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Benzie County, Michigan facts for kids

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Benzie County
Frankfort Light
Map of Michigan highlighting Benzie County
Location within the U.S. state of Michigan
Map of the United States highlighting Michigan
Michigan's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Michigan
Founded 1863 (created)
1869 (organized)
Named for Betsie River
Seat Beulah
Largest city Frankfort
 • Total 860 sq mi (2,200 km2)
 • Land 320 sq mi (800 km2)
 • Water 540 sq mi (1,400 km2)  63%%
 • Total 17,970
 • Density 55/sq mi (21/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st

Benzie County is a county in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2020 Census, the population was 17,970. The county seat is Beulah. The county was initially set off in 1863 and organized in 1869.

The name Benzie is derived from the French la rivière aux Bec-scies, "the river of sawbills", bec-scie ("bill-saw") being a type of ducks. Americans altered the pronunciation of the river's name, which became known as the "Betsie River". A similar alteration in pronunciation produced "Benzie". At 321 square miles (831 km2), Benzie County is the smallest of the 83 counties in Michigan in terms of land area.

Benzie County is part of the Traverse City Micropolitan Statistical Area.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 860 square miles (2,200 km2), of which 320 square miles (830 km2) is land and 540 square miles (1,400 km2) (63%) is water. It is the smallest county in Michigan by land area.

Benzie County is located in the northwest of the Lower Peninsula, in the "little finger" position of the mitten-shaped peninsula and is considered to be part of the Northern Michigan region. Lake Michigan is to the west, Leelanau County and the Leelanau Peninsula are to the north. Grand Traverse County and Traverse City are to the east. Wexford County is to the southeast and Manistee County to the south. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore extends into the northwest portion of the county. Crystal Lake is a prominent physical feature of the area. The Platte River rises out of a lake district around Lake Ann in the northeast of the county and flows southwest and the northwest into Big Platte Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan at Platte River Point. The Betsie River rises in neighboring Grand Traverse County, flowing southwest across the southeast corner of the county into Manistee County, where it bends northwest until just south of Benzonia where it receives the outflow of Crystal Lake and then flows mostly west through Elberta and Frankfort and into Lake Michigan.

Portions of the Pere Marquette State Forest lie within the county and offers several trails including a 10-mile (16 km) route along the Betsie River and a 5.8-mile (9.3 km) trail near Lake Ann. There are state forest campgrounds at Platte River and Lake Ann. The Betsie River State Game Area is located just east of Elberta. 50 miles (80 km) of the Betsie River is a state-designated Natural River from Grass Lake, just west of the Grand Traverse County line, to its inlet into Lake Betsie just east of Elberta. The natural and scenic richness of the area has made it a host to a variety of conservation, education, and recreation programs, including Crystalaire, the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, and others.

Major highways

  • US 31 enters the county from the south, passes through Benzonia and Beulah on the south end of Crystal Lake before turning to exit the county to the east.
  • M-22 traverses the western edge of the county, providing a scenic drive along the shore of Lake Michigan.
  • M-115 enters the county from the south, angling northwest, and merges with US 31 for a couple of miles until Benzonia where M-115 continues west to end in Frankfort.
  • M-168 was one of the shortest state highways in Michigan, extending 0.95 miles (1.53 km) from a junction with M-22 in downtown Elberta northwest to the former Ann Arbor Railroad ferry docks.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,184
1880 3,433 57.2%
1890 5,237 52.5%
1900 9,685 84.9%
1910 10,638 9.8%
1920 6,947 −34.7%
1930 6,587 −5.2%
1940 7,800 18.4%
1950 8,306 6.5%
1960 7,834 −5.7%
1970 8,593 9.7%
1980 11,205 30.4%
1990 12,200 8.9%
2000 15,998 31.1%
2010 17,525 9.5%
2020 17,970 2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2018

As of the 2000 census, there were 15,998 people, 6,500 households, and 4,595 families residing in the county. The population density was 50 people per square mile (19/km2). There were 10,312 housing units at an average density of 32 per square mile (12/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 96.39% White, 0.28% Black or African American, 1.59% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.39% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. 1.46% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 24.0% were of German, 13.5% Polish, 9.2% Irish, 7.6% American, 6.0% British and 5.0% French ancestry. 96.8% spoke English and 1.9% Spanish as a first language.

There were 6,500 households, out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.2% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.30% were non-families. 24.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.4% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 25.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $37,350, and the median income for a family was $42,716. Males had a median income of $30,218 versus $21,730 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,524. About 4.7% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.2% of those under age 18 and 5.2% of those age 65 or over.


  • It is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord.

Historic locations

There are eight historical markers in the County:

  • Benzonia College
  • Benzonia Congregational Church
  • Bruce Catton
  • Car Ferries on Lake Michigan
  • Joyfield Cemetery
  • Marquette's Death
  • Mills Community House
  • Pacific Salmon




Census-designated places


  • Almira Township
  • Benzonia Township
  • Blaine Township
  • Colfax Township
  • Crystal Lake Township
  • Gilmore Township
  • Homestead Township
  • Inland Township
  • Joyfield Township
  • Lake Township
  • Platte Township
  • Weldon Township

Ghost towns

  • Allyn Station (Pratts)
  • Almira
  • Aral
  • Cedar Run
  • Edgewater
  • Gilmore
  • Grant House (Homestead)
  • Homestead
  • Inland
  • Joyfield
  • Kentville
  • Melva
  • Osborn
  • Oviat
  • Platte
  • Platte River (Melva)
  • Pratts
  • South Frankfort
  • Stormer
  • Success
  • Wallin
  • Weldon


Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Benzie para niños

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