With extensive portions of the Great Lakes under its jurisdiction, Michigan is the 11th largest of the U.S. states, with an area of 250,493 sq km (96,716 sq mi). The state includes 99,199 sq km (38,301 sq mi) of the Great Lakes waters and 4,172 sq km (1,611 sq mi) of inland waters. The Lower Peninsula encompasses a little more than two-thirds of the state’s land area. The Lower Peninsula is sometimes called the Michigan Mitten, because its shape resembles a mittened hand, with the peninsula extending into Lake Huron known as the Thumb. Maximum distances in the Lower Peninsula are about 460 km (about 285 mi) from north to south and about 315 km (about 195 mi) from east to west; maximum distances in the Upper Peninsula are about 515 km (about 320 mi) from east to west and about 200 km (about 125 mi) from north to south. The shapes and separation of the two peninsulas make distances great in Michigan. The distance from Detroit to the westernmost portion of the Upper Peninsula is the same as the distance from Detroit to New York City. Until 1957, when a bridge 8 km (5 mi) long was opened over the Straits of Mackinac, the two peninsulas were connected only by ferry service.
Michigan contains portions of two major physiographic provinces, or natural regions of the United States. They are the Central Lowland, a subdivision of the Interior Plains, and the Superior Upland, a subdivision of the Laurentian Upland. All of the Lower Peninsula and the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula belong to the Great Lakes section of the Central Lowland. Structurally most of this part of Michigan is a basin, which is sometimes referred to as the Michigan Basin. Flat plains, which mark the bottom of an Ice Age lake, surround the basin bordering the Great Lakes, especially in the east. The western margin of the Lower Peninsula is marked by an extensive area of sand dunes, which have been piled up by the prevailing westerly winds off Lake Michigan.
The Lower Peninsula’s highest points are found in its northern section, where a tableland, capped by hills of glacial origin, ranges in elevation from 370 to 520 m (1,200 to 1,700 ft). Most of the rest of southern Michigan is level or gently rolling. The mean elevation above sea level of Michigan is about 270 m (900 ft).
The eastern half of the Upper Peninsula is also fairly level, but there are vast areas of swampland formed when glacial action hindered drainage of the area. Along its northern border, on the shore of Lake Superior, are sandstone tablelands, from which have been carved the Pictured Rocks, one of Michigan’s most interesting natural features. Moisture has released the chemicals embedded in this sandstone formation to color the rocks in hues of yellow, brown, green, and blue. Glacial, wind, and water action has eroded them into fantastic shapes. Another pronounced feature of the Upper Peninsula is the Niagara Escarpment.
Running along the southern edge of the peninsula’s eastern wing is a belt of limestone hills, which stand out because the weaker rocks of the surrounding area have been worn away through erosion. The Niagara Escarpment extends westward from New York, forming a continuous horseshoelike landform around Lakes Huron and Michigan. The many peninsulas and islands that lie between the basins of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay are exposed sections of the Niagara Escarpment, which generally rises to heights of 240 to 300 m (800 to 1,000 ft) in Michigan.
The Superior Upland, in the western portion of the Upper Peninsula, is a region of ancient and resistant Precambrian time rock. Repeated glacial invasions have removed much of the sedimentary deposits of sandstone and limestone, leaving granite, gneiss, and other igneous and metamorphic rock exposed. Streams are generally short with many rapids and falls, especially those that flow into Lake Superior. Lakes and swamps are abundant. Michigan’s most important copper ore-bearing region, the Keweenaw Peninsula, juts north into Lake Superior in the western part of the Upper Peninsula. The backbone of the Keweenaw Peninsula is formed by an extension of the Copper Range of Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Huron Mountains and the Porcupine Mountains, containing the state’s highest elevation of 603 m (1,979 ft) atop Mount Arvon, lie south and west of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The iron-bearing Gogebic Range is also in the Superior Upland, as is the Menominee Iron Range. "Michigan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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