Kalkaska County Profile

The Kalkaska county profile gives an overview of what life is like in this county and how you and your lifestyle can fit in.

Nature by the numbers reveals important info about life in Kalkaska County: 85 lakes, 275 miles of river and stream, and 283,000 acres of forested land—approximately 42 percent of the county is state-owned and publicly accessible, mostly as part of the Pere Marquette State Forest. People choosing to live in Kalkaska County often do so because nature and the ways to enjoy it are so close at hand. As part of any given day or week, locals head out to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, snowmobile on groomed trails, cross-country ski and more because doing so is easy, typically just a short walk or drive from home, regardless of where home happens to be in Kalkaska County.

Kalkaska County’s largest town is the village of Kalkaska, on the western edge of the county. Kalkaska is the county seat and a center of business, but it retains its identity as a northern Michigan rural town. The economic pillars of the county are tourism, farming, and oil and gas production, and evidence of each can be seen daily in downtown Kalkaska: minivans with families and fishermen in the warm months, snowmobiles in winter, and a year-round bustle of farm pickup trucks and oil field service equipment in and out of town.

But Kalkaska also has a diversified manufacturing and service base as well. Some of the largest employers include American Waste, a company that has earned national renown as an innovative recycler, Kalkaska Screw Products, Wayne Wire & Cloth and Flannery Machine & Tool. Shetler Dairy has achieved remarkable success with a fun and innovative brand identity that touts its organic-raised dairy herd. Their slogan: “Our cows aren’t on drugs, but they are on grass.” Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, the county’s largest medical facility is also in Kalkaska village.

The Kalkaska County landscape was shaped by the push and gouge and eventual melting of gigantic glaciers 10,000 years ago, two-mile-high sheets of ice that left a varied and enchanting topography for today’s Kalkaska residents. Hills, ridges and valleys define the eastern reaches of the county, creating a region in which three notable rivers run: the Manistee River, the Boardman River and the Rapid River. In the county’s midsection, the glaciers left a vast outwash plain that offered farmers flat land for cold-tolerant row crops. Deep below the surface are the oil and gas deposits found in the Salina-Niagaran Reef, hydrocarbons that fueled economic expansion most notably in the latter 20th century. The hydrocarbon industry continues to play an important economic role today, but the verve of the boom has subsided and activity has plateaued.

Beyond the village of Kalkaska, the county’s burgs are tiny towns in communities tied to farming, forests and lakes, their personalities shifting to reflect their roots. From a population standpoint, the largest outlying township is Clearwater, with just 2,445 residents; the smallest is Oliver Township, with fewer than 300 residents.

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