The answer may seem obvious to some, but I recently found myself wondering why Plainwell, MI is considered the "Island City."

Having grown up in nearby Allegan, I thought I was somewhat familiar with the city of Plainwell. Although I never visited Plainwell proper as an adolescent much, I was familiar with the Trojans as our school rivals. However, I guess there's more to the city than I realized!

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Now that the fall colors have started to pop, I've been taking the back roads to get to work which happens to take me through downtown Plainwell. On my commute I've often noticed a sign that references the city as being known as the "Island City" and I've always found that to be a bit peculiar. I don't think of Plainwell as an Island. Is it, technically?

About Plainwell

According to the city's official website, nearly 3,800 citizens reside within Plainwell's city limits. Located within Allegan County, the city of Plainwell was formed soon after 1835.

Its location along a popular stagecoach route, and eventually an interstate railroad line, helped facilitate the city's growth. Today in downtown Plainwell you'll find, "quaint shops, unique restaurants, and some of the best ice cream in Southwest Michigan, you won't be disappointed."

Island City

Upon further investigation, there are several reasons for Plainwell's "Island City" moniker but they can all be traced back to the Kalamazoo River:

  • MLive reports there was an excavating project to create a millrace (the channel of water that drives a mill wheel) which divided the Kalamazoo River around the city's center. Thus creating an island.
  • The City of Plainwell, Michigan website says, "Plainwell is known as “The Island City” because one cannot enter downtown from any direction without first crossing a bridge. The Kalamazoo River and the Plainwell Millrace form an island around the original town plat"
  • The Wikipedia entry for Plainwell states, "The nickname Island City has to do with a power canal which diverts a portion of the Kalamazoo River around the downtown area, causing it to be an island."
via Google Earth
via Google Earth

If you look at a satellite image of Plainwell, you'll see that it is in fact an island after all! Like I mentioned, I never really thought much about it until the signs of downtown Plainwell informed me otherwise.

I swear, even though I grew up in southwest Michigan I still learn something new every day. Next time you pass through the "Island City", you'll know why it's referred to as such.

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