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Alpena ( ) is a city in the U.S. state of Michiganmarker and the county seat of Alpena Countymarker. It is considered to be part of Northern Michigan. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is located offshore near the city. The population was 11,304 at the 2000 census. The population swells with a large number of visitors in the summer.

Despite its small population, it is by far the largest city in the sparsely-populated Northeast Michigan (lower peninsula) area, serving as its commercial and cultural hub. It is considered to be one of the two anchor cities of Northern Michigan, along with Traverse Citymarker. The Alpena Regional Medical Center is a federally-designated rural regional medical referral center, and is the largest employer in the city.


The region, known as the "Sunrise Side" from its location on the east shoreline of Michigan, was first a site of commercial fishing activity and is still home to extensive commercial fishing activities. Later the region, like much of Michigan, was shaped by the logging era of the 1800s. Today, Alpena is known for its limestone quarry, one of the largest in the world, owned and operated by the Lafarge corporation and is a major cement manufacturer and exporter. Alpena is also the world headquarters of Besser Company, a manufacturer of concrete block machines. Tourism (fishing, hunting, camping and a variety of water sports) is also important to Alpena's economy. Alpena is also home to the NAHL's Alpena IceDiggers.

In February 2007 Bizjournals ranked Alpena as the hottest retirement destination in the Great Lakes area and #44 nationally.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.5 km2 (9.1 sq mi). 8.4 square miles (21.7 km2) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) of it (7.71%) is water. The city is on the shore of Lake Huronmarker's Thunder Bay, with Alpena Townshipmarker surrounding it on land.

Access to natural resources and water transportation has been important in development of the community. Light stations and lighthouses surround Alpena. Several islands off the coast in Thunder Bay are part of the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and Scarecrow Island is part of the Michigan Islands Wilderness Area. Charitymarker, Little Charity, Scarecrow, and Thunder Bay Islands form the Lake Huronmarker division of the Michigan Islands NWR. There are lighthouses on Charitymarker (abandoned) and Thunder Bay Islands.



Alpena County Regional Airportmarker (IATA: APN, ICAO: KAPN, FAA LID: APN) is the northeast lower peninsula of Michigan's main commercial airport and handles daily Northwest Airlink flights to Detroitmarker and Sault Ste.marker Mariemarker operated by Mesaba Airlines. It is a public-use airport located in Wilson Township, Michigan six miles (10 km) west of the central business district of Alpena. The Michigan Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center co-utilizes the airfield.


Alpena is situated along the Lake State Railway, formerly the Detroit and Mackinac Railway (D&M). Earlier railroads that served Alpena were built and owned by the Alger Smith and Co. logging company: (1) the Detroit, Bay City and Alpena Railroad which entered Alpena from the south around 1886; and (2) the Alpena and Northern Railroad.

Major highways

US 23 serves Alpena on its way along the Lake Huronmarker shoreline. It has been designated the "Sunrise Side Coastal Highway", and runs along (or parallels) the Lake Huron shore. To the north, it passes Grand Lakemarker and Long Lakemarker, then to Rogers Citymarker, through Cheboyganmarker, and on to Mackinaw Citymarker, where it ends at I-75 and the Mackinac Bridgemarker. On US-23 as it crosses Squaw Bay just south of Alpena exists a sign which notes that it rests on the 45th parallel, indicating travelers are halfway between the equator and the North Pole. This is one of This is one of 29 places (six are in Michigan) in the U.S.A. where such signs are known to exist.
M-32 ends its easterly route from Lake Michiganmarker to Lake Huron traversing the northern lower peninsula within downtown Alpena at the intersection of US 23.
M-65 is a few miles west of town, but is a more direct route to the south than US-23, which meanders along the lake shore through many villages and towns.


As of the census of 2000, there were 11,304 people, 4,874 households, and 2,865 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,348.9 per square mile (520.8/km2). There were 5,200 housing units at an average density of 620.5/sq mi (239.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.66% White, 0.42% African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.48% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.09% from other races, and 0.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.59% of the population.

There were 4,874 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.2% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,353, and the median income for a family was $40,056. Males had a median income of $34,534 versus $21,951 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,476. About 10.4% of families and 13.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.


Alpena, along with the rest of Alpena County and portions of Presque Isle Countymarker, is served by Alpena Public Schools. Alpena Public Schools was established as the first county-wide school district in the state of Michigan. The district has one high school, a junior high, an alternative/adult high school, and eight elementary schools.

Alpena is also home to Alpena Community College. ACC is a two-year associates program that has partnerships with Spring Arbor University (MI) and several other Michigan institutions. Within Alpena Community College is the World Center for Concrete Technology (WCCT). The WCCT draws a worldwide enrollment of students for classes in Concrete Technology that is unparalleled anywhere else, even including a Master Blockmakers Degree for 5-class-accomplished students.


While tourism is an important component of the area's economy, both Alpena and Rogers Citymarker have an industrial base. In particular, Alpena is home to the LaFarge Company's cement plant and to Besser Block Co. (maker of a concrete block making machinery), as well as a drywall board manufacturing facility owned by Decorative Panels International. Rogers City is the location of the world's largest limestone quarry, which is used in steel making in the Great Lakes and Rust Belt regions.

Alpena's primary shopping center is the Alpena Mall, a small enclosed shopping mall featuring approximately 20 stores, with JCPenney as the anchor store.

Historical markers

There are seven recognized historical markers in the city:

  • Alpena City Hall
  • Alpena County Courthouse
  • The Daniel Carter Family, Alpena'a first settlers.
  • First Congregational Church [Alpena]
  • Monarch Mill
  • St. Bernard Catholic Church
  • World's Largest Cement Plant




Alpena is home to several radio stations.


