A draft...

This section will describe the multiple overlapping regional variations in the UP that relate to landscape, agriculture and economy, history, and populations.

You can traverse several of these regions on a tour, and plan a route to take advantage of these differences day by day and on the whole trip to keep things new and feel as though you've traveled farther in a day than just one or two counties!

The UP varies greatly by region. This is mainly the result of geology, forests, location, and immigration, and those influences are still present today in the differences you will find in one area of the UP compared to another.

The location and size of the Great Lakes affect not just transportation (the largest towns are near the lakes) but also climate, which influences where commercial forests and agricultural soils formed and of course where tourism developed. The bedrock geology and glaciation determined where the locations and types of economic minerals and commercial mining occurred, where original land transportation routes were placed (including the paths that later became the roads we ride), where lakes and rivers formed, and many natural characteristics that determined later land use and patterns. And of course the people who immigrated to the UP responded to the natural landscape and chose the types of settlement, farming, food, architecture, industry, and other cultural patterns that in many ways persist in the UP to give the great differences you can find from county to county.

I'm a geographer, and geographers spend lots of time categorizing and coming up with schemes to categorize regions ... eventually I'll come up with a good one (with, of course, a map)!

As a start, I'll just suggest a few generalizations with enough characteristic uniqueness to maybe the 'center' of their regions.


The UP is often divided coarsely into Eastern (EUP), Central (CUP), and Western (WUP) (sometimes leaving out Central). In general, the EUP is less relief, sandier, more farms, more Canadian, less Wisconsinan... The WUP is rockier, more relief, some mining, crookeder roads, smaller and fewer farms, less Canadian, more Wisconsin (than Michigan, even!).

Because the WUP is on the Canadian Shield & other Precambrian bedrock, there are minerals that have influenced settlement (most notably, copper & iron). That attracted immigrants from other mining areas in the 19th century, and that affected how the culture developed. Some "characteristic" WUP towns influenced that way include Calumet, Hancock, Ishpeming, Negaunee, and Ontonogan. Because this area is much closer and cheaper to transport goods from Wisconsin, you are more likely to find Wisconsin or even Minnesota foods in the stores than Michigan, and fewer vacationers, hunters, and campers come from the Lower Peninsula than from these adjacent states

The EUP, on the other hand, being flatter and with no easy to reach minerals, was however easier to build train and other travel routes on, was closer to Lakes Michigan and Huron (thus easier transport to Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit), and had a lot of pine and other lumber, so that influenced who moved there, how and where towns were built, and what was done after the lumbering days slowed down (they never ended; forestry and lumber production remains one of the biggest sectors of the UP economy). In some areas of the EUP, especially eastern Chippewa County and areas of Luce, Mackinac, and Schoolcraft Counties, dairy and other farming developed. Some EUP towns that have resulted from these patterns include Rudyard, Pickford, Newberry, and Seney. Because the EUP is closer to the (Mackinac) Bridge, more vacationers, hunters, campers, snowmobilers, etc. come from the Lower Peninsula than from the WUP.


Another way to delineate regions is by foods. Folklorists and cultural anthropologists call this topic 'foodways', and there is a good chapter on this topic by noted UP historian Russell Magnaghi here:

Foodways of the Upper Peninsula. pages 109-18 in A Sense of Place. (PDF link). Marquette: Northern Michigan University Center for Upper Peninsula Studies (1997).

One of my simplest UP regionalizations I've dreamt up is the "Blatz Line". That's the division, approximately from Seney south to Manistique, where to the west you find a great number of beers from Wisconsin (including my favorite bike-stop beer, Blatz), and to the east you find primarily the (did I mention insipid?) anheuser-busch products and labatt's. It's a little less severe now, since fancier less-mega beers like Bell's are distributed more widely and easier to find in the EUP than a few years ago (and the number of UP beer brewers continues to increase!). Nonetheless, I still find a great difference among UP taverns, particularly east to west.

Besides beer, food is a pretty good indicator. Some foods, like the ubiquitous UP Friday Fish Fry, are found throughout the UP. Others nearly so - example the pasty. "Traditionally" its North American center is the Keweenaw and surrounding mining regions, it's now available throughout the UP; somewhat more frequently in tourist areas (example, the many pasty places on both sides of the Straits leading to (or from) the Bridge).

Fresh fish is available throughout the UP in stores, but the best place to get it is always at the fishery. Smoked fish is usually available there too, and makes a particularly handy bike-touring item (smoky fishy hands aside). And of course the fisheries are located on the lakes, so that somewhat "regionalizes" their locations in the UP.

But the easiest way to regionalize foods is by foods of the immigrants who settled there. I consider Marquette County to be the food center of the UP because it has one of the best UP specialties, the great Cudighi. This sausage (despite my presentation here which made it sound like a 1920s circus magician) was "invented" by Italian immigrants in Negaunee; the story goes that they couldn't get many of the Italian spices but could get Scandinavian spices, so they created Cudighi, and it's to our everlasting benefit. In addition to Cudighi, which is endemic to Ishpeming-Negaunee, the area has many Italian diners and delis, some great Friday fish fries, an excellent bakery, several beer breweries (five in Marquette County last time I tallied) plus it's west of the Blatz Line so a good selection of Wisconsin beers, and you can get good pasties there too!

Further south, in the Crystal Falls-Iron Mountain area there were a lot of Italian immigrants, and in that area another delicious food item is to be found: the Porketta!


Another good regionalization is that used by the Hunts in their excellent UP guide (book, and website, now apparently defunct, but still archived). They describe the history, immigration, and other influences for why they consider their regions cohesive.