Physical Geography

MichiganMichigan is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States.

Michigan's surface features were formed primarily by glaciers during the last Ice Age. At that time, massive ice sheets eroded and smoothed the hills, and in places leveled the land. On receding, they dammed rivers, created lakes and marshes, and left widespread debris in such forms as moraines, drumlins, and outwash plains.


The state lies in two major regions of the United States: the Central Lowlands and the Superior Uplands.

The Central Lowlands, sometimes called the Lake Plains region in Michigan, blankets the eastern half of the upper peninsula and the entire lower one. Most of the land is relatively low and varies from flat to gently rolling. The only sizable elevated tract of land, ranging in elevation from 1,200 to 1,400 feet (365 to 430 m) is on the tableland in the north-central part of the lower peninsula. The lowest point in Michigan is Lake Erie's shore—570 feet (174 m) above sea level.

The Superior Uplands, an extension of the vast Canadian Shield region of eastern Canada, covers the western half of the upper peninsula. The land is flat to rolling, increasing in elevation toward the west. Occasionally, the surface is broken by low rounded hills and ranges. These include the Copper, Gogebic, Marquette, and Menominee ranges and the Porcupine and Huron mountains. The Porcupines and Hurons both achieve elevations exceeding 1,900 feet (580 m) above sea level. Michigan's highest point—1,980 feet (604 m)—is in the Hurons.

Isle Royale, a large island in Lake Superior, is a national park noted for its wilderness beauty. Other large islands include Sugar, Drummond, and Bois Blanc in Lake Huron; and Beaver and North Manitou in Lake Michigan.


The St. Marys, St. Clair, and Detroit rivers, although relatively short, are of greatest importance because they are part of the Great Lakes system of navigable water. All three are shared with Ontario. Main rivers on the lower peninsula include the St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Grand, Muskegon, Manistee, Au Sable, and Saginaw. On the upper peninsula are the Tahquamenon, Manistique, Escanaba, Ford, Menominee, and Ontonagon. Among some 150 waterfalls is the 48-foot (15-m) Tahquamenon Falls.

Inland lakes are relatively small. Of more than 11,000 lakes, the largest are Houghton, Torch, Elk, Charlevoix, Burt, and Mullet lakes. All are in the northern half of the lower peninsula. There are many bays and inlets, hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, and occasional areas of dunes.

Michigan'sMichigan's state flower is the apple blossom.

Michigan has a humid continental type of climate similar to that of the northern Midwestern states. Michigan's is slightly more temperate, mainly because of moderating influences of winds from the Great Lakes. Lower Michigan's western shore is affected most because it lies in the direct path of prevailing westerlies moving across Lake Michigan. Winters are long and cold, summers are short and warm.

Average temperatures for January range from about 14° F. (-10° C.) in the north to 28° F. (-2° C.) in the south. July averages range from about 63° F. (17° C.) to 74° F. (23° C.). Extreme temperatures of more than 100° F. (38° C.) and as low as -40° F. (-40° C.) occur occasionally. The length of the growing season ranges from 60 to 170 days, depending on north-south location.

Precipitation falls throughout the year, but most of the annual 28 to 36 inches (710 to 910 mm) occurs during the growing season. Snowfall ranges from about 30 inches (760 mm) in the extreme southeast to 160 inches (4,060 mm) in some of the northwestern mountain areas. Cloudiness prevails during late fall and early winter.

Interesting facts about Michigan
The world's first agricultural college was Michigan State University. It was founded in 1855 as Michigan Agricultural College. Michigan State is also the oldest U.S. land-grant college.
Mackinac Bridge, designed by David B. Steinman and completed in 1957, connects Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas. Michigan is the only state in the continental United States to have such large sections entirely separated by water.
Battle Creek is called the "Cereal Bowl of America." John H. Kellogg's interest in health foods for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium stimulated the ready-to-eat breakfast food industry. Charles W. Post and W. K. Kellogg, John's brother, made the cereal industry a successful commercial venture in the early 1900's. Today, Battle Creek produces more breakfast cereal than any other city in the world.
The first practical carpet sweeper was invented by M. R. Bissell in Grand Rapids in 1876. The Bissell factory, still located there, is the world's largest manufacturer of carpet sweepers.
The first traffic lines to designate lanes were painted near Trenton in 1911. Edward N. Hines, Wayne County road commissioner, proposed the lines. He called them "center line safety stripes."
The first person to observe digestion was William Beaumont, an Army doctor stationed at Fort Mackinac. He treated Alexis St. Martin, a fur trader who was shot by accident in the abdomen on Mackinac Island in 1822. Beaumont tried patiently to close the wound, but it never healed. Despite his injury, St. Martin lived to the age of 76. He was known as "the man with a window in his stomach." Through this "window," Beaumont gathered information that has proved to be accurate.
Michigan'sMichigan's state tree is the white pine.