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 “Mackinaw 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!
2. Tahquamenon. One of Michigan’s most popular waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, can be found in the Upper Peninsula in appropriately named Paradise, MI. If you’ve ever wondered how to correctly pronounce the falls, it rhymes with “phenomenon.”
3. Ypsilanti. 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.
4. Menominee. Menominee (Men-om-in-e) is located at the gateway between the Upper Peninsula and Northeastern Wisconsin. This Pure Michigan destination gets its name from a regional Native American tribe known as the Menominee, which translates into “Wild Rice.” The area was originally the home of the Menominee Indian Tribe, who now have a reservation along Wolf River in Northern Wisconsin. Visitors can enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking and much more.
5. Sault Ste. Marie. The Soo! If you’ve traveled north of the Mackinac Bridge, you’ve probably passed through the town of Soo-Saynt-Ma-Ree. The Soo is home to many Michigan treasures, such as the Soo Locks and Lake Superior State University. If you do venture north, you’ll discover the rushing waterfalls that give way to majestic forests, rocky coastlines leading to picturesque lighthouses and engineering feats of man stand side-by-side with small fishing skiffs and buckets of bait.
6. Hamtramck. Hamtramck (Ham-tram-ick) grew into a Polish enclave between 1910 and 1920 when large number of Polish laborers arrived seeking employment. Today, Hamtramck includes many different ethnic groups, but maintains its Polish identify as can be found in the shops, restaurants and bakeries in the area with a pierogi and a paczki.
7. Kitch-iti-kipi. Pronounced Kitch-i-tee-ki-pee (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.
8. Dowagiac. The Grand Old City of southwestern Michigan. Dowagiac, pronounced doe-wah-jack, 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!
9. Charlotte. 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.
10. Bete Grise. Beet grease, you say? Not quite! Bay-dee-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.
11. Baraga. Bare-uh-gah is named after Bishop Frederick Baraga, located in Baraga County in the Western Upper Peninsula. Check out the statue of Bishop Baraga, which stands 35 feet tall and weighs four tons, holding a cross (7 feet high) and snowshoes (26 feet long.) It floats on a cloud of stainless steel, supported by five laminated wood beams representing Baraga’s five major missions.
12. Isle Royale. Last but not least, Isle Royal (Not roy-ale!) Wolves and moose, the wild North Woods forest, ever-changing weather and a cool climate, and the crystal clear waters and rugged shoreline of Lake Superior characterize Isle Royale’s National Park. Roadless Isle Royale is accessible only by boat or float plane. This is a Pure Michigan destination fit for royalty – if you love the outdoors!
Do you have any Michigan tongue-twisters to add to our list? Tell us below!