is a county
in the U.S. state
. It is part of the Traverse City, Michigan
, Micropolitan Statistical Area
. As of the 2000 census
, the population was 15,998. The county seat
. The name "Benzie" is derived from the French Riviere Aux-Bec Scies
or "river of sawbill ducks" (bec-scie
). Americans altered the pronunciation of the river's name, which became known as the "Betsie River
". A similar alteration in pronunciation produced "Benzie". The county was initially set off in 1863, and organized in 1869.
Benzie County, Michigan's smallest in terms of land area, is located in the northwest of the Lower Peninsula
, in the "little finger" position of the mitten-shaped peninsula and is considered to be part of the Northern Michigan
region. Lake Michigan
is to the west, Leelanau County
and the Leelanau Peninsula
are to the north. Grand Traverse County
and Traverse City
are to the east. Wexford County
is to the southeast and Manistee County
to the south. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
extends into the northwest portion of the county. Crystal Lake
is a prominent physical feature of the area. The Platte River
rises out of a lake district around Lake Ann
in the northeast of the county and flows southwest and the northwest into Platte Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan at Platte River Point. The Betsie River
rises in neighboring Grand Traverse County, flowing southwest across the southeast corner of the county into Manistee County, where it bends northwest until just south of Benzonia where it receives the outflow of Crystal Lake and then flows mostly west through Elberta and Frankfort and into Lake Michigan.
Portions of the Pere Marquette State Forest lie within the county and offers several trails including a 10 mile route along the Betsie River and a 5.8 mile trail near Lake Ann. There are state forest campgrounds at Platte River and Lake Ann. The Betsie River State Game Area is located just east of Elberta. 50 miles of the Betsie River is a state-designated Natural River from Grass Lake, just west of the Grand Traverse County line, to its inlet into Lake Betsie just east of Elberta.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 860 square miles (2,226 km²), of which, 321 square miles (832 km²) of it is land and 538 square miles (1,394 km²) of it (62.62%) is water.
- US 31 enters the county from the south, passes through Benzonia and Beulah on the south end of Crystal Lake before turning to exit the county on the east side.
Michigan State Trunklines
- M-22 traverses the western edge of the county, providing a scenic drive along the shore of Lake Michigan.
- M-115 enters the county from the south, angling northwest, and merges with US 31 for a couple of mile until Benzonia where M-115 continues west to end in Frankfort.
- M-168 is one of the shortest state highways in Michigan, extending 0.95 miles from a junction with M-22 in downtown Elberta northwest to the former Ann Arbor Railroad ferry docks.
As of the 2000 census
, there were 15,998 people, 6,500 households, and 4,595 families residing in the county. The population density
was 50 people per square mile (19/km²). There were 10,312 housing units at an average density of 32 per square mile (12/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.39% White
, 0.28% Black
or African American
, 1.59% Native American
, 0.16% Asian
, 0.01% Pacific Islander
, 0.39% from other races
, and 1.19% from two or more races. 1.46% of the population were Hispanic
of any race. 24.0% were of German
, 13.5% Polish
, 9.2% Irish
, 7.6% American
, 6.0% Polish
and 5.0% French
ancestry according to Census 2000
. 96.8% spoke English
and 1.9% Spanish
as a first language.
There were 6,500 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.2% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.30% were non-families. 24.1% 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 2.42 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the county the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 25.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $37,350, and the median income for a family was $42,716. Males had a median income of $30,218 versus $21,730 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,524. About 4.7% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.2% of those under age 18 and 5.2% of those age 65 or over.
Population in 1990: 12,200
There are eight historical markers in the County:
- Benzonia College
- Benzonia Congregational Church
- Bruce Catton
- Car Ferries on Lake Michigan
- Joyfield Cemetery
- Marquette's Death
- Mills Community House
- Pacific Salmon
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
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.
Benzie County elected officials
(information as of September 2005)
Cities, villages, and townships
Benzie County contains a number of ghost towns:
- Allyn Station (Pratts)
- Bendon (Kentville)
- Cedar Run
- Grant House (Homestead)
- Platte River (Melva)
- South Frankfort