Houghton was named after Houghton County, which was named after Douglass Houghton, an American geologist and physician, primarily known for his exploration of the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. Houghton is sometimes confused with, or thought to be close to, Houghton Lake the latter is actually located in the state's Lower Peninsula. Due to its location in the northwestern portion of the Upper Peninsula, Houghton is isolated from the state's most populous areas. It is farther to drive from Houghton to Detroit, Michigan than it is from Detroit to Washington, DC. It takes several fewer hours to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin or Minneapolis, Minnesota from Houghton than it does to travel to Detroit.