Have you ever wondered how Michigan was named Michigan? Before colonization, the now Great Lakes State was home to at least eight Native American tribes throughout the land, one of which being the Ojibwe Indians. The Ojibwe were the first people to openly interact with the French in Michigan, trading furs and knowledge of the area for guns and goods. Through translation, the state of Michigan was named after the Ojibwe Indian word “Michigama,” which means “great lake” or “land surrounded by water.”
With this in mind, we invite you to take a look at some other uniquely-named destinations found across the Great Lakes State.
1. Mackinac Island
This is an easy one. If you’re a native Michigander, you know that this popular Northern Michigan destination is correctly pronounced “MACK-in-awe Island”. Tourists have visited Mackinac Island in the summers to escape the heat of the cities for hundreds of years. Condé Nast Traveler magazine added Mackinac Island to its “World’s Best” list as one of the top 10 islands in the world. In December 2007 National Geographic Traveler magazine named Mackinac Island as the top island destination in the United States and 8th in the world. Don’t forget the fudge!
IP-sill-ANN-tee, or Ypsi to those who know it well, is located just down the road from Ann Arbor. Home to Eastern Michigan University, the city was originally a trading post set up in 1809 and called Woodruff’s Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. The name was later changed to Ypsilanti in 1829 in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti was a hero in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.
If you’ve been pronouncing Charlotte like the city in North Carolina, guess again! Shar-LOT (Not Char-lit) is located southwest of Lansing and home to some of the most beautiful historical buildings in Michigan. Charlotte annually welcomes visitors to experience the Eaton County Fair in mid-July and the pioneer spirit of the ever-popular Frontier Days in early September.
4. Bois Blanc Island
Bois Blanc Island, known as “Bob-LOW,” is located in the Straits of Mackinac, near the top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. You can reach the Island by ferry from Cheboygan, a few miles southeast of Mackinaw City. From the island’s west end, one can see the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island. You can catch a distant glimpse of the Upper Peninsula from the north shore.
The Grand Old City of southwestern Michigan. Dowagiac, pronounced Doe-WAH-jak, is nestled within the Fruit Belt, the city is surrounded by rolling farmlands and abundant orchards. Enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating, water skiing and ice fishing. Be sure to tour the historic train depot, too!
The small town of ON-on-DOG-ah is located near Lansing in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The township and community were named after the Iroquois nation of Onondaga, historically based in New York. A post office was first established at the place about 1844, with Perez Howland as the first postmaster. In 1847 Perez Howland built a grocery, where the post office was operated out of. Today, Onondaga offers man home-town restaurants and taverns for visitors to enjoy. If you’re looking for something sweet, check out Balzer Blueberries of Onondaga, a U-Pick Pure Michigan treat!
Ocqueoc is home to the largest waterfall in the Lower Peninsula. In addition to the falls, there is access to the Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway, which includes loop lengths from six miles to three miles where you’re free to hike, cross country ski or bike. “Ah-KEY-ock” is the perfect place to get lost and explore the beautiful nature of Pure Michigan.
Ontonagon County on the south shore of Lake Superior includes the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park , created in 1945. Famous locations in the park include the Lake of the Clouds, one of the most scenic spots in all of Michigan and Summit Peak Observation Tower, one of the highest points in found in the state. For history buffs, there are self-guided trails to old mining sites on the Union Mine Scenic Trail, and the Nonesuch Mine location. A trip to “On-TON-ogg-en” should be on every Michiganders bucket list!
9. Bete Grise
Beet grease, you say? Not quite! Bay-DE-Gree can be found southwest of Copper Harbor on Keweenaw County’s south shore. Bete Grise (French for “Grey Beast”) has a beautiful white sand beach as well as a wetland preserve stretching along Lake Superior.
Pronounced Kitch-ITI-kip-e (say that five times fast!) is another U.P. gem located in scenic Palms Book State Park. Known as “The Big Spring”, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring is two hundred feet across and 40 feet deep. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone as the flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies.
How many did you get correct?