Form of Government
City Council/Manager - General Law City
Location and Size
The City of Bessemer is located at the western end of Michigan's beautiful Upper Penninsula. Bessemer is the county seat of Gogebic County. As of the 2000 census, there were 2,148 people residing in the city. The city has a total area of 5.5 miles at an elevation of 1,424 feet with a population density of 392.9 per square mile. Bessemer is located approximately 100 miles from Duluth, MN, 182 miles from Minneapolis, MN, and 342 miles from Chicago, IL.
The City of Bessemer was founded and developed as a result of the discovery of iron ore. Area mining began in 1883, and the City began to attract residents by 1885, including miners who were of Cornish, Irish, Scandinavian, French Canadian, Polish, and Finnish descent. Ore was transported by rail from the Colby open pit mine to the Ashland, WI ore docks. Bessemer’s landscape is crisscrossed by abandoned rail lines serving the numerous and now closed mines. The area was once heavily timbered, supporting a lumber industry. When the mining activity declined, so did the population of Bessemer. In 1966 the last mine in Bessemer was closed. The city has now become a center for winter tourism with three major downhill ski resorts located nearby as well as opportunities for snowmobiling and cross country skiing. The area’s dependable snowfall, terrain, scenic qualities, and accessible public lands support the winter tourism economy. The area economy now consists of the service industry, health care, and small manufacturing.
For additional information on the history of Bessemer, please visit our History page.
Bessemer normally experiences mild summers with average temperatures near 70 degrees fahrenheit while winter temperatures average 14 degrees fahrenheit. Average annual precipitation is 35 inches, and snowfall is 180 inches. Between 1989 and 2007, there were two years that annual snowfall reached 300 inches, and two other years with snowfall of about 280 inches, but most years had snowfalls between 155 and 220 inches. Travelers should be aware that significant amounts of snow could fall within a relatively short period of time resulting in hazardous road conditions. Temperature variations between night and day tend to be moderate with a difference that can reach 22 degrees fahrenheit.
The Bessemer Area School District includes the A D Johnston Junior Senior High School (grades 7-12), and the Washington Elementary School (PK-6). There are about 475 students, with average 2006 spending per student of $8,034. There were 15 students per teacher in this district.
There is something for everyone in Gogebic County with 32 waterfalls; 1200 miles of rivers and streams; over 1,100 lakes; and 30 miles of Lake Superior shoreline just 15 minutes north on County Road 513. Three designated Federal and one State of Michigan Wilderness areas provide opportunities for solitude and scenic viewing.
The Bessemer/Gogebic County area is the perfect spot for fishing, picnicking, swimming, boating, water-skiing, canoeing, hiking, camping and hunting for grouse, black bear, and white-tailed deer. It is in the heart of Big Snow Country where fresh powder graces five ski resorts with novice to expert trails atop three mountain ranges; kilometers of groomed cross-country trail; miles of groomed snowmobile trails; and an international ski flying event are available. The area's Fourth of July celebration and Pumpkinfest are among the finest in the Midwest, and involve the whole community. A Lake Superior fishing derby on Labor Day ushers in the fall color and salmon run for the Black River Harbor area. Bessemer Ranger Districts affords access to the North Country Trail, a National Scenic Trail which when completed will extend 4,000 miles from New York to North Dakota.