It’s in our name, but we get it: it’s confusing.
While UpNorthNews covers all of Wisconsin, “Up North” is a specific geographic spot within our state. But where exactly? That’s up for debate…
OPTION 1: The Top Half of Wisconsin
According to the state cartographer’s office, the geographic center of Wisconsin is near Auburndale, along Highway 10, west of Stevens Point. So, geographically, everything north of Stevens Point is “Up North” by this definition.
OPTION 2: Everything North of Highway 8
In 2017, the Journal Sentinel asked readers which west-to-east highway defines the southern border of “Up North” territory. Highway 8, which runs from St. Croix Falls east through Rhinelander to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula border, won with 7,000 votes. But many people commented that Highway 29, which stretches from Chippewa Falls through Wausau to Green Bay, was omitted.
OPTION 3: Where the Northwoods Begin
Evergreens and lakes are two distinct features of Wisconsin’s Northwoods forests, which span the state’s 22 northernmost counties, including Barron, Rusk, Taylor, Lincoln, Langlade, Shawano, Oconto, and everything north of those. While only 44% of Wisconsin’s total land mass remains forested, 75% is forested in the Northwoods.
OPTION 4: North of the “Tension Zone”
According to the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, the tension zone marks the boundary between the state’s two distinct regions: the southwest (filled with oak savanna, prairie, and deciduous forest) and the northeast (filled with a mixed deciduous-coniferous forest). This zone stretches from Burnett County to Portage, then east to Outagamie and south through Kettle Moraine to Racine County.
OPTION 5: Portage’s “Where the North Begins” Sign
Portage is the state’s southernmost city to market itself as a gateway to the north, greeting visitors with a sign that reads, “Historic Portage– Where the North Begins.” The city was a gateway to the north long ago, when travelers depended on waterways to travel. In northeastern Wisconsin, Crivitz has a similar slogan, billing itself as the “Gateway to the North.”
OPTION 6: The Officially-Branded “Northwoods of Wisconsin” Cities
If you’d rather be safe than sorry, five counties have branded themselves as the Northwoods of Wisconsin: Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas. With two of those towns bordering the Upper Peninsula, it’s hard to argue they’re not “Up North.” The group even has an official website, thenorthwoodsofwisconsin.com.
OPTION 7: Wherever You Decide!
“Up North” is a way of life, not a specific spot. Most Wisconsinites head “there,” wherever that may be, to escape and slow down.