Ottawa County is located on Lake Michigan’s spectacular freshwater coastline, where nature is cherished and protected. More than the lake shore, you’ll find the people of Ottawa County friendly yet driven, working hard to succeed in charming downtown small businesses, at manufacturing hubs with global impact, and on acres of land passed down through generations. We embrace creativity and believe that diversity makes us stronger. We resolve that our public services must be high-quality and cost-effective. We are innovative and never wait for someone to solve our problems for us. We are friendly neighbors chipping in, lending a hand and making sure you know that Ottawa County is where you belong.
The county took its name from the Ottawa Indians, who occupied this area in their bark covered huts during the middle of the 17th century. The Ottawa Indians were hunters and fishermen. They also grew and harvested wild rice in the swamps along the Grand River.
In 1754, a Frenchman named Charles Langlade came to this area to recruit Indians to fight against Braddock and Washington in the French and Indian War. For his part in the defeat of Braddock, Langlade was given the fur trader rights throughout the entire Grand River Valley. The lucrative fur trade flourished until the middle of the 19th century.
When fur trading declined, the lumber industry sprang up. In 1881, 200 million board feet of lumber were shipped from the port of Grand Haven. Toward the end of the 19th century, the timber supply dwindled and the growth of manufacturing began. There are now more than 380 manufacturing facilities in the county, concentrated in furniture, office equipment, and automobile related manufacturing. Along with manufacturing, the county leads all other Michigan counties in the production of turkeys, ornamental nursery crops, blueberries, and perennials. The diverse economy cushioned Ottawa County from some challenges of the recession, and the area continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in Michigan.
Ottawa County was designated as a territorial county in 1831, and by 1850 the county population had grown to almost 8,500. Today, the county has a population of 282,250 inhabitants. It is the 8th most populous county in the state and is among the fastest growing in Michigan. Ottawa County is composed of 17 townships, six cities, and one village, with an area of 565 square miles. The county has a state equalized value of over $11 billion. Thirty-eight percent of Ottawa County’s land mass is farmland.
Ottawa County was originally settled by Dutch immigrants, and today 45 percent of the population claim Dutch ancestry. Persons of German ancestry are the next largest group, comprising 26 percent of the population. The county also boasts a substantial population of persons of Mexican-American descent.
Ottawa County’s convenient location and never-too-warm summer climate have made it a mecca for sportsmen and vacationers. Along with Lake Michigan beaches, there are 307 miles of rivers and streams, two state parks, and over 6,500 acres of county parks and open space lands for visitors to enjoy. Each year, this area welcomes millions of visitors to its vacation playground. In Holland, people from all over the world come to the Tulip Time festival each spring. Summer draws crowds to the lake shores, the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, and several of the area’s fairs. Winter brings an average of 75 inches of snow fall on Ottawa County each year, attracting visitors to the lake shore ice formations, downtown holiday festivities, and the miles of groomed cross country ski trails.
With its natural beauty, booming economy, friendly people, and charming municipalities, Ottawa County is where you belong.
Photos © Ed Post.