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Berrien County, Michigan facts for kids

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Berrien County
Lighthouse at St. Joseph
Lighthouse at St. Joseph
Official seal of Berrien County
Map of Michigan highlighting Berrien 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 October 29, 1829 (created)
1831 (organized)
Named for John M. Berrien
Seat St. Joseph
Largest city Niles
 • Total 1,581 sq mi (4,090 km2)
 • Land 568 sq mi (1,470 km2)
 • Water 1,014 sq mi (2,630 km2)  64%%
 • Total 154,316
 • Density 272/sq mi (105/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 6th

Berrien County is a county on the south line of Michigan, at the southwestern corner of the state. As of the 2020 Census, the population was 154,316. The county seat is St. Joseph.

Berrien County is included in the Niles-Benton Harbor, MI Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the South Bend-Elkhart-Mishawaka, IN-MI Combined Statistical Area.


As one of the Cabinet counties, Berrien County was named for John M. Berrien of Georgia, U.S. Attorney General under U.S. President Andrew Jackson (1829–1831). The county was founded in 1829 and organized in 1831.

After creation of the Michigan Territory in 1805, the territory now comprising Berrien County was part of Wayne County, Michigan. About 1780, William Burnett came from New Jersey and established a trading post at the mouth of the St. Joseph River (present-day site of St. Joseph), and traded with indigenous peoples and French Canadians who lived in the area at that time. About the same time, Joseph Bertrand also established a trading post on the river, in a location now part of Niles Charter Township. In December 1822, missionary Isaac McCoy moved his family and 18 Indian students from Indiana to a site on the St. Joseph River near the present-day city of Niles to open a mission to the Potawatomi Indians. The Carey Mission, as he named it, was 100 miles from the nearest White settlement. In 1827 St. Joseph Township was organized as part of Wayne County. The township included all lands acquired from the Native Americans by the Treaty of Chicago of 1821.

Berrien County's boundaries were set by an act of the legislature of the Michigan Territory on October 29, 1829, with its present limits, but it was initially attached as Niles Township to Cass County for administrative purposes. In 1831 Berrien County was detached from Cass County.

The county was initially divided into three townships: Berrien Township, consisting of present-day townships of Berrien, Oronoko, and Lake plus a two-mile strip north of that territory; St. Joseph Township, consisting of everything north of Berrien Township; and Niles Township, consisting of everything south of Berrien Township.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,581 square miles (4,090 km2), of which 568 square miles (1,470 km2) is land and 1,014 square miles (2,630 km2) (64%) is water.

The county borders the state of Indiana to the South and includes a portion of Lake Michigan to the West. Van Buren County is to the north and northeast. Cass County is to the east.

The St. Joseph River is a major geographical feature, flowing mostly north and west through the county from Niles to its mouth on Lake Michigan at St. Joseph. The southwest of the county is drained by the Galien River and its tributaries. Paw Paw Lake is in the north of the county, along with the Paw Paw River, which flows into the St. Joseph River just before it enters Lake Michigan. A tiny portion along the Indiana state line is drained by small tributaries of the Kankakee River, which ultimately flows into the Mississippi River. This is one of the few areas of Michigan drained by the Mississippi River, the other being an area of Michigan's Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border.

Major highways

  • I-94 runs north along the western edge of the county, staying near Lake Michigan, until bending inland to skirt the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor urban area. It then turns east as it continues toward Kalamazoo. There is a Business Loop 94 which passes through downtown Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.
  • BL I-94 runs through the downtowns of both St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.
  • I-196 branches off of I-94 just east of Benton Harbor and continues north to Holland and then east to Grand Rapids.
  • US 12, is an east-west route crossing through the southern portion of the county from south of Niles through Three Oaks to New Buffalo and Michiana, Michigan, before leaving the state and continuing to Michigan City, Indiana.
  • US 31, which connects the area with the South Bend, Indiana, metropolitan area, enters the southeast of the county as the St. Joseph Valley Parkway, near Niles, and continues north and west. A new segment of the freeway was completed in August 2003, running from Berrien Springs north to Napier Avenue east of Benton Harbor. US 31 follows Napier Avenue west to I-94 before branching off with I-196. A final segment is planned to continue the freeway from Napier Avenue north to the junction with I-94 and BL I-94 with a full cloverleaf interchange. The former route of US 31 between Berrien Springs and St. Joseph was redesignated as M-139.
  • M-51 has its southern terminus at the state line as a continuation of State Road 933. It runs north through Niles, then turns northeast and exits the county as it continues toward Dowagiac.
  • M-60 runs east from Niles to I-94 at Jackson.

