Burt Lake, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Northeast -

Also known as:  Chaboiganing

Twenty miles south of the Straits of Mackinac is the ancient inland waterway from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. This series of connecting lakes and rivers extends from Lake Huron to within a very few miles of Lake Michigan. One of those lakes is Burt Lake. This beautiful lake has been a popular tourist attraction for many years and has only become more popular since Interstate 75 now travels a short distance away. The ease of getting there has opened the joys of Burt Lake to an entire new group of lake lovers.

The lake is fed by the Maple and Crooked Rivers on the west shore and the Sturgeon River on the south. Other water sources include the Little Carl River, Hasler Creek and a few un-named streams. The Little Carp, Maple, and Sturgeon Rivers are designated Michigan trout streams. The main outlet is the Crooked River, leading to Crooked Lake.

Although the shoreline is heavily developed with homes and cottages, there are still long stretches of undeveloped land, much of it under protection and open to the public, including the Chaboiganing Nature Preserve, the Colonial Point Memorial Forest and Seven Springs Nature Preserve. Burt Lake State Park has over 2,000 feet of sandy beech and Maple Bay County Campground and Beach provides both rustic camping and a swimming beach. The marina at Indian River-the only village on the lake-provides every service a boater could want, including rentals and repairs, transient slips and permanent facilities. As the Inland Waterway can accommodate boats up to 60 ft in length, the Indian River marina is the main supply point for boaters along the waterway.

Fishing is, as usual, the main event on Burt Lake. The prey varies, with walleye a favorite, but sturgeon, brown trout, rainbow trout, rock bass, yellow perch, ciscoes, smallmouth and largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, rock bass all caught depending on season and bait offered. The area between the Indian River and Sturgeon River is known as Walleye Alley, but Scotty’s Landing, Colonial Point and Greenman’s Point all provide excellent fishing. Boaters love the Maple Bay area as the sheltered bay provides warm shallows for swimming and sailing. The sandbar just south of the Maple River is a favored hangout in summer. An active watershed protection group carefully monitors water quality and lobbies for further protection of the watershed. The lake is clean and clear, with most underwater vegetation found at the shallower north end of the lake.

In the beginning, the lake was called Chaboiganing, or ‘Passing Through’ in the Native American language. First used by Native Americans, then French trappers, followed by lumbermen and finally settlers, the inland route avoided the treacherous rapids at the Straits farther north and Waugoshance Point on Lake Michigan. The inland route cut many miles off the trip up Lake Huron and over to Lake Michigan. Its waters were the main form of transportation for lumbermen and visitors with the building of a lock near Cheboygan and dredging of the river to accommodate small steamers. Eventually, the lake itself was renamed Burt Lake in honor of the surveyor who first surveyed the northern Michigan area.

Archeological evidence along the Inland Waterway shows the area had been inhabited by native people for nearly 3000 years. For nearly three centuries, a small band of Ottawa/Chippewa Indians lived in a village on the small point of land now known as Colonial Point. Through a series of treaties, the group believed, perhaps erroneously, that they have been given their land as a reservation. On some occasions, some members of the band paid property taxes and others didn’t. Unfortunately, their home was becoming more valuable as lumbering in other areas around the lake was exhausted. In 1898, their area was sold for unpaid taxes and the buyer tried to evict them for over a year. One October morning in 1900, while the men were all in Cheboygan collecting their paychecks, the local sheriff and several of his men came to the village and moved all of the residents’ property into the middle of the street and set fire to the houses. The small band was forced to migrate in part to Cross Village; others found local lodging with a couple of Native American families who lived on Indian Road. Since that day, the band has attempted to settle the disagreement through the Michigan and federal courts but has been hampered by the lack of federal designation of their tribe, both due to their mixed heritage and their displacement. Their legal fight continues.

Rental cottages are available on Burt Lake, and homes occasionally come up for sale. The area is popular because of the wide variety of recreational opportunities near the lake, including the famed Inland Waterway. Beginning in Cheboygan on Lake Huron, the waterway includes Cheboygan River, Mullett Lake, and Indian River to Burt Lake, then up Crooked River to Crooked Lake. The route consists of 150 miles of shoreline. Dredged to 5 feet deep with a width of 30 feet by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the route is completely laid out with channel markers. River entrances are marked with flashing lights. The route is accessible from I-75, M-27, M-33, and U.S. 31. There are ramps with varying water depths available all along the waterway. The waterway can handle boats up to 65 feet long (18 foot beam), with up to a 5 foot draft. The Route features two locks: a 15 foot gate lock in Cheboygan and a 2 foot clam lock near Alanson. The longest distance between gas stops is 10 miles.

Both the Seven Springs Nature Preserve and Colonial Point Memorial Forest provide a handy nature experience, with the Memorial Forest a unique stand of old growth red oak and red pine. It is adjacent to the Chaboiganing Nature Preserve.

South of Indian River the Tomahawk Trail offers nearly 100 miles of off-road trails for the ORV enthusiast. The area also provides over 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, most of which are accessible from the area motels. Snowmobiles can be rented locally for an enjoyable winter experience. For cross-country skiing, Wildwood, just south of Indian River, has several miles of well-marked recreation trails that are perfect for viewing wildlife.

The village of Indian River has all of the necessary amenities a visitor would want, and includes several unique shops for the discerning visitor to peruse. There are several motels and plentiful restaurants, mostly reasonably priced. Burt Lake is about 260 miles from Detroit and 390 from Chicago. Come, spend a week in Indian River or at a Burt Lake cottage as your home base. Between fishing forays, you can cruise the Inland Waterway, visit the Straits of Mackinac and enjoy the bounty of wildlife and nature in this beautiful area.

Things to do at Burt Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park

Fish species found at Burt Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Carp
  • Cisco
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sturgeon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Burt Lake Photo Gallery

Burt Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 17,387 acres

Shoreline Length: 33 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 594 feet

Average Depth: 23 feet

Maximum Depth: 73 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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