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Michigamme Highland

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About the Michigamme Highland

The Michigamme Highland is a region on the northern shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with shoreline mostly facing Lake Superior to the northeast. This region contains the Huron Mountains.

This region is underlain by diverse bedrock, including sandstone, slate, shale, gneiss, quartzite, and iron formations. Most of this rock is erosion-resistant, and is near the surface throughout the region, with numerous outcroppings and areas of thin soil. Atop this lies thin, discontinuous glacial till and varying degrees of loess (fine, wind-blown deposits.) Elevations range from 600 feet at the lakeshore to 1,978 ft (603 m) at Mount Curwood, the highest point in Michigan. There are some lakes throughout the region, which tend to be acidic and low in nutrients, and a small amount of bogs, peaty wetlands, and marshes.

The climate is towards the colder end of a humid continental climate; the higher elevation and shape of the lakeshore minimize the moderating effect of the lake. There is a narrow band of slightly-moderated climate directly adjacent to the lake, with a growing season as long as 100 days, but the climate is colder inland and has a short growing season of only 75 days. Snowfall is very high, reaching averages of 200 inches annually at higher elevations.

Originally this region was almost entirely forested, with forest types determined primarily by soil depth. Areas with exposed bedrock supported open cover of scattered eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), red pine (Pinus resinosa), and aspen. The most fire-prone ridges of bedrock supported lichen and juniper. Areas with thin soils supported balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and white spruce (Picea glauca). Deeper, well-drained soil supported hardwood forest with sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis); American beech (Fagus grandifolia) was conspicuously absent from the interior of this region, as this was towards the border of its temperature tolerance. In this forest type, beech was only found in the narrow, lake-moderated area. There was also some eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) throughout the region found together with yellow birch on the most water-retentive soils.

The forests here have been partly cleared for logging, but there are some areas of old growth in the Huron Mountains. There has also been some iron mining, leaving large open pits. Some areas have been polluted by mining waste. Most of this region is sparsely populated, and there are significant expanses of roadless areas. However, Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, is located here in the east of the region, and the smaller city of Ishpeming and several small towns are also located here.

This region is bordered to the east along the lake by the Grand Marais Lakeshore, a less rugged area with sandier soils of glacial origin and less exposed bedrock, and a slightly more moderate climate. It is bordered both inland and along the lake to the northwest by the Keweenaw-Baraga Moraines, and inland to the southwest by the Winegar Dead Ice Moraine. At the far southeast of this region, there is also a small border with the Menominee Drumlins and Ground Moraine.

References

1. Omernik, J.M., Bryce, S.A. "Michigan: Level III and IV Ecoregion Descriptions / Mapping Issues", US EPA (2007) Web.

2. Albert, Dennis A. "Regional landscape ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin: a working map and classification.", General Technical Report NC-178, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN (1995) Web.