  • Bus. M‑60 is a business route that runs through the city of Niles.
  • M-62 has its western terminus at a junction with M-140 and runs only a short distance east before it exits the county as it continues toward Dowagiac.
  • M-63 has its southern terminus at a junction with M-139 (formerly US 31) in Scottdale. It runs northwest into downtown St. Joseph, then runs northeast along Lake Michigan before its northern terminus at a junction with US 31 and I-196 just south of the county boundary.
  • M-139 has its southern terminus at a junction with US 31 near Berrien Springs. It runs northwest until a junction with M-63 in Scottdale where it turns north and passes to the east of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor before reaching its northern terminus at a junction with Business Loop I-94.
  • M-140 has its southern terminus in Niles, runs north along the eastern portion of the county, and exits the county as it continues north toward South Haven.
  • M-239 is only 1.1 miles (1.8 km) long and links I-94 at exit 1 near New Buffalo to State Road 39 north of LaPorte, Indiana.
  • A-2 is Berrien's only signed county highway. Its southern terminus is in Hagar Shores at M-63 and I-196. It follows the Lake Michigan shoreline and exits the county, continuing toward South Haven.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 325
1840 5,011 1,441.8%
1850 11,417 127.8%
1860 22,378 96.0%
1870 35,104 56.9%
1880 36,785 4.8%
1890 41,285 12.2%
1900 49,165 19.1%
1910 53,622 9.1%
1920 62,653 16.8%
1930 81,066 29.4%
1940 89,117 9.9%
1950 115,702 29.8%
1960 149,865 29.5%
1970 163,875 9.3%
1980 171,276 4.5%
1990 161,378 −5.8%
2000 162,453 0.7%
2010 156,813 −3.5%
2020 154,316 −1.6%
US Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019

The 2010 United States Census indicates Berrien County had a 2010 population of 156,813. This is a decrease of 5,640 people from the 2000 United States Census, or a 3.5% population decrease. In 2010 there were 63,054 households and 41,585 families in the county. The population density was 276.2 per square mile (106.6 square kilometers). There were 76,922 housing units at an average density of 135.5 per square mile (52.3 square kilometers). 78.3% of the population were White, 15.3% Black or African American, 1.6% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.8% of some other race and 2.4% of two or more races. 4.5% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 29.0% were of German, 7.4% Irish, 6.8% English and 5.5% American ancestry.

There were 63,054 households, 29.6% of which had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.8% were husband and wife families, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 34.0% were non-families, and 28.7% were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.98.

The county population contained 23.4% under age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 23.2% from 25 to 44, 28.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 94.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males.

The 2010 American Community Survey 1-year estimate indicates the median income for a household in the county was $40,329 and the median income for a family was $51,305. Males had a median income of $26,745 versus $16,289 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,337. About 12.1% of families and 16.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.5% of those under the age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.


State parks

Other parks

  • Galien River County Park Preserve
  • Kiwanis Park – St. Joseph
  • Love Creek County Park
  • Madeline Bertrand County Park
  • Riverview Park – St. Joseph
  • Rocky Gap County Park
  • Silver Beach County Park

Resorts and beaches

Golf courses





Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities


Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Berrien (Míchigan) para niños

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Distinguished African-American Artists:
Sharif Bey
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