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Where Is The Upper Peninsula and What Is A Yooper

Updated on September 9, 2013
Scott's Falls
Scott's Falls | Source

To be geographically correct the upper peninsula is the 16,452 square miles of Michigan that lies north of the straights of Mackinac. This wilderness area boasts countless lakes and streams, 324 waterfalls, abundant wildlife, not to sound like an ad for the local tourism center, but to most its considered to be “God’s Country”.

Marquette Michigan is considered by many to be the capital of the upper peninsula. By most accounts it is the most progressive city in the “UP”. The town has a population of approximately 21,000 excluding the 9,000 students that attend Northern Michigan University. By most standards this is a small town, but for those who live in the upper peninsula this is mecca for shop and cultural experience. When I was a kid, we’d drive 100 miles one way to go shopping in Marquette. This was a big thing for us as there were no stores in the area. If we wanted something we had to wait to “go to town”.

The biggest draws to the upper peninsula are outdoor related. Tourism drives the UP. In winters with good snow you have the snowmobilers. In the spring fishing starts with smelting and steelhead runs along lake Michigan. Summer brings more fishing, hiking, camping, 4 wheeling, water falling, agate picking, and climbing the dunes. The long days mean that you can fit a lot of activities in, in a single day. Fall brings on the partridge hunting (Ruffed Grouse) and salmon runs. Then your back into winter with snowmobiling and ice fishing. There is never a dull moment in the upper peninsula!

So why don’t more people live here. It can be cold and desolate with little opportunity for employment. It takes a rare breed to carve out an existence in the upper peninsula. We call these people Yoopers.

The term Yooper is derived from the word upper and the acronym UP. In Michigan there are Yoopers and Trolls. Trolls live below the Mackinac bridge. Trolls vacation in the UP, but they aren’t tough enough to survive the winters so they go back below the bridge where its warm. Yoopers appreciate their vacation money, but don’t show trolls where the best hunting and fishing spots are. That just wouldn’t be right.

As you can tell there is a love-hate relationship between Yoopers and Trolls. Because tourism is a major source of revenue for the upper peninsula, Yoopers are tolerant of those who live below the bridge. There has been talk of making the UP a state as it really has nothing in common with the lower peninsula. Some think it should be a country of its’ own.

If you ever have a chance to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula I suggest you do it. Come up here, have a pasty, and leave some of your vacation money behind. You’ll never forget your time in the UP or those pesky yoopers!

Lake Superior
Lake Superior | Source

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