Early Native Americans had it right. They were the first cultural group drawn to Leelanau County, now a backdrop to poets, painters and a great seasonal influx of visitors, and nearly 20,000 residents who call the peninsula home.
Dramatic Lake Michigan vistas, deep blue lakes and temperate climate were cause enough for its first inhabitants to dub the land as lee-lan-au, or the "Land of Delight."
The Leelanau Enterprise serves as the county's official newspaper, so it's only natural that we'd want to boast of our community. You never know where you'll be when someone will sing the praise of Leelanau County.
By the numbers, Leelanau:
• Is 341 square miles, or 218,240 acres.
• Includes 100 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 33 inland lakes which cover 8 percent of its land mass. Glen Lake and Lake Leelanau are perhaps the crown jewels of Leelanau County, providing recreation and much-sought residential sites.
• Became a county in 1863. After a fire suspected as arson, the county seat was moved to Leland in 1883. Voters in 2006 authorized another change, and now the County Seat is located in a new building off M-204 between Suttons Bay and Lake Leelanau. It's officially located in Suttons Bay Township.
• Is 40 percent wooded and 24 percent in agriculture. When you think of Leelanau, think of fruits in general, and cherries in the specific. The county contains the best environment in the world for tart cherries, its rolling terrain shrugging off early frosts to lengthen its growing season.
• Has about 50 residents per square mile. The county's population grew 28.8 percent between 1970 and 1980, and 18.8 percent during the next ten years. It's likely that about 20,000 folks call Leelanau home today.
• Is home to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, which operate one of the finest casinos in Michigan at Peshawbestown. A portion of revenues from gambling are annually donated back to local governments, with more than $1 million provided most recently.
• Is warmer than most of the rest of Michigan, with the average daily high in the winter rising to 33 degrees. Other seasonal highs are 64 degrees in the spring, 77 in the summer and 45 in the fall.
You can't talk about Leelanau without mentioning its recreational opportunities.
The county is home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which encompasses 44,950 acres. The national park includes much of the southwestern portion of the county and North and South Manitou islands. Visitors will find opportunities for hiking, fishing, visiting historic villages and farms and of course the magnificent vistas preserved by the park.
The county is also home to state-owned Leelanau State Park north of Northport (which includes the historic Grand Traverse lighthouse), and 5,000 acres preserved as part of the Pere Marquette State Forest in south-central Leelanau County.
But the numbers of Leelanau County fall far short of explaining its personality. How can you calculate the community support for the Cedar Polish Fest, the wine festivals of Leland and Northport, Anchor Days in Empire or the Jazz Festival in Suttons Bay? With strong ethnic representation in the county's small villages, a committed community of churches and some of the finest small schools in Michigan, Leelanau has much to offer visitors and residents alike.
We consider it the finest place to live, work and play in America. We said we were going to boast a little.