Mackinaw Bridge
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The Upper Peninsula: Michigan’s Hidden Gem and a Misunderstood Enigma

Let’s dive deep into a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts — the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You’ve probably heard the rumors and seen the maps that sometimes mislabel our beloved UP as part of Canada or Wisconsin. Well, let’s put those rumors to rest and celebrate this incredible part of our state.

Related: Awesome Mitten’s Guide to the BEST Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula

Upper Peninsula Gifts

The Geography of the Upper Peninsula

First things first, folks — the Upper Peninsula is, without a doubt, part of Michigan. It’s that amazing chunk of land separated from the Lower Peninsula by the legendary Straits of Mackinac.

You know where that is, right? It’s the narrow waterway that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan and is home to the iconic Mackinac Island.

So, before we go any further, let’s clear the air — the UP belongs to us, the proud people of Michigan. This region is not just a piece of land; it’s a living testament to the resilience and spirit of Michiganders.

The Upper Peninsula, or the UP as it is affectionately known, spans over 16,000 square miles, making it larger than several U.S. states. It is a land of dense forests, pristine lakes, and rugged coastlines.

In 1986 I was headed to Navy boot camp and while waiting to catch a ride at O’Hare airport I struck up a conversation with another passenger. He thought my accent was strange and asked where I was from. When I told him I was from the U.P. he welcomed me to America.

comment from Ken on Upper Peninsula Travel

The Historical Connection

To unravel the mystery of why some folks think the UP isn’t part of Michigan, we’ve got to take a trip back in time.

Native American tribes, like the Ojibwa and Menominee, called this land home for millennia. In the 17th century, European explorers and fur traders started exploring the region, leading to French control.

The UP is also rich in natural resources, including vast deposits of iron and copper. The mining history of the region has played a significant role in shaping its culture and economy. Today, while the mines may no longer be as active, they remain an integral part of the UP’s heritage.

Treaty of Paris

Fast forward to 1763, and the Treaty of Paris handed the UP to British control as part of the huge Quebec territory. It wasn’t until the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783 that the UP finally became part of the United States under that same Treaty of Paris.

The Toledo War

You might have heard of the Toledo War, during which Michigan and Ohio fought over a tiny strip of land near Lake Erie. But, here’s the deal — that war didn’t change the fact that the UP was part of Michigan all along.

The UP for Toledo? We got the best part of that deal!

comment from Lynda on Upper Peninsula Travel

Michigan eventually became a state in 1837 with the UP firmly in its grasp, while Ohio got the Toledo Strip. And no, the UP never belonged to Wisconsin.

Now, isn’t that a piece of history worth celebrating?!?

Great Lakes Of North America, Political Map. Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie And Lake Ontario. A Series Of Large Interconnected Freshwater Lakes On Or Near The Border Of Canada And United States.
Northern Lights | photo via @chase_gagnon

Mislabeling on Maps

Now, here’s where it gets a bit frustrating. Maps, both printed and online, sometimes mislabel the UP, placing it in Canada or Wisconsin. Even respectable news outlets and educational resources have slipped up on this.

It’s not always intentional, but it sure adds to the confusion. And, these inaccuracies don’t just mess with our sense of geography; they have real-world consequences.

Tourism is a massive industry in the UP, and when potential visitors think it’s in another country or state, they might skip this incredible destination. Local businesses lose out, and that’s just not fair to the UP.

The UP is not just a place on a map; it is a community, a way of life, and a proud member of the great state of Michigan.

The Economic and Cultural Impact

Let’s not forget about the cultural side of things. The UP is home to a unique and proud community known as “Yoopers.” They have a distinct dialect, delicious cuisine (think pasties and cudighi), and cherished traditions.

The people of the Upper Peninsula, often referred to as “Yoopers,” take great pride in their unique identity. They share a strong sense of community, a love for the outdoors, and a dialect that is distinctly their own. The term “Yoopers” itself is derived from the acronym “U.P.-ers,” and it reflects the camaraderie and the tight-knit nature of the communities here.

But when we disconnect the UP from Michigan, we risk diluting this cultural identity and the pride Yoopers have for their home.

