Keweenaw County is a county in the Upper Peninsula of the State of Michigan. As of the2010 census, the population was 2,156, making it the least populous county in Michigan. The county seat is Eagle River.The county was set off and organized in 1861. It is said that Keweenaw is "A Native American word meaning 'portage or place where portage is made,'" See List of Michigan county name etymologies.
Keweenaw County is included in theHoughton, Michigan Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Isle Royale is a part of the county. The Keweenaw Liberty Library  is an onlinelibrary containing links to legal documents and public records it deems to be "on issues important to" Keweenaw County, Michigan, and its constituent townships as well as the Keweenaw County Road Commission, which serves as the road commission for the county. The county also is the largest county east of the Mississippi River, when its area under Lake Superior is included.
Keweenaw County is the northernmost county in Michigan. According to the 2010 census , the county has a total area of 5,966.19 square miles (15,452.4 km2), of which 540.11 square miles (1,398.9 km2) (or 9.05%) is land and 5,426.08 square miles (14,053.5 km2) (or 90.95%) is water. Of all counties (or county-equivalents) in the United States, Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area. In essence, 90.95 percent of the county consists of a significant part of Lake Superior, while only 9.05 percent is actually land. Isle Royaleis its northernmost section.
The largest lake in the county is Gratiot Lakeat 1,438 acres (5.82 km2). The lake is at the base of the county's two highest peaks, Mt. Horace Greeley at 1,550 feet (470 m) and Mt. Gratiot at 1,490 feet (450 m).
- US 41
Adjacent county (land boundary)
- Houghton County, Michigan
Adjacent counties (water boundary)
- Alger County, Michigan
- Marquette County, Michigan
- Ontonagon County, Michigan
- Cook County, Minnesota
Adjacent Canadian district (water boundary)
- Thunder Bay District, Ontario
The 2010 United States Census indicates Keweenaw County had a population of 2,156. This is a decrease of 145 people from the2000 United States Census, or a -6.3% change in population. In 2010 there were 1013 households and 614 families in the county. The population density was 4 people per square mile (2/km²). There were 2,467 housing units at an average density of 4 per square mile (2/km²). 98.5% of the population were White, 0.1% Black or African American, 0.1% Native American and 1.2% of two or more races. 0.7% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 38.8% were of Finnish, 14.0%German, 9.0% English, 6.6% French, French Canadian or Cajun and 5.7% Irish ancestry.
There were 1013 households out of which 16.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 4.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.71.
In the county the population was spread out with 17.9% under the age of 18, 5.2% from 18 to 24, 20.0% from 25 to 44, 36.0% from 45 to 64, and 24.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51.6 years. The population is 51.3% male and 48.7% female.
The median income for a household in the county was $39,821, and the median income for a family was $48,563. The per capita income for the county was $21,218. About 16.6% of families and 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.2% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.
Polished native copper nugget from Keweenaw County. Keweenaw County copper mines were important producers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The county government operates the jail, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, keeps files of deeds and mortgages, maintains vital records, administers public health regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The county board of commissioners controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions — police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc. — are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.
The Keweenaw County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Residence and Jail in Eagle River faces Lake Superior. The courthouse was built in 1866, followed by the sheriff’s residence and jail in 1886, and then remodeled in 1925. In her book Buildings of Michigan, Eckert writes:
- “Like a meetinghouse on a New England public square, and enclosed by a 3-foot (0.91 m) high public wall on the east and south sides, …transformed in 1925 into its present stark white classical appearance. The courthouse for this sparsely populated remote county is remarkable in its formality…These include the giant Doric columns with fillets and bases, a pediment forming a projecting portico, a modillioned cornice, and pedimented side dormers.” (p.481)
The courthouse still preserves its original appearance.
Sparsely-populated Keeweenaw County was a mining center in the later 19th century but in the 20th century turned into a resort community. Because of this trend, Keweenaw County is also the only Michigan county to have a lower population in the year 2000 than in 1900.
Keweenaw County elected officials
- Prosecuting Attorney: Donna Jaaskelainen
- Sheriff: Ronald J. Lahti
- County Clerk/Register of Deeds: Julie Carlson
- County Treasurer: Geri Hall
- Mine Inspector: James Kaura
(information as of June 2013)
Cities, villages, and townships
- Isle Royale National Park
- Keweenaw National Historical Park (part)
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Keweenaw County, Michigan