Crystal Lake, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Northwest -

Also known as:  Cap Lake

Crystal Lake, in northwestern Michigan’s Benzie County, wouldn’t be the beautiful sandy-shored lake it is today without the “Tragedy of Crystal Lake”. Originally called Cap Lake, the area was settled by loggers working the area. The lake lies in a depression less than a mile from the shore of Lake Michigan. The small outlet stream flowing to the Betsie River and its access to Lake Michigan wasn’t big enough to do the kind of shipping the logging industry desired. In 1873, an enterprising logger decided he could make far more money if he enlarged the stream so steamships could access Cap Lake. He built a steamship and started digging. Men with teams of horses dug steadily for several days, when suddenly a huge roar filled the air and a torrent of water tore through the remaining earth and headed for the Big Lake! For two solid weeks, the roar and the torrent of water continued. When it subsided, Cap Lake had been lowered nearly to the level of Lake Michigan, 20 feet below. The stream slowed to a trickle. Today, a small dam at Outlet Creek maintains water levels and provides a “swimming hole” for local kids.

The ‘tragedy’ had a bright side, however. Where before, Cap Lake had no beaches, twenty feet of pristine sand beach was uncovered all the way around the lake. The village of Beulah has a public beach on the reclaimed land at the south end of the now-smaller lake. The beaches also attracted new owners who built cottages, summer homes, and resorts. One of the first organizations to purchase lakefront property was the Cleveland Conference of Congregationalist churches who built a camp/retreat there in 1901. The Conference is still there, now owning 1800 acres including 1/4 mile on Lake Michigan. A restaurant on camp property is open to the public. Not to be outdone, the Michigan Christian Missionary Society later purchased 73 acres for a retreat on what was now known as Crystal Lake. A camp for girls was in continuous operation from 1920 until recently when the property was sold; the existing girls camp combined with a nearby boys camp as an economy measure.

The loss of 20 feet of depth was less catastrophic to Crystal Lake than it would have been to many other lakes: the lake fills a deep valley, and remaining depths extend to 175 ft. The lake was renamed Crystal Lake because of its extremely clean and clear waters. This is due to the extremely small watershed limiting ingress of polution; the lake itself occupies 35% of the watershed. The only town of any size on the lake itself is Beulah. However, Beulah sports a fine public beach of several hundred feet, beach house, playground, tennis courts and parking. The village park is complete with large pavilion, barbecues and picnic tables, and is almost entirely shaded by majestic hardwoods. During the summer, there are frequent free concerts in the park. The boat launch is large and well-maintained. The village park also provides a trailer park and campground with reservations accepted for nightly, weekly and seasonal spots.

Crystal Lake provides the full complement of water sports including swimming, boating, canoeing and water-skiing. Fishing guide services are available to better the angler’s odds of a decent catch of Rock and Smallmouth Bass, Coho Salmon, Lake Trout, Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout.

Crystal Lake makes a great base camp for venturing farther afield in this historic area. A secondary road from M-22 at the north end of the lake leads about a mile to the Point Betsie lighthouse. Built in 1858, the light sits 52 feet above the lake and has a range of 27.5 miles. The point of land was know to the French as “Point Aux Bec Scies,” meaning “sawed beak point” and marks the southern end of the Manitou Passage that lake schooners used to travel between the Sleeping Bear Dunes and North and South Manitou Islands. Watching the sunset over the lake from the Point Betsie life station is a tradition visitors would do well to incorporate into their vacation repertoire, with campfires and marshmallow roasts included. A few miles north, visitors can enjoy Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park where you can climb dunes over 200 feet high, visit yet another lighthouse, and engage in several ranger-led activities.

The Benzie County area has plenty of recreational activities, including golf at several local golf courses. Crystal Lake Art Center, dedicated to the visual, performing, and literary arts, often has concerts scheduled. Nearby Frankfort is a prime spot for sightseeing by glider and hang gliding. For a time, Frankfort was the site of the Frankfort Sailplane Manufacturing Association; in 1938, the town hosted the Midwestern National Soaring Championship. Fall foliage tours by glider are especially popular and quite reasonable. The Betsie Valley bicycle trail runs between Frankfort and Thompsonville, including the village of Beulah. Winter sports such as snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing all have ample facilities in the area.

Fifteen miles from Beulah, The Interlochen Center for The Arts provides first-class art and educational experiences for both young and old on its 1200 acre campus. Founded in 1928, Interlochen Camp was the first performing arts camp of its kind for youth grades 3 through 12. It contains a summer camp for youth, a performing arts high school and college, and continuing education experiences popular with educators looking to upgrade their skills. The educational offerings include Creative Writing, Dance, Motion Picture Arts, Music, Theatre Arts and Visual Arts. Concerts and performances by world-class artists and musicians are scheduled regularly throughout the summer and open to the public. Its proximity to Interlochen makes Crystal Lake the ideal home base for the family of a life-long learner, a young and budding performance artist, or the fishing/hunting/hiking fan. Truly, at Crystal Lake, you can keep the entire family happy.

Crystal Lake is an easy 270 miles from Detroit, 300 from Chicago. Many week-enders fly into Traverse City thirty miles away.

Things to do at Crystal Lake MI

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Playground

Fish species found at Crystal Lake MI

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Coho Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Crystal Lake MI Photo Gallery

Crystal Lake MI Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Benzie County

Surface Area: 9,711 acres

Shoreline Length: 21 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 600 feet

Average Depth: 71 feet

Maximum Depth: 175 feet

Water Residence Time: 30-60yrs

Drainage Area: 23 sq. miles

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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