is a county
located in the extreme southwest of the U.S. state
. It is included in the Niles
, Michigan Metropolitan Statistical Area
. As of the 2000 census
, the population was 162,453. The county seat
is St. Joseph
As one of the Cabinet counties
, Berrien county was named for John M. Berrien
, U.S. Attorney General
under U.S. President Andrew Jackson
Berrien county's boundaries were set off 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.
The county government operates the jail
, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, keeps files of deeds and mortgages, maintains vital records
, administers public health
regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The county board of commissioners
controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions — police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc. — are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.
Berrien County elected officials
(information as of September 2005)
The wedge-shaped county has Lake Michigan
to the west and Indiana
to the south. Van Buren County
is to the north and northeast. Cass County
is to the east.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,581 square miles (4,096 km²), of which, 571 square miles (1,479 km²) of it is land and 1,010 square miles (2,617 km²) of it (63.89%) is water.
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.
Cities, villages and townships
- 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 Business I-94 with a full cloverleaf interchange. The former route of US 31 between Berrien Springs and St. Joseph was redesignated as M-139.
Michigan State Trunklines
- 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-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-60 runs east from Niles to I-94 atJackson.
- Business M-60 routes 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-239 is only 1.1 miles long and links I-94 at exit 1 near New Buffalo to State Road 39 north of LaPorte, Indiana.
Berrien County Intercounty Highways
- 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.
As of the 2000 census
, there were 162,453 people, 63,569 households, and 43,354 families residing in the county. The population density
was 284 people per square mile (110/km²). There were 73,445 housing units at an average density of 129 per square mile (50/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 79.69% White
, 15.93% Black
or African American
, 0.43% Native American
, 1.14% Asian
, 0.04% Pacific Islander
, 1.14% from other races
, and 1.64% from two or more races. 3.01% of the population were Hispanic
of any race. 25.8% were of German
, 8.8% American
, 7.9% Irish
and 7.3% English
ancestry according to Census 2000
. 93.5% spoke English
, 3.0% Spanish
and 1.0% German
as their first language.
There were 63,569 households out of which 31.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.20% were married couples living together, 13.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.80% were non-families. 27.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the county the population was spread out with 26.00% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 27.50% from 25 to 44, 23.70% from 45 to 64, and 14.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $38,567, and the median income for a family was $46,548. Males had a median income of $36,582 versus $23,800 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,952. About 9.30% of families and 12.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.80% of those under age 18 and 9.00% of those age 65 or over.
Other parks, preserves and natural areas
- 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
- Berrien Hills Country Club – Benton Harbor
- Blossom Trails Golf Club – Benton Harbor
- Brookwood Golf Course - Buchanan
- Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club - Benton Harbor
- Lost Dunes Golf Club - Bridgman
- Oaks Golf Club – St. Joseph
- Orchard Hills Country Club - Buchanan
- Pebble Wood Country Club - Bridgman
- Point O'Woods Golf & Country Club - Benton Harbor
- Lemon Creek Winery and Fruit Farm – Baroda
- Round Barn Winery - Baroda
- Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant - Buchanan
- Antiques on the Bluff (first Sunday every month May - October, St. Joseph)
- Berrien County Youth Fair (late August, Berrien Springs)
- Blossomtime Festival (late May, multi-community)
- Coloma Glad-Peach Festival (early August, Coloma)
- Venetian Festival (mid-July, St. Joseph)