Which States Border Michigan?

Michigan welcome sign.
Michigan welcome sign.

The state of Michigan is ranked 22nd largest in the country in terms of land area. Once its territory in the Great Lakes is taken into account, the area increases considerably to make it 11th largest state in the country. Michigan is bordered by the Canadian province of Ontario as well as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The state also has a water border with Minnesota and Illinois.

The state capital of Michigan is Lansing and is located in the south-central part of the state. The name Michigan is derived from the term "Michi-gama,” which is an Ojibwa name referring to a "Large Lake." The state is divided into two large land segments and some islands which include the Upper Peninsula which is mineral-rich but sparsely populated and the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula which is found north of Ohio and Indiana. The Upper Peninsula extends eastward from northern Wisconsin between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The two landmasses are connected by the "Big Mac," a 5 mile Mackinac Bridge that lies across the Straits of Mackinac separating Lake Huron to the East and Lake Michigan to the West. The St. Mary's River separates the Upper Peninsula from Ontario. The state’s Lower Peninsula is separated from Ontario, a Canadian province, by Lake St. Clair and the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers.

Establishing The Borders Of Michigan

Michigan was carved out of what used to be the Northwest Territory alongside other present-day states such as Ohio and Indiana. When Ohio was admitted to the union in 1803 as a state, present-day Michigan remained in the Indiana Territory. Residents of Michigan at the time complained about being part of Indiana because Vincennes, the capital, was too far away for them. The territory was later divided to give rise to Michigan and Indiana. The state's legal boundary was later established through the 1836 Act before it attained statehood on January 12, 1837. Since Michigan became a state various issues and disputes have led some adjustments in territory that resulted in the relinquishing some of its territory to Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and gain some of the territory from Canada.

Establishing The Southern Border With Indiana

Early Indiana residents consistently pressured Congress for more access to Lake Michigan as the initial borderline limited access to the lake. Residents wanted the border to be pushed further north. The Act dividing Indiana Territory to Michigan was adopted in 1805, and it enabled Michigan to have some control over larger parts of the Lake Michigan. A petition to Congress for the establishment of the state of Indiana by the Indiana Territorial Legislature in 1815 added to the joint push by the residents to have the border pushed further north. On April 19, 1816, Congress passed the Enabling act for Indiana to become a State and pushed Indiana’s northern border 10 miles further north from the southernmost point of Lake Michigan to account for the interests of the residents of the state leading to a loss in the territory by Michigan.

The Minnesota Sliver And St Georges/Sugar Island Disputes

The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 allowed for the settlement of the border dispute with Britain and allowed Michigan to gain control of St. Mary's River Island. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty also helped settle the location of a point in Lake Superior that subsequently caused Michigan to relinquish a sliver of Lake Superior and the eastern tip of Pigeon Point to Minnesota

The Toledo Strip Dispute With Ohio

The boundary between Michigan and Ohio witnessed intense dispute in the 1830s due to two different surveys of a 468 square mile strip of land. By the year 1914 survey markers had disappeared, and natural relief markers such as the North Cape of the Maumee River had been eroded. The line was resurveyed in 1915 as a means to settle the dispute peacefully and re-marked with granite pillars. Both states then agreed to accept lines that were agreed upon by landowners on both sides of the line. That resulted in a saw-tooth shaped borderline.

The Lake Erie Triangle

The states of Ohio and Michigan were also involved in another dispute for years over the borderline in Lake Erie. The area in dispute was estimated to be about 150 square miles. The matter was decided in Ohio's favor by the US Supreme Court on February 22, 1973.

The Wisconsin Wedge

The Wisconsin Wedge dispute between the states of Michigan and Wisconsin was, as a result, faulty border description. The original description in 1836 referenced a border situation that was non-existent, for instance, Montreal River did not originate from the Lake of the Desert. The matter was settled by the US Supreme Court, which awarded the sliver of land to Wisconsin in a ruling that was delivered on November 22, 1926

Menominee River Islands

The Menominee River Islands was another point of dispute between Michigan and Wisconsin. The matter was settled by a US Supreme Court ruling that awarded the islands north of the Quebec Falls to Michigan and those to the south to Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Channel And Islands

The dispute between the state of Michigan and Wisconsin was as a result of ambiguous border description. The 1836 border description of the boundary in Lake Michigan described it as the Most Usual Ship Channel which led to confusion because two ship routes were in use at the time. The US Supreme Court settled the matter in favor of Wisconsin through a ruling that was derived in 1936. Michigan lost the Plum, Washington, and Rock islands as well as the adjoining water territory.

Current Status

At present, the state does not have significant border issues with its neighbors. The total area of the state is currently 96,713 square miles and is home to an estimated 9,883,640 people. The state is considered a mainspring of the country's economic life as it is home to Detroit, a notable economic hub in the nation and also the largest city in the state. Detroit is particularly known across the globe due to the American Automobile Industry. The state also has a notable agricultural sector that contributes considerably to the economy. The state is also a popular tourist destination in the country due to the Great Lakes as well as its vast wilderness.


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