Call Sign Frequency Format City Broadcast From
WHAK 960 Country Rogers Citymarker
WATZ 1450 Talk/News Alpena


Call Sign Frequency Format City Broadcast From
WPHN 90.5 Religious Gaylordmarker
WCML 91.7 Public Alpena
WFDX 92.5 Classic Hits Atlantamarker
WKJZ 94.9 Classic Hits Hillmanmarker
WATZ 99.3 Country Alpena
WHAK 99.9 Oldies Rogers Citymarker
WWTH 100.7 Country Oscodamarker
WMJZ 101.5 Adult Hits Gaylord
WKJC 104.7 Country Tawas Citymarker
WHSB 107.7 Hot AC Alpena


Alpena is the third smallest Nielsen Designated Market Area in the United States.

There is only one VHF Television station located within the :

Rebroadcasts of other television stations include:

Cable only television:

Canadian television available on cable only:

Northeast Michigan is also served by major network affiliates in the and DMAs. Cable television service is provided within Alpena and many outlying communities by Charter Communications.

Alpena in popular culture

  • The 1991 feature film Not Without My Daughter starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina was based upon the true story of Betty Mahmoody who was living in Alpena in 1984 during the events surrounding the film and novel of the same name.
  • Bruce Willis and the film crew of Die Hard 2 used Alpena's airportmarker to shoot several scenes of the film. Although the location was selected because snow was expected to be integral to the movie (and was moved from Denvermarker's Stapleton Airportmarker which had no snow, a dearth of precipitation in Alpena necessitated the use of artificial snow.
  • The nearby novelty attraction in Ossinekemarker features "Dinosaur Gardens" a handmade collection of prehistoric animals and dinosaurs was featured in the book Roadside America
  • In the Home Improvement episode "Twas the Flight Before Christmas," Tim (Tim Allen) and Al (Richard Karn) get stuck at the Alpena Airport. This prevents them from attending the Elf Parade they are supposed to lead, and spoils Tim's chances of getting a last-minute Christmas gift for Jill.

Notable residents

There are a great many citizens, too numerous to list here, who were important in founding Alpena, and making Alpena grow and prosper over the years.

Several notable people were born in, or have lived in, Alpena:

Annual cultural and sporting events

There are many recurring local activities. A calendar is available.
  • Alpena Blues Festival, late June at The Alpena Fair Grounds and Merchant Building.
  • Alpena County Fair, Alpena County Fairgrounds.
  • Besser Museum Log Cabin Day, last Sunday in June. Approved by the Michigan legislature passed a bill to make Log Cabin Day an annual event to be held on the last Sunday in June. The Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan spotlights their own two log cabins on this day and celebrates by offering old fashioned, family-pleasing activities.
  • Garden Walk fundraiser for Shelter, Inc, nine gardens in July.
  • Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival second weekend in October, which provides funding and support for lighthouses
  • Habitat for Humanity-Alpena Area "Drive to Build" Charity Golf Outing
  • Hillman Street Drags, first weekend in July, downtown, Hillman, Michigan.
  • Lafarge Downtown Alpena Riverfest, in mid-June. Family event centered on the Thundre Bay River, celebrating Alpena's lumbering history. Professional lumberjack shows, entertainment, music, storytelling, chainsaw carving, food, fun and games.
  • Michigan Brown Trout Festival, a week in mid-July.
  • Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show, mid-June.
  • Ramblin' Rods Car Show, second weekend in August at Mich-E-Kewis Park, Alpena.
  • Sunrise Side Heritage Bike Ride, first weekend in September. Ride Along Lake Huronmarker Shoreline (US 23) from the Arenac Countymarker fairgrounds to Mackinac Bridgemarker then South to West Branch on M-33 and M-55 . This is a 400 mile long organized ride.
  • Thunder Bay Arts Council's "Art on the Bay" at beautiful Bay View Park in Alpena. A Juried Fine Arts and Fine Crafts Fair which coincides with The Michigan Brown Trout Festival.
  • Thunder Bay Lanes has hosted a long-running annual 6-man team Ten-pin bowling tournament in March. It also occasionally hosts the Northern Michigan Men's and Women's championships.
  • Thunder Bay Maritime Festival is presented by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve in Alpena, MI.

Local cultural and eleeomosynary institutions

Thunder Bay Theater
  • Thunder Bay Theatre is northeast Michigan's only professional theatrical group, and regularly presents productions.
  • Youth Sailing Instruction and Training is offered by the Alpena Yacht Club.

Local museums and landmarks

See also


  1. Alpena Regional Medical Center
  2. Bizjournal retirement ranking, Great Lakes
  3. Bizjournal retirement ranking, national
  4. USCG's complete list of Michigan lighthouses.
  5. Alpena harbor light a/k/a Sputnik
  6. Detroit and Mackinac Railway pictures and history
  7. Michigan Railroad history for Alpena.
  8. US 23 Highway ends photographs.
  9. 45th Parallel sign picture.
  10. List and map of 45th Parallel markers, with links to pictures (accessed 12/17/2007)
  11. Michigan highway history, M-32.
  12. Pictures of ends of M-72.
  13. Michigan Historic Markers
  14. The Alpena News
  15. Internet Movie Database, Die Hard 2.
  16. Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo,
  17. Alpena Chamber of Commerce calendar of events.
  18. Alpena Blues Festival.
  19. Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival causes.
  20. Reblin'Rods Car Show
  21. Sunrise side bike ride.
  22. Thunder Bay Theatre.
  23. Alpena Yacht Club training
  24. Besser Museum home page
  25. Great Lakes Maritime Heritage CenterOfficial website
  26. Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center

External links

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