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Grand Ledge, Michigan
Location of Grand Ledge, Michigan
Location of Grand Ledge, Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
Counties Eaton, Clinton
 • Total 3.65 sq mi (9.45 km2)
 • Land 3.57 sq mi (9.25 km2)
 • Water 0.08 sq mi (0.21 km2)
Elevation 833 ft (254 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 7,786
 • Estimate (2014) 7,792
 • Density 2,181.0/sq mi (842.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 48837
Area code(s) 517
FIPS code 26-33420
GNIS feature ID 0627094
Grand ledges
Sandstone and quartzite ledges in Grand Ledge

Grand Ledge is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city lies mostly within Eaton County, though a small portion extends into Clinton County, and sits above the Grand River 12.7 miles (20.4 kilometers) directly west of downtown Lansing. The population was 7,786 at the 2010 census. The city is well known for, and named for, its 300-million-year-old, sandstone and quartzite rock ledges that rise 60 feet (18 m) above the Grand River and are used by recreational rock climbers.


Native American Settlement

Native Americans who lived in the vicinity of the Grand River near the ledges were of Pottawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa ancestry. They dug clams in the river, mined coal on the river banks, and hunted for deer, turkey, fox, and bear. They also fished for black bass. Their name for the ledges translated into English as "Big Rocks".

White Settlement

Based on early records, Hugh Heward was the first white man to explore this area by river and record his findings. His journal describes the sandstone ledges as having high banks, some pine trees and heavy woods with the finest places possible for making syrup and several small islands. In 1847 Henry Trench settled in what would later become downtown Grand Ledge. However, after a few years he returned east. In 1850 settlers named their village Grand Ledge, and erected a Post Office. By 1869, a railroad reached to the north end of the village. In 1871, the village was incorporated by the state of Michigan.

Resort Era

The 1870s saw the rise of Grand Ledge as a Michigan resort destination. Following the arrival of the railroad, John Burtch founded the Seven Islands Resort in 1872. The resort opened with the Dolly Varden steamer and a small boarding house on Second Island. Several mineral wells were also drilled and a local physician expounded on the medicinal qualities of the water. In 1877 S.M. Hewings purchased the Seven Islands Resort and the following year built the Island House Hotel on Second Island. In 1880 Julian Scott Mudge purchased the Seven Islands Resort. To minimize the flood damage from the Grand River, Mudge built a new dam in 1887. In 1888 the Railroad Trestle or High Bridge was built to bring the railroad south of the river and Grand Ledge became the second city in Michigan, after Lansing, to get electric lights. By that time an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 visitors come to the Seven Islands Resort each year.

Golden Age

In 1891 Mudge built a roller coaster on the Islands. This is believed to be the first coaster in Michigan. Located on the first island below the bridge was an animal park with bears and deer. The second island became the centerpiece of the resort activities and hosted a hotel with a square Victorian tower, picnic area and fountain. The second and third islands were joined together by means of a causeway and a large pavilion was constructed which served as a ballroom and theatre for first run Vaudeville acts. The Resort also featured a merry-go-round and a bandstand. Mudge’s most notable improvement was the construction of the building he called “The Round House”. This three-story pagoda tower was built right on the edge of Second Island; half of the tower foundation was on the island and half was built out into the river. During the construction he kept the purpose of the unusual structure secret. This caused much speculation in the local community. Mudge eventually revealed his grand plans behind the design of his Round House. The tower was designed to have the second story rotate at a slow speed, while the third story rotated faster and was topped by a centrifugal swing that would whirl the adventurous rider out over the river. The fourth, fifth, and sixth islands were left wild and the seventh was a favorite picnic spot by boaters. As many as 75 boats plied the Grand River at Grand Ledge and side-wheel river boats steamed up and down the river between the second island and the dam. The dam, constructed in 1887, ensured the proper water level for the operation of steamboats. As many as nine hotels provided accommodations for visitors and the Pere Marquette Railroad offered excursion rates to the Seven Island Resort which, according to early records, was second in popularity only to Petoskey.

The Spring Flood of '93 and Mudge's Folly

A devastating flood damaged the Round House in 1893. At the very final stages of construction during a devastating spring flood large chunks of winter ice pushed the building off its foundation and it nearly toppled over. Although the building was saved, the mechanics of theatroyed and the potential of the building never came to be. The Round House remained however and became the most recognizable symbol of the entire resort era. “The building has come to be called Mudge’s Folly. This has a double meaning. While a folly can be a costly and foolish undertaking, it can also describe a picturesque structure built as an ornament, but without a real purpose.”.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.65 square miles (9.45 km2), of which 3.57 square miles (9.25 km2) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.21 km2) is water.



  • M-43 connects to nearby Lansing to the east.
  • M-100 serves as a connector to I-96 to the north and I-69 to the south.


Abrams Municipal Airport (FAA LID: 4D0) is a city-owned, public-use airport located two nautical miles (3.7 km) north of the central business district of Grand Ledge. The airport is accessible by road from Eaton Highway, and is located 2.1 miles (3.4 km) south of Interstate 96, just east of M-100.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,387
1890 1,606 15.8%
1900 2,161 34.6%
1910 2,893 33.9%
1920 3,043 5.2%
1930 3,572 17.4%
1940 3,899 9.2%
1950 4,506 15.6%
1960 5,165 14.6%
1970 6,032 16.8%
1980 6,920 14.7%
1990 7,579 9.5%
2000 7,813 3.1%
2010 7,786 −0.3%
Est. 2015 7,791 0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 7,786 people, 3,357 households, and 2,063 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,181.0 inhabitants per square mile (842.1/km2). There were 3,656 housing units at an average density of 1,024.1 per square mile (395.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.4% White, 0.9% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.6% of the population.

There were 3,357 households of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.5% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.93.

The median age in the city was 38.8 years. 24.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.7% were from 25 to 44; 27% were from 45 to 64; and 14.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 7,813 people, 3,262 households, and 2,123 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,199.2 per square mile (849.8/km²). There were 3,405 housing units at an average density of 958.4 per square mile (370.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.33% White, 0.44% African American, 0.40% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.78% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.61% of the population.

There were 3,262 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.2% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.9% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 92.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,043, and the median income for a family was $55,727. Males had a median income of $44,255 versus $29,503 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,438. About 6.3% of families and 9.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.5% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.

Rock climbing

Grand Ledge Climbing 2008
Popular rock climbing route Doug's Roof

Oak Park in Grand Ledge is one of the few places to climb in Michigan, making it a popular destination for local climbers. The sandstone cliffs along the river have nearly 100 routes ranging from basic (5.2) to very difficult (5.13).

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