The Wexford County profile gives an overview of what life is like in this county and how you and your lifestyle can fit in.
Wexford County is a place of sprawling national forest, a rolling topography that boasts some of Michigan’s highest hills and ridges, excellent fishing lakes—including the renowned Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac—a long stretch of one of America’s finest rivers, and farms of cattle and row crops. Life in Wexford County means that fishing, hunting, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and snowmobiling and more are within minutes of home, and days spent outside are hallmarks of a good life here. People relocating to Cadillac often do so because the outdoors is an important part of their lives.
One aspect of Wexford County that sets it apart from many rural northern Michigan areas is the substantial manufacturing base that exists in the county’s largest town, Cadillac. The highest profile manufacturer there is the recreational boat maker Four Winns.
As the county’s largest town, county seat and home to a hospital, resort hotels and a large state campground, Cadillac is the hub of county activity. Highlights of the town’s housing stock are well-maintained lumber-baron homes built near the dawn of the 20th century.
Cadillac rises by the shores of two of Michigan’s most renowned recreation lakes, Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac. The town of Cadillac entirely surrounds Lake Cadillac, which, at 1,150 acres makes it one of the largest “in town” lakes in the United States.
Despite the strong tourism and agriculture economies in Wexford County, manufacturing has long been the primary economic driver here, most notably in Cadillac. Today three of the county’s five industrial parks operate in Cadillac, and all of the county’s top 10 employers are in Cadillac. The county seat is home to such companies as boat maker Four Winns, Rexair (a maker of home cleaning systems), AAR Manufacturing (provides products and systems for aviation and cargo, including military applications), and FIAMM (produces horns for cars, trucks and boats). Currently 26 percent of Cadillac workers are employed in manufacturing and it makes up 47 percent of the town’s tax base.
Wexford’s other small towns—Manton, Buckley, Mesick, Harrietta—speak of a strong connection to the farmland that surrounds them. These are classic small towns in the rural manner, with small downtowns offering such essentials as a grocery store, a hardware store, a diner or two, a pub or two. One aspect that makes Manton unusual is a growing community of Amish. Mesick, on the shores of the Manistee River and on the rim of one of the river’s largest dam backwaters, is a gathering place for fishermen and paddlers.
But for so many of Wexford’s residents, the main attraction to this place is what lies beyond the borders of villages and towns. The Pere Marquette State Forest and the Huron-Manistee National Forest combined offer up thousands and thousands of acres of publicly accessible lands. Locals trace trails on mountain bikes in summer, cross-country skis and snowshoes in winter. They hunt whitetail deer, grouse, rabbit, evolving with the seasons. In spring, families go together into the woods in search of morel mushrooms. Fishermen, canoeists and kayakers float a lovely and protected stretch of the Manistee River, one of America’s most noteworthy waterways. Families also create memories and togetherness at Caberfae Ski Resort, the oldest ski resort in the Midwest, which sits high on a ridge on the western edge of Wexford County.