The Traditional Beef Pasty With Gravy From Lehto's Pasties St. Ignace
The traditional beef pasty with gravy from Lehto’s Pasties | Photo via Leah Tennant

Real FAQs From Real People

Is the Upper Peninsula part of Michigan or Wisconsin?

The Upper Peninsula is part of the state of Michigan, not Wisconsin. While the Upper Peninsula is geographically situated between Michigan and Wisconsin, it has been an integral part of Michigan for over two centuries.

This historical affiliation was established through various treaties and land agreements. Despite its proximity to Wisconsin, the UP is unequivocally part of Michigan, and it has never officially been part of Wisconsin.

Is the Upper Peninsula its own state?

No, the UP is not its own state. It’s a region located within the state of Michigan.

While it has a unique identity, culture, and geography, it is not a separate state but rather one of the two main peninsulas that make up the state of Michigan.

The other part of Michigan is the Lower Peninsula, which is located to the south of the Upper Peninsula.

Do I need a passport to cross the Mackinac Bridge?

No, you do not need a passport to cross the Mackinac Bridge. It connects the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Lower Peninsula, both of which are within the United States. There are no international borders to cross when traveling on the Mackinac Bridge.

Do I need a passport to visit Mackinac Island?

No, you do not need a passport to visit Mackinac Island. It’s also located within the state of Michigan and does not require crossing any international borders. You can access the island by ferry from either the Upper or Lower Peninsula without needing a passport.

Do I need a passport to visit the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin?

No, you do not need a passport to visit the UP of Michigan from Wisconsin. It’s part of the state of Michigan, and there are no international borders to cross when traveling between Wisconsin and the UP.

Do I need a passport to visit the Upper Peninsula from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan?

No, you do not need a passport to visit the Upper Peninsula from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Both the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula are within the state of Michigan, and there are no international borders to cross within the state.

Can I use my driver’s license or state ID to travel to the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin or the Lower Peninsula of Michigan?

Yes, you can use your driver’s license or state ID to travel to the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin or the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. You can cross the Mackinac Bridge and visit the UP without any passport requirements.

Mackinaw Bridge

The Upper Peninsula IS Part of Michigan & the United States of America

So, there you have it, folks. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is as Michigander as it gets. Its history, geography, and rich culture tie it firmly to our great state. While the mislabeling on maps and misconceptions may persist, it’s up to us to set the record straight.

We need to make sure that the UP is recognized and celebrated for the incredible part of Michigan and the United States that it truly is. By doing so, we can support its economy, preserve its cultural heritage, and ensure that the rest of the world understands the magic of this remarkable piece of our beloved state.


  1. The author negated her entire argument by concluding that Michigan is the “Mitten” State. An interesting and fun article until then. I’m really disappointed by the use of the term. The author did all this work for nothing. Once again, the UP is marginalized even by its own state. One more thing, it is geologically incorrect to state that the UP is “a corner” of anything, especially the mitten, or anywhere. I can’t imagine what you were thinking.

  2. I absolutely loved this article and I hope the questions asked were not from people who live in MI! I, like you, have seen where the UP has been connected to different states and Canada. Being a born and raised Michigander, the history of this state never ceases to fascinate me. Just goes to prove, you’re never too old to learn. I think the UP is great and love visiting the different cities and learning about their rich history. Thanks for a great article.

  3. Hello Ashley, I was born and raised in the UP, and as far as I know, a valid driver’s license is only needed by the person driving a car to and within the Upper Peninsula. Your article made it sound like anyone visiting the U P needed a valid driver’s license.

  4. The pasties you show in your article is a poor example of a pasty . In a true pasty the meat and potatoes were never ground fine like mush and certainly never were eaten with gravy in the ore mines. I tried one of Letho’s and they are an insult to the English people that make true pasties.

  5. While I totally agree that the UP is in the US and part of Michigan, it is completely it’s own world, quite unlike anything else.

  6. Maybe you should change your name to “Pair of Mittens” or something if you truly cared about the UP instead of omitting it in your name. Michigan isn’t just a mitten. Thr upper hand is the most beautiful 1/3 of the state.

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