Aviva Directory » Local & Global » North America » United States » States » Michigan » Cities & Towns » West Branch

The City of West Branch, Michigan is bounded by West Branch Township to the north, south, and east, and by Ogemaw Township to the west.

Located in the southwest quadrant of the county, West Branch is the largest city and the seat of Ogemaw County.

The northern part of the city is bounded by Willow Street, Court Street runs along the western city limits, and Fairview Street is the eastern boundary, while the southern borders are irregular. M-55 joins Business Loop I-75 as it runs east-west through the center of the city, while M-30 enters the city from the south, ending at its intersection with BL I-75 at its western border. I-75 runs roughly southeast-northwest just south of the city limits.

Cities and villages within twenty-five miles of West Branch include Rose City, Prescott, Whittemore, and Sterling, while the unincorporated communities of Ogemaw Springs and Edwards are within ten miles.

Seventy percent of West Branch residents are homeowners in the city, more than half of them have lived in the city for more than ten years, and nearly half of the work within the city. Single-family residential areas are found mostly in large blocks in the central and northwestern parts of the city, while a large part of the northeastern quadrant of the city is designated as multi-family residential. The downtown commercial area extends along Houghton Avenue from 1st Street to Court Street, taking in full blocks between 2nd Street and 4th Street to Ogemaw Creek.

At the time of the 2020 Census, West Branch had a population of 2,351, which is its peak population, as the city has enjoyed slight increases for the past four decades.

Anthropolists have determined that the "mound builders" lived in the area 11,000 to 15,000 years ago.

More recently, an abundance of wild game and fertile soils for planted crops and fruit trees attracted the Chippewa (Ojibwa) to the region, and they inhabited the area when the first Europeans and European-Americans came. For about a hundred and fifty years, there was very little contact between indigenous people and white settlers, as the forts, outposts, and other European-American settlements were concentrated along the shores of the Great Lakes and the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula.

However, the heavy movement of European-Americans into Michigan after the Erie Canal opened in 1825 brought an influx of white settlers to the area. Even then, however, the interior of the northern part of the Lower Peninsula was settled slowly.

By the 1870s, timber resources along the coastal areas and in the south were being rapidly depleted, and lumbermen were attracted by the white pine timber in the West Branch area, and the railroads followed the timber industries. Railroads were a necessity to the timber industries, as inland waterways tended to be too shallow and too narrow to provide dependable transportation of logs or supplies. The Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw (Michigan Central) Railroad came through on its way to Mackinaw City in 1871, opening a depot at West Branch with a loading passenger train.

Originally called Springvale, West Branch was renamed to reflect its position near the West Branch of the Rifle River when a post office was established on November 17, 1873, with Zenas H. Wright as postmaster.

By 1874, the settlement has a school, a hotel, a train depot, a general store, a doctor's office, and a law office. Within a decade, several stores, a bank, a milling operation, and a newspaper were added. West Branch was incorporated as a village in 1885, and it became a city in 1905.

However, the end of the lumbering era in West Branch came about in 1910 when forest fires broke out during a dry summer. Fed by brush and slashings left over from earlier lumbering activities, the fires destroyed what was left of the area's pine forests. This brought a couple of decades of decline, but the city soon rebounded, adding nearly seventy percent to its population between 1930 and 1940. Since then, its increases and declines were slight, but the city has mostly grown.

Today, a major employer in West Branch is Mid-Michigan Medical Center, formerly known as West Branch Regional Medical Center, in the southwestern part of the city.

West Branch offers several attractions and events, many of which are held in Irons Park. Designed to address childhood obesity, the Tolfree Wellness Park, installed by the John Tolfree Hospital, includes a walking trail, gardens, a greenhouse, and a pavilion, and sponsors several health and wellness programs.

The focus of this portion of our web guide is the City of West Branch, Michigan. Topics related to governmental entities, businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, events, and recreational opportunities in West Branch are appropriate for this category.


Faith & Spirituality

Health & Public Safety

Services & Industries

Things to Do & Places to Go



Recommended Resources

Search for West Branch on Google or Bing