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Kalkaska County, Michigan facts for kids

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Kalkaska County
Kalkaska County Government Offices in Kalkaska
Kalkaska County Government Offices in Kalkaska
Map of Michigan highlighting Kalkaska 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 1840 (established)
1871 (organized)
Seat Kalkaska
Largest village Kalkaska
 • Total 571 sq mi (1,480 km2)
 • Land 560 sq mi (1,500 km2)
 • Water 11 sq mi (30 km2)  1.9%%
 • Total 17,939
 • Density 31/sq mi (12/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st

Kalkaska County is located in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2020 Census, the population was 17,939. The county seat is Kalkaska.

Kalkaska County is included in the Traverse City Micropolitan Statistical Area. Although it is located on Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Kalkaska County is considered part of Northern Michigan.

Etymology of the name Kalkaska

The county's name is a pseudo-Native American word coined by Henry Schoolcraft, a Michigan geographer and ethnologist. The name Kalkaska is thought to be a Chippewa word meaning flat or burned-over country. An alternative theory is that this is a neologism or neonym created by Henry Schoolcraft, originally spelled Calcasca. Some theorists suggest this is word play. Schoolcraft's family name had been Calcraft, and the Ks may have been added to make the name appear more like a Native American word.


1842 Leelenaw Omeena Negissee Wabbassee Okkuddo Shawwano counties Michigan
A detail from A New Map of Michigan with its Canals, Roads & Distances (1842) by Henry Schenck Tanner, showing Kalkaska County as "Wabbassee" (a misspelling of Wabassee, the county's name from 1840 to 1843.) Several nearby counties are also shown with names that would later be changed.

The county was formed in 1840 and called Wabassee County until 1843. The first settler in Kalkaska County was an Englishman named William Copeland, who purchased land in the northwest corner of the county in 1855. Logging was the first important industry. The discovery of substantial deposits of oil and natural gas resulted in the construction of a processing plant by Shell Oil Company in 1973 and a major economic boom in the community.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 571 square miles (1,480 km2), of which 560 square miles (1,500 km2) is land and 11 square miles (28 km2) (1.9%) is water.

Kalkaska Sand, the state soil of Michigan, was named after the county because of the large amounts deposited in the area from the glaciers in the Ice Age.

Kalkaska County has over 80 lakes and 275 miles (443 km) of streams and rivers. Much of the county is marshland. County elevation ranges from 595 feet (181 m) to about 1,246 feet (380 m). This makes it one of the more uneven counties in the Lower Peninsula.

The Pere Marquette State Forest covers much of the county. Glaciers shaped the area, creating a unique regional ecosystem. A large portion of the area is the so-called Grayling outwash plain, which consists of broad outwash plain including sandy ice-disintegration ridges; jack pine barrens, some white pine-red pine forest, and northern hardwood forest. Large lakes were created by glacial action.



Major highways

  • US 131
  • M-66
  • M-72

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 424
1880 2,937 592.7%
1890 5,160 75.7%
1900 7,133 38.2%
1910 8,097 13.5%
1920 5,577 −31.1%
1930 3,799 −31.9%
1940 5,159 35.8%
1950 4,597 −10.9%
1960 4,382 −4.7%
1970 5,272 20.3%
1980 10,952 107.7%
1990 13,497 23.2%
2000 16,571 22.8%
2010 17,153 3.5%
2020 17,939 4.6%
US Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2018

As of the 2010 United States Census there were 16,571 people, 6,428 households, and 4,634 families residing in the county. The population density was 30 people per square mile (11/km2). There were 10,822 housing units at an average density of 19 per square mile (7/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 98.44% White, 0.21% Black or African American, 0.78% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.10% from other races, 0.86% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 24.6% were of German, 12.4% English, 10.4% Irish, 10.0% American, 6.3% Polish and 5.1% French ancestry. 98.8% spoke English as their first language.

There were 6,428 households, out of which 31.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.60% were married couples living together, 9.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.90% were non-families. 22.30% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.95.

The county population contained 25.60% under the age of 18, 7.60% from 18 to 24, 28.60% from 25 to 44, 24.50% from 45 to 64, and 13.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,072, and the median income for a family was $39,932. Males had a median income of $31,860 versus $20,455 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,309. About 8.20% of families and 10.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.20% of those under age 18 and 7.00% of those age 65 or over.


The National Trout Festival is a festival held every year at the end of April. First celebrated in 1936, festivities include a parade, carnival, kids trout fishing contest, demolition derby, rodeo and livestock fair, among other things. It is a time when the community members and businesses come together to celebrate the heritage and sportsmanship of Kalkaska.



Census-designated places


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