Michigan is known for its Upper and Lower Peninsulas. For many people there is a running joke that UP is part of Canada or Wisconsin, but what many people don’t know about upstate Michigan is that the tip of the peninsula is actually an island. While both peninsulas are home to thousands of islands, this northernmost point in Michigan might be home to the largest hidden island of them all.
Largest known island in Michigan:
Isle Royale is located in Lake Superior and is considered the largest island in Michigan. Isle Royale is much more than just a 206 square mile island, its history and preservation as a national park has contributed to scientific research and understanding since 1959. Untouched by man due to its isolation, Isle Royale Royale provided us with the rare opportunity to see how evolution without human involvement would play out.
The majority of research focuses on the complex dynamics between wolf and moose populations on the island. This observational research project is seen as focusing on the oldest questions in ecology: is nature best understood because of the predictable “law-like” patterns that manifest through the tasks and animal behavior, or is nature best understood for its history and ability to evolve regardless of the events it faces? With its research, wrecks and mysteries, Isle Royale is a must stop for visitors to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. No matter which circuit or path you choose to take on the island, you are bound to have some excitement. However, with all the wonders of this island, is it REALLY Michigan’s largest island in the entire state?
Fun fact: Isle Royale is the largest island in the world’s largest body of fresh water, Lake Superior.
Keweenaw Peninsula becomes Michigan’s largest island
Keweenaw County is Michigan’s northernmost and least populated county in the state of Michigan. It is perhaps best known for being the gateway to Isle Royale National Park and its research center. Derived from the Ojibwa word meaning “the place of passage”, the Keweenaw Peninsula has been used as a travel and resource point for all manner of goods and services that must pass through Whitefish Point at the eastern end of the peninsula. However, is the tip of the Upper Peninsula hiding something from the people of Michigan?
Although this area of land is widely known as the Keweenaw Peninsula, it is technically an island due to the Portage Channel Parting Road. In fact, many people consider Michigan Technological University to be part of Keweenaw County, but due to its location on the Portage Canal, it constitutes Houghton County. Across the small lift bridge is Hancock, which is the start of Keweenaw ‘island’. As people who have lived in this area for many years, Houghton and Hancock really feel like one town together, but the bridge really makes a difference (especially when you’re stuck in the elevator on your way to work or in class).
What is so interesting about this waterway that creates an island in the peninsula is the fact that part of it has been man-made. What would eventually turn into a channel after a few hundred years, the fjord that is now the Portage Channel was dredged for the last half mile in the 1860s to officially separate the tip from the UP; making it Michigan’s largest island. The land of copper is full of surprises!
Having experienced the peninsula turned island, I highly recommend visiting Keweenaw County and all the beautiful sights it has to offer. Be sure to stop at the Jam Lady on your way to Copper Country!
Don’t Call Yourself a Yooper Unless You’ve Been to These Places in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
It can almost be considered an entirely different state, while encompassing everything beautiful about Michigan. There are places that are truly breathtaking, and if you’ve never planned a trip to the Upper Peninsula, make sure you’re comfortable with long drives.
Hidden Gems of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
No matter what you like – dining, boating, hunting, outdoor sports and everything in between, you’ll find something you’ll love in these small towns on Michigan’s Upper Eastern Peninsula.