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Where does Up North begin?

April 10, 2021 at 5:26 pm

Where does Up North begin?

This has been a debate for years and a lot has to do with where you live. If you live in SW or SE Michigan, your view may be different than those in NW or NE Michigan. Should the Upper Peninsula be considered north just because it is north of the mitten part of the state? Should you look for what is the true center point of the entire state and that point starts the north?

I always thought Up North began when we either passed the welcome center on US 10 or passed the West Branch exit on I-75. I have lived in NW Michigan for the last 20 + years and now think of going up north as crossing the bridge. Unless I am heading home from the south, then it is the welcome center.

Yoopers Trolls & Fudgies

Friends that live in the Upper Peninsula insist that Up North does not start until you have crossed the Mackinaw Bridge. Calling themselves Yooper they refer to anyone that lives south of the bridge as Trolls. Yooper’s have a strong regional identity and do not take kindly to anyone that suggests Up North begins further south.

Residents in the Northern Lower Peninsula feel they live Up North too. Many Northern Lower Peninsula residents consider the dividing line to be the Southern borders of Manistee County on the western shore and Isoco County on the eastern shore. Up North Entertainments website covers 36 counties from this line north including the Upper Peninsula. Anyone that lives below that line are affectionately called Fudgies because they always leave with fudge.

What do the experts say?

I researched where Up North begins, surely there are surveys, state sanctioned boundaries or at the very least an accepted guide for this answer. I bet you know what I discovered NOBODY agrees where Up North Begins. Some claim Clare County, Cadillac, West Branch the 45th Parallel and of course the Mackinaw Bridge.

Surely the Michigan’s tourism department will settle this once and for all right? Wrong! The State of Michigan’s Pure Michigan website did not offer a clue. They divided the state by East/West and South, Central and North and then East/Central/West Upper Peninsula. The state has wisely chosen to stay out of this debate.

Clare County claims to be “Where the North Begins”, with no explanation as to how that was determined. Interestingly, the about page of their website says it is located in the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Technically north of the middle would be Up North of the Lower Peninsula.

Will GPS settle the debate?

I tried to find out what is the center point of the State of Michigan, well surprise that is up for debate too! According to Netstate and Wikipedia it is a point 5 miles north-northeast of Cadillac and provides the coordinates latitude 45 degrees 3.7’ N and Longitude -84 degrees 56.3’ W. Google Maps shows that these coordinates put the center of the state along the Jordan River north of Deadman’s Hill Overlook in Otsego County (about 60 miles further north than Cadillac). Using the coordinates as the clear north/south line would mean that many communities Up North really are not, like Traverse City, Houghton Lake and Gaylord. Clare County would definitely not be “Where the North Begins”. But parts of the Lower Peninsula would still be considered Up North like Petoskey, Mackinaw City and Presque Isle.

Even Wikipedia seems to be confused

Wikipedia shows a map that shows Northern Lower Peninsula clearly marked as such. The heading for the map is Northern Michigan with Northern Lower Michigan in smaller type and Lower Peninsula of Michigan in a blue banner. But the caption below the map states that Northern Michigan is highlighted in light green. Just like there is not a clear definition of Up North there is not one for Northern Michigan either.

So, when you head “Up North” where do you feel like you are there? Comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.


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