Clam Lake, Michigan, USA

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USA - Midwest - Michigan - Northwest -

Clam Lake sparkles in the midst of northwest Michigan’s beautiful countryside. Tucked between Torch Lake and Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake is part of the lower peninsula’s Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed. Located about 30 miles northeast of Traverse City and an easy 140 mile drive north of Grand Rapids, Clam Lake has become a popular destination for boating, fishing, skiing and sightseeing.

The extensive waterway created by the Chain of Lakes has been an attraction to inhabitants since the first indigenous people resided in the area. Among the natives were the Ojibwa (or Chippewa) people who saw early fur traders transport goods throughout the lakes and rivers of northern Michigan. By the mid-1800s Americans were moving west bringing farmers and loggers to settle the Clam Lake area. After railroads began to appear in the 1890s, tourists and fishermen came to enjoy new lakeside resorts and build family vacation cottages. The lumber industry has dwindled but Antrim County, and its Clam Lake area, remain famous for its cherry orchards and beautiful lakeside retreats, many passed down from generation to generation.

The Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed covers a massive 500 square miles with the 75-mile-long waterway encompassing 14 lakes, interconnecting rivers and approximately 250 tributaries. The Chain of Lakes Waterway is divided by Bellaire Dam into the Upper Chain and Lower Chain of Lakes. At 439 acres, Clam Lake is the smallest of the Lower Chain of Lakes which includes Lake Bellaire (1,793 acres), Clam Lake, Torch Lake (18,473 acres), Skegemog Lake (2,755 acres) and Elk Lake (8,088 acres). Water leaving Lake Bellaire flows in a southerly direction into the Grass River, continues through the Grass River Natural Area, and feeds the shallow depths of Clam Lake. With a maximum depth of 27 feet and average depth of 13 feet, Clam Lake’s warmer shallow water is often the first of the chain to experience ice-out and attract spring anglers.

From the Grass River, water flows along the three-mile length of Clam Lake where it enters the Clam River on its way to Torch Lake. Torch Lake is the largest of the Lower Chain of Lakes and Michigan’s second largest inland lake. Clam Lake’s close proximity to neighboring lakes makes it both a destination lake and a passageway. Torch Lake waterskiers and wakeboarders often frequent Clam Lake for its calmer water. Boaters, kayakers and canoeists use Clam Lake as a passage through the miles of scenic waterways. But Clam Lake’s nine-mile shoreline is also home to over 250 properties serving both year-round and seasonal residents. A study conducted by the Three Lakes Association (Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, and Torch Lake) determined that “46% of the Clam Lake shoreline is developed, another 16% of the shoreline is protected from development, and the remaining 38% is undeveloped and not protected.”

Found at both ends of Clam Lake, private or public paved ramps provide boating access to Clam Lake. Motorized boats and personal water craft are permitted on Clam Lake, although boating traffic studies may lead to future regulation changes. If you want to rent a boat, full-service marinas are conveniently located along the Clam River at the entrance to Torch Lake. Boaters should be aware that both river entrances to Clam Lake are no-wake zones. The Clam River Channel at the northwest end of Clam Lake passes under Torch Lake Drive Bridge with a 10-foot clearance. At the southeast end of the lake, the three- to six-foot shallow bay is lined with marshes coming from Grass River Natural Area.

Those interested in fishing Clam Lake will find that the shallow marshes provide excellent cover for pike and panfish. In deeper water anglers will enjoy casting a line for walleye, bluegill, muskie, perch, brown trout, crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and rock bass. Whether you come for summer fishing or winter ice fishing, a Michigan fishing license is required.

Since 1966 glacially carved Clam Lake has been monitored for water quality by the Three Lakes Association. The association actively promotes awareness of “water quality, water safety, invasive species, lakeshore management, and other environmental concerns” for residents and visitors to Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake and Torch Lake. In addition, Friends of Clam Lake work to maintain the excellent quality of life enjoyed by the residents of Clam Lake.

At the southeastern end of Clam Lake, the Grass River flows through a 1,443-acre nature preserve. Joining the trend toward eco-tourism, the Grass River Natural Area features over seven miles of trails through five ecozones (adjacent but different plant habitats). Visitors with limited mobility will enjoy part of a pathway that is surrounded by 400 plant species and 49 mammal species including deer, snowshoe hare, fox, coyote, and bobcat. Over 60 bird species grace the rivers, streams and forests including bald eagles, warblers, great-horned owl, barred owl, thrushes, sparrows and woodpeckers. The nature preserve is the property of Antrim County and is open to the public free of charge.

For a change of pace, Clam Lake residents are within minutes of shopping and sightseeing in the village of Bellaire to the north and Alden to the south. Take a day and stroll through intriguing little shops, sample local food offerings, browse a museum or enjoy a round of golf. If you have time for another stop, Traverse City is a short drive away. This city of over 15,000 people sits at the southern end of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Known for hosting July’s National Cherry Festival, Traverse City’s main street offers over 150 shops, galleries and restaurants waiting for an afternoon of exploration.

When the smell of autumn leaves Clam Lake, thoughts turn to snow and winter sports. Gently sloping hillsides and hiking trails open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ski boarding and snowmobiling. In any season Clam Lake lends itself to many forms of recreation. All you need to do is select among the vacation rentals, area campgrounds or real estate properties found on the shore of Clam Lake or surrounding Chain of Lakes. With a long history as a family gathering place, Clam Lake is lovingly preserved, unforgettably beautiful and waiting for you.

Things to do at Clam Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Clam Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Clam Lake Photo Gallery

Clam Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 439 acres

Shoreline Length: 9 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 581 feet

Average Depth: 13 feet

Maximum Depth: 27 feet

Water Volume: 3,486 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 36 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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