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Leelanau County, Michigan facts for kids

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Leelanau County
Leelanau County
Michigan's Leelanau County.jpg
Woolsey Airport.jpg
From left to right: Leelanau countryside with Sleeping Bear Dunes and Woolsey airport, near the tip of the Leelanau peninsula
Flag of Leelanau County
Official seal of Leelanau County
Map of Michigan highlighting Leelanau 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 (created)
1863 (organized)
Named for Leelanau Peninsula
Seat Suttons Bay Township
Largest settlement Greilickville
Suttons Bay (incorporated)
 • Total 2,532 sq mi (6,560 km2)
 • Land 347 sq mi (900 km2)
 • Water 2,185 sq mi (5,660 km2)  86%%
 • Total 22,301
 • Density 63/sq mi (24/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st

Leelanau County ( LEE-lə-naw) is located in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2020 Census, the population was 22,301. The county seat was until recently the unincorporated community of Leland. On August 3, 2004, county voters approved a proposal to move the county seat to Suttons Bay, closer to the county's geographic center. In 2008, the county offices completed their move to a new government center built on 45 acres (180,000 m2) of county-owned land, one mile east of the unincorporated village of Lake Leelanau, where a new county law enforcement center was completed.

Leelanau County is included in the Traverse City Micropolitan Statistical Area of northern Michigan.

In 2011, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located in the county, won the title of "Most Beautiful Place in America" in a poll by morning news show Good Morning America.


Traditionally, the county's name was said to be a Native American word meaning "delight of life", but it is a neologism made up by Indian agent and ethnographer Henry Schoolcraft, who sometimes gave the name "Leelinau" to Native American women in his tales. He created many faux Indian place names in Michigan, from syllables from Ojibwe, Latin and Arabic. This source contends that the Ojibwas did not use the letter "L". See, List of Michigan county name etymologies.

More recently, however, scholars have established that Leelinau was first used as a pen name by Henry's wife, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, in writings for The Literary Voyager, a family magazine which they wrote together in the 1820s. Jane Johnston was of Ojibwa and Scots-Irish descent, and wrote in Ojibwe and English. While her writing was not published formally in her lifetime (except as Schoolcraft appropriated it under his own name), Jane Johnston Schoolcraft has been recognized as "the first Native American literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language, and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories." In 2008 Jane Johnston Schoolcraft was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.


The county was set off in 1840, and organized in 1863.



There are twenty six wineries on the peninsula.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,532 square miles (6,560 km2), of which 347 square miles (900 km2) is land and 2,185 square miles (5,660 km2) (86%) is water. The county is coextensive with the Leelanau Peninsula.

The county has the second-highest proportion of water area of any county in the United States, behind only Keweenaw County, Michigan. Lake Leelanau is the county's largest body of inland water, formed from the Leland River dam near Leland. Glen Lake, located within the boundaries of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. A substantial portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore lies within the county's borders, including North Manitou and South Manitou Islands. Leelenau has been party to substantial efforts to protect itself from growth, and to foster a nature conservancy.


Major highways

  • M-22 is the main highway that loops around most of Leelanau County, following the Lake Michigan shoreline.
  • M-72 is a state highway that enters via the southeastern corner of the county and follows the south county line for six miles (9.7 km), then turns northwest into the southern portion of the county. M-72 runs west to its western terminus with M-22 in Empire.
  • M-109 is a highway in the northwestern part of the county. M-109 loops around the western end of Glen Lake, connecting with M-22 at both ends.
  • M-201 is a short highway from Northport, connecting to various different county roads.
  • M-204 is an east–west highway that runs across the northeastern tip of the county, connecting with M-22 at both ends.
  • M-209 is a former state trunkline that went from M-109 to the Coast Guard Life Saving Station in Glen Haven. Until it was decommissioned, it was Michigan's shortest highway.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 2,158
1870 4,576 112.0%
1880 6,253 36.6%
1890 7,944 27.0%
1900 10,556 32.9%
1910 10,608 0.5%
1920 9,061 −14.6%
1930 8,206 −9.4%
1940 8,436 2.8%
1950 8,647 2.5%
1960 9,321 7.8%
1970 10,872 16.6%
1980 14,007 28.8%
1990 16,527 18.0%
2000 21,119 27.8%
2010 21,708 2.8%
2020 22,301 2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2000 United States Census, there were 21,119 people, 8,436 households, and 6,217 families residing in the county. The population density was 61 people per square mile (23/km2). There were 13,297 housing units at an average density of 38 per square mile (15/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 93.52% White, 0.25% Black or African American, 3.66% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.34% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. 3.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 23.3% were of German, 11.5% English, 9.9% Polish, 9.0% Irish, 6.0% French and 5.2% American ancestry. 95.1% spoke English and 2.9% Spanish as their first language.

There were 8,436 households, out of which 29.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.60% were married couples living together, 7.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.30% were non-families. 22.30% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 2.89.

The county population contained 24.40% under the age of 18, 5.70% from 18 to 24, 24.20% from 25 to 44, 28.30% from 45 to 64, and 17.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $47,062, and the median income for a family was $53,228. Males had a median income of $35,719 versus $25,778 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,686. About 3.30% of families and 5.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.40% of those under age 18 and 4.50% of those age 65 or over.


  • Leelanau County is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord
  • Leelanau County is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.
  • There are no meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Leelanau County. The nearest is in Traverse City, just over the south county line.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


Notable people

  • The northernmost village of Northport and surrounding Leelanau Township have achieved fame as an area where the rich and famous can live quietly and anonymously. According to the Leelanau Visitors Guide: "Chef Mario Batali lives north of town at Cathead point, and comedian and actor Tim Allen routinely spent summers in Northport until his divorce. Financier Mark Spitznagel summers in Northport Point, a posh community just outside the village."

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