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Happy 187th birthday, Michigan! Fun facts about the Great Lakes State

sleeping bear dunes
(iStock photo by Gary Ennis)
  • Michigan celebrates 187 years in the union on Jan. 26. 
  • Among the state’s lesser known historical nuggets: A king, a floating post office and a defunct island amusement park
  • Michigan’s environmental diversity includes beaches on all Great Lakes, 20 million acres of forest and a salt mine

It will come as no surprise to Michiganders that Michigan-made icons like Faygo, Coney islands and Mackinac fudge top the list of statewide favorites.

Ask us where we’re from and chances are we’ll proudly point out our hometown on a hand, and while other states have tried to claim it, Michigan — the Mitten — is clearly most suited for this type of map.


From ski resorts, to cider mills, to the tunnel of trees and to beaches on four of the Great Lakes, the Michigan experience is as robust and expansive as the state itself. 

But did you know that Michigan once housed a community led by a king, is home to supposedly the world’s largest weather vane (here’s looking at you, Montague!) or that the geographic center of the Lower Peninsula is in St. Louis, Michigan? 

Here are some lesser known facts about our great state as we celebrate Michigan’s 187th birthday: 

  • The Ohio-Michigan feud has been ongoing since before Michigan became a state. Ohio, which was the 17th state, acquired the city of Toledo but then-Gov. Stevens T. Mason claimed the city should belong to Michigan, citing a 1787 Treaty. The state sent an army to fight over the land. Michigan was granted into the Union only under the condition that Toledo remains an Ohio territory and was given the Upper Peninsula instead. Extra fun fact: Mason is buried in downtown Detroit, at the site of Michigan’s first capitol.
  • While eight states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) and Canada border at least one of the Great Lakes, Michigan is the only state that borders four. 
  • With 115, Michigan also has more lighthouses than any other state. 
  • Michigan has housed a king - sort of. In 1850, Mormon James Jesse Strang claimed to be the king of his church and led a community on  Beaver Island. He was eventually assassinated and his followers forcibly evicted from the island. 
  • The country’s only floating post office, the J. W. Westcott II, can be found in the Detroit River, in the only floating zip code, 48222. 
  • More than half of the state, roughly 20 million acres, is covered by forest land and about 95 percent of it could be used to produce timber.
  • Under the city of Detroit lies a 1,500 acre salt mine with over 100 miles of underground roads. 
  • Isle Royale National Park is the least visited National Park in the continental United States according to the most recent visitation numbers, but only because it’s so remote
  • The privately owned Ambassador Bridge that connects Michigan to Canada across the Detroit River, is the largest international suspension bridge in the world.
  • Before there was Michigan’s Adventure, there was Boblo Island. From 1898 until 1993 thrill seekers took ferries to Bois Blanc Island just above the mouth of the Detroit River for a day of fun. Visitors came from all over, and the island amusement park was sometimes referred to as “Detroit’s Coney Island.”

There’s so many more reasons to love Michigan. What’s your favorite? Send us your reason and we may use it for another article.

Editor's note: This article was corrected at 11:45 a.m. Jan. 26  to note that Isle Royale is the least visited National Park in the continental United States.

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