Berrien County, Michigan

From Academic Kids

Image:Map of Michigan highlighting Berrien County.png

Berrien County is a county located in the extreme southwest of the state of Michigan. As of 2000, the population is 162,453. Its county seat is St. Joseph6.

As one of the Cabinet counties, Berrien county was named for John M. Berrien of Georgia, U.S. Attorney General under U.S. President Andrew Jackson (1829-1831).

Berrien county's boundaries were set off by an act of the legislature of the Michigan Territory on October 29, 1829 with its present limits, but it was initially attached as Niles Township to Cass County for administrative purposes. In 1831 Berrien County was detached from Cass County.

The county was initially divided into three townships: Berrien Township, consisting of present-day townships of Berrien, Oronoko, and Lake plus a two-mile strip north of that territory; St. Joseph Township, consisting of everything north of Berrien Township; and Niles Township, consisting of everything south of Berrien Township.



The wedge-shaped county has Lake Michigan to the west and Indiana to the south. Van Buren County is to the north and northeast. Cass County is to the east.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 4,096 km² (1,581 mi²). 1,479 km² (571 mi²) of it is land and 2,617 km² (1,010 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 63.89% water.

The St. Joseph River is a major geographical feature, flowing mostly north and west through the county from Niles to its mouth on Lake Michigan at St. Joseph. The southwest of the county is drained by the Galien River and its tributaries. Paw Paw Lake is in the north of the county, along with the Paw Paw River, which flows into the St. Joseph River just before it enters Lake Michigan. A tiny portion along the Indiana state line is drained by small tributaries of the Kankakee River, which ultimately flows into the Mississippi River. This is one of the few areas of Michigan drained by the Mississippi River.

Grand Mere State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, and Warren Woods State Park are all located within the county.


  • Interstate 94 runs north along the western edge of the county, staying near Lake Michigan, until bending inland to skirt the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor urban area. It then turns east as it continues toward Kalamazoo. There is a Business Loop 94 which passes through downtown Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.
  • Interstate 196 branches off of I-94 just east of Benton Harbor and continues north to Holland and then east to Grand Rapids.
  • U.S. Highway 31, which connects the area with South Bend, Indiana metropolitan area, enters the southeast of the county, near Niles, and continues north and west. A new segment of the highway was completed in August 2003 running from Berrien Springs north to Napier Avenue east of Benton Harbor. It follows Napier Avenue west to I-94 before branching off with I-196. A final segment is planned to continue the route from Napier Avenue north to the juction with I-94 and I-196. The former route of US 31 between Berrien Springs and St. Joseph was redesignated as M-139.
  • U.S. Highway 12 is an east-west route crossing through the southern portion of the county from south of Niles through Three Oaks to New Buffalo and Michiana, Michigan before leaving the state and continuing to Michigan City, Indiana.
  • Michigan State Highway 51 has its southern terminus at the state line as a continuation of Indiana State Highway 933, runs north through Niles, then turns northeast and exits the county as it continues toward Dowagiac.
  • Michigan State Highway 140 has its southern terminus in Niles, runs north along the eastern portion of the county, and exits the county as it continues north toward South Haven.
  • Michigan State Highway 62 has its western terminus at a junction with M-140 and runs only a short distance east before it exits the county as it continues toward Dowagiac.
  • Michigan State Highway 63 has its southern terminus at a junction with M-139 (formerly US 31) in Scottsdale. It runs northwest into downtown St. Joseph, then runs northeast along Lake Michigan before its northern terminus at a junction with US 31 and I-196 just south of the county boundary.
  • Michigan State Highway 139 has its southern terminus at a junction with US 31 near Berrien Springs. It runs northwest until a junction with M-63 in Scottsdale where it turns north and passes to the east of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor before reaching it northern terminus at a junction with Business Loop I-94.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 162,453 people, 63,569 households, and 43,354 families residing in the county. The population density is 110/km² (284/mi²). There are 73,445 housing units at an average density of 50/km² (129/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 79.69% White, 15.93% Black or African American, 0.43% Native American, 1.14% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.14% from other races, and 1.64% from two or more races. 3.01% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 63,569 households out of which 31.20% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.20% are married couples living together, 13.20% have a female householder with no husband present, and 31.80% are non-families. 27.10% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.80% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.49 and the average family size is 3.01.

In the county the population is spread out with 26.00% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 27.50% from 25 to 44, 23.70% from 45 to 64, and 14.40% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 94.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 89.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $38,567, and the median income for a family is $46,548. Males have a median income of $36,582 versus $23,800 for females. The per capita income for the county is $19,952. 12.70% of the population and 9.30% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 17.80% of those under the age of 18 and 9.00% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Cities, villages, and townships




Unincorporated communities and CDPs

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