.

Detroit Institute of Arts - Detroit
The Institute houses a diverse collection of art including African, Native American, Asian, and European pieces, in addition to many contemporary and modern works.