Is Michigan’s Biggest Peninsula Hiding Our Biggest Island?
Michigan is known for its upper and lower peninsulas. For many people there is a running joke about the U.P. being a 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 of Michigan might be home to the biggest hidden island of them all.
Michigan’s Biggest Known Island:
Isle Royale is located in Lake Superior and is considered the largest island in Michigan. Isle Royale is so much more than just an island of 206 square miles, its history and preservation as a National Park has helped further scientific research and understanding since 1959. Untouched by man due to its isolation, Isle 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 dynamic between the wolves and moose populations on the island. This observation research project is considered to focus on the oldest questions in ecology: Is nature understood best due to the predictable ‘law-like’ patterns that is displayed through animal tasks and behavior, or is nature best understood for its history and being able to evolve no matter the events it faces? With research, shipwrecks and mysteries Isle Royale has been a must stop for visitors of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, no matter what tour or path you choose to take on the island you’re bound for some excitement. However, with all of the wonders of this island, is it REALLY Michigan’s largest island in the entire state?
Fun Fact: Isle Royale is the largest island within 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 populous, 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 crossing place”, the Keweenaw Peninsula has been used as a travel and resource point for all sorts of goods and services that need to pass through Whitefish Point on the eastern end of the Peninsula. Though, is the tip of the Upper Peninsula hiding something from Michigan’s residents?
Though this area of land is widely known as the Keweenaw Peninsula, it is technically an island due to the dividing path of the Portage Canal. In fact, many people consider Michigan Technological University part of Keweenaw County, but because of where it lies on the Portage Canal it makes up Houghton County. Across the small lift bridge is Hancock, which is the beginning of Keweenaw ‘Island’. As someone who lived in this area for many years, Houghton and Hancock very much feel like one town together but the bridge really makes the difference (especially when getting stuck at the lift when on your way to work or class).
What is so interesting about this waterway that creates an island within the peninsula, is the fact that part of it was manmade. What would have eventually turned into a canal after a few hundred years, the fjord that is now Portage Canal had the last half mile dredged out in the 1860’s to officially separate the tip of the U.P.; making it Michigan’s largest island. Copper country is full of surprises!
Having experienced the peninsula turned island first hand, I strongly recommend visiting Keweenaw County and all of the beautiful sights it has to offer. Make sure to stop by the Jam Lady on your way to Copper Country!