Hess Lake, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - West Central -

Also known as:  Big Brooks Lake

Hess Lake is a natural freshwater lake in the West Central tourism region of Michigan. Located in Newaygo County in Brooks Township, just southeast of the village of Newaygo, this 755-acre lake is a great place to spend relaxing downtime, and there’s something here for the whole family, with a great variety of indoor and outdoor activities available year round.

Fishing is of course popular, with blue gill, northern pike, largemouth bass, and speckled bass being some of the most readily available types of fish that anglers often find on their hooks. Hess Lake is known as the best bass fishing in the county. Boating is greatly enjoyed, and motorboats are allowed on this lake whose shoreline measures nearly 6 miles. Sunbathing and relaxing on the beach are great draws in the summer months, and swimming is popular on the sandy-bottomed northwestern side of the lake. Canoes, kayaks, pontoon boats, jet skis, float planes, and other small watercraft typically dot the shallow lake, whose average depth is 6 feet with a maximum depth of 30 feet.

Hunters and trappers enjoy the heavy forest and array of wildlife on view. Winter months bring out cross-county skiers and snowmobile enthusiasts as well as ice fishing lovers. Campers nestle into the white pine and white oak forests. Off-road vehicle trails and designated biking and hiking trails are wonderful ways to explore scenic lookouts.

Families who enjoy active vacations will love the area around Hess Lake. Outdoor choices such as golf, horse riding, farmers markets, attending fresh-air concerts and specialized seasonal festivals, picnicking, window shopping, visiting state parks, motocross riding, sightseeing, berry picking, and bird watching are just the tip of the iceberg.

Those who crave more organized activities for the younger people in their groups can visit one of the family fun centers or other consolidated recreational areas in Newaygo County. Boasting mini golf, video arcades, bowling, riding stables, first-run movie theaters, an observatory, an alpaca farm, a paint-your-own-pottery studio, a historic touring village, and a working farm with up-close experiences with farm animals, youngsters will never be bored–and the adults will enjoy themselves right alongside the kids.

The Hess Lake Improvement Association (HLIA), an area organization dedicated to preserving the quality of the waters and ecosystem of the lake, has been in existence since the 1930s. This group is active in helping to minimize the environmental impact of the heavy development along the lake’s shore. With more than 500 private residences, rentals, and vacation homes counted around the perimeter of the lake, there is a great need to educate local residents about the ways they can lessen the intrusion of pollutants on the lake; their goals seem to be coming to fruition, as the lake’s excessive nutrients have decreased over the past decade. Part of the cause of the lake’s highly organic makeup is its low flush rate, which leaves fertilizers in the lake for a longer period of time and allows significant growth of plant life.

Five smaller inlet streams on its southwest and southeast sides feed into Hess Lake, and one major stream is the lake’s only outlet. Brooks Creek, draining Hess Lake at its northeast corner, feeds into Brooks Lake. The waters then enter the Muskegon River and eventually fill Lake Michigan. Water from Hess Lake travels more than 40 miles between exiting at Brooks Creek and entering Lake Michigan. In the early twentieth century, a dam called the Hess Lake Control Structure was built at the inlet of Brooks Lake to help control water levels. In 1965, Hess Lake’s official level was set by court order at 763.6 feet; this was noted to be its officially reported and normal elevation, although seasonal rains and dry periods cause that level to fluctuate throughout the year.

Brooks Township fully contains nine lakes and holds parts of two others. Hess Lake, which was once known as Big Brooks Lake, is part of the Muskegon River Watershed. (Brooks Lake, which sits to the northeast of Hess Lake, was once called Little Brooks Lake.) The watershed’s lakes are noted to have significant wetlands surrounding many of them, with some rare species found on land and in the waters there. The bald eagle, common loon, golden-winged warbler, cerulean warbler, wood turtle, lake sturgeon, and pug-nose shiner are all endangered species that have established habitats in this watershed–another reason to protect it from deterioration. More than 15 rare plant, butterfly, and moth species are also found there.

Newaygo is the closest village to Hess Lake, its population standing at around 1650. The Muskegon River runs through the village of Newaygo, putting water-based activities at the top of the list for local residents and travelers alike. The Huron-Manistee National Forest was established in 1945, when the Huron National Forest (established 1909) and the Manistee National Forest (established 1938) were combined to help preserve and recover these important woodlands. Huron-Manistee National Forest now holds nearly one million acres of land, including nearly 6,000 acres of wetlands; of the total acres protected, 3,950 of those exist in Brooks Township.

Destination travelers will find an abundance of summer cottage rentals, vacation homes, inns, campgrounds, and other lakeside accommodations around Hess Lake. Hundreds of choices on the lake and in the very close-by areas allow singles, couples, families, and large groups–from a family reunion to a class trip to a group of retirees RVing cross-country–an excellent opportunity to stay awhile and enjoy the many gems this area has to offer. For those looking for a wonderful but more remote retreat than Lake Michigan, Hess Lake is found in the lower peninsula of the state near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Tourism is the largest economic factor in this area, with manufacturing and agriculture coming in a distant second, so there is always something fun and interesting to do and see. More than 230 natural lakes are found in Newaygo County, as are hundreds of miles of streams; the area lures water lovers from all over with its beautiful and abundant choices. Grand Rapids is a short 40-minute drive to south, and Muskegon is a brief distance to the west. Whether interested in a weekend getaway or finding land to build a summer home or retirement home, Hess Lake is worth considering as a destination.

Things to do at Hess Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Forest
  • Miniature Golf
  • Movie Theater
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Hess Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Carp
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Sturgeon

Hess Lake Photo Gallery

    Hess Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Newaygo County Drain Commissioner

    Surface Area: 755 acres

    Shoreline Length: 6 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 764 feet

    Average Depth: 6 feet

    Maximum Depth: 30 feet

    Water Volume: 4,350 acre-feet

    Lake Area-Population: 3,671

    Drainage Area: 15 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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