Our Township

The Charter Township of Portage has a land area of 112.6 sq. miles and a water surface area of approximately 3.9 sq. miles with a population of 3,156 comprised of 33% urban and 67% rural residents. The Township sits immediately adjacent to the City of Houghton, which is the largest population center in Houghton County and home of Michigan Technological University well known nationally for its engineering programs.

The Township has a great mix of outdoor recreational opportunities. For instance, the vast majority of the Pilgrim River Watershed is largely located in Portage Township. The watershed is 15,546 acres in size with a total stream length of 31.8 miles. The Pilgrim River Watershed Project (PRWP) is solely located in the Charter Township of Portage and it comprises 1,600 acres of that watershed total. It was recently completed with the efforts of silent sports enthusiasts, wildlife lovers, natural resource managers, and watershed neighbors collaborating with the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Northwood Alliance, Partners in Forestry, Copper Country Audubon, Houghton-Keweenaw Conservation District, Keweenaw Land Trust, Keweenaw Trails Alliance, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; as well as private landowners. The PRWP goal is to protect land from future development, keep the land wooded and under timber production and provide enhanced public access to the Pilgrim River and surrounding forest land. Three components of the Pilgrim River Watershed Project have been completed:

  • The Pilgrim Community Forest accessed off Paradise Road.

  • The PRWP Forest, accessed off Boundary and Baltic-Onkalos Corner Road

  • Sally M. Ollila Memorial Woodland and Bridge Tract conservation easements.

The Pilgrim River outlets into Portage Lake near the City of Houghton's Nara Park. Abutting Nara Park is the 500 acre Michigan Technological Universities trail system, which contains many miles of public cross country ski and mountain biking trails. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited have labeled the Pilgrim River Watershed as a healthy, productive cold-water fishery. The Otter River and Otter Lake, which are located in Portage Township plus the adjacent Portage Lake, are also excellent fisheries and contain many outdoor recreational sites. When you also combine the State Forest lands plus the Commercial Forest Act (CFA) designated properties there is a myriad of outdoor recreational opportunities available to all Charter Portage Township residents.

The abundant outdoor recreational activities found in Charter Portage Township which is located immediately adjacent to the City of Ho9ughton and Michigan technological University enhance the “quality of life” experience for our residents and make the Township a very attractive place to live and do business.


  • On March 16, 1861 the Township was reduced by the organization of Hancock Township which largely removed all its area north of Portage Lake.

  • On April 10, 1866 the Township was reduced in size due to the organization of Hancock Township. Throughout 1866 the Township of Hancock continued to attach additional properties excised from Portage Township.

  • On July 28, 1866 the Township was reduced in size by the organization of Schoolcraft Township.

  • On March 9, 1867 the Township was again reduced in size by the organization of the Township of Webster.

  • Once again, on March 9, 1867 the Township was again reduced in size by the organization of Adams Township.

  • Once again, on March 9, 1867 the Township was again reduced in size by the organization of Huron Township.

  • On February 18, 1875 the Township was enlarged by attaching territory from the Township of Baraga.

  • On March 17, 1875 the Township was enlarged by the vacating and subsequent annexation of both Webster and Huron Townships.

  • On March 13, 1883 the Township was reduced in size by the organization of Franklin Township.

  • On March 12, 1885 the Township was reduced in size by the removal of the Baraga County area, attaching it to Baraga Township located in Baraga County.

  • On March 3, 1887 the Township was reduced in size by the organization of Laird Township.

  • On April 14, 1888 the Township was reduced in size by the organization of Chassell Township.

  • On December 12, 1899 Elm River Township was reshaped altering the size/shape of Portage Township.

  • On June 23, 1970 the Village of Houghton became the City of Houghton further reducing the size and altering the shape of Portage Township.

Portage Township became a "Charter Township” by filing an affidavit of Publication, having a Certificate of no petitions filed and the Township Board making a resolution incorporating as a Charter Township on July 15, 1985. The State of Michigan's Department of State acknowledged that change in a letter from Gay Meese, Supervisor of the Great Seal & Registration Section on July 22, 1985.

Township Demographics

Total Population


Total Males


Total Females


Total White Persons


Total Native Americans


Total Black Persons


Total Asian


Total Native Hawaiian  & Other Pacific Islander


Total Hispanic Persons


Total Mixed Persons (2 or more races)



Under 5 years


5 to 17 years


18 to 24 years


25 to 44 years


45 to 64 years


65 to 84 years


Median Age - Total Population

36.4 years


Income, Family & Housing Data

Average Household Size (persons per household): 2.61
Married Family Households with Children Under 18: 641
Households with Someone 65 Years or Older Living Alone: 366
Total Housing Units: 1657
Total Owner-Occupied Housing (other occupied are renters): 911
Median Number of Rooms per Housing Unit: 5.6
Median Year Structure (housing unit) was Built: 1961
Median (owner occupied) Housing Value: $114,900.00
Median Gross Rent (in dollars) for Units Being Rented: $602.00
Mobile Homes: 160
Total Occupied Housing Units (remainder are vacant): 1206
Seasonal Housing Units: 215
Persons (25 years and over) with Bachelors Degree or Higher: 662
Total People (16 and over) Employed: 1724
Median Household Income: $40,547.00
Median Family Income: $47,829.00
Per Capita Income: $20,268.00
Persons Below Poverty Level in the Past 12 Months: 864
Families in Poverty in the Past 12 Months: 128
Total Families: 794

Township Audit Reports