Lake Bellaire, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Northwest -

Also known as:  Grass Lake

Michigan has a bounty of beautiful lakes, and those found in Antrim County are no exception. Lake Bellaire is situated to the east of Lake Michigan; this 1,793-acre all-sports lake provides plenty of opportunity for swimming, boating, kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, sailing, and fishing. Surrounding the lake area is a variety of accommodations for the casual weekend traveler as well as the hardy outdoorsy vacationer. Luxurious resorts are located not far from quaint bed and breakfasts, rustic inns, modern condo villages, and well-equipped campgrounds. With so many choices, including lakeside cabins for rent, private vacation homes, and large chain hotels, travelers will enjoy the challenge of choosing just the right vacation rental for their holiday stay.

Lake Bellaire, which was known as Grass Lake until the 1950s, is a natural freshwater lake in the northwestern section of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Its irregular shape contributes to its lengthy shoreline, which is roughly 11.5 miles in total; the lake is shaped rather like an elongated “S” design, with the lower half of the lake widening significantly. Water flows generally north to south in the lake. Several streams feed Lake Bellaire, as do Cedar River and Intermediate Lake. Its primary outlet is from the southeast corner of the lake into the Grass River, which eventually flows into Clam Lake. Clam Lake is a ribbon lake that runs southeast to northwest and works as a conduit to transfer water from Lake Bellaire to the much larger Torch Lake.

Lake Bellaire is one of 14 lakes and rivers in the Elk River Watershed Chain of Lakes, which is a very important natural resource for the area of Lower Michigan. The two other lakes in this section of the chain are Clam Lake, which starts to the southeast of Lake Bellaire, and Torch Lake, which is a very long and large lake that sits farther west of Lake Bellaire and is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. These three lakes make up a 500-square-mile watershed. A chain of lakes indicates that several adjacent lakes are connected via streams and rivers in such a way that boaters can often travel throughout the entire chain by watercraft. Many travelers choose lakes that are part of a chain as their favorite vacation destination for just such a reason: Beautiful scenery, pristine waters, scattered views of local wildlife, and other relaxing experiences are bound to make a boat trip through a chain of lakes one to remember.

The town of Bellaire is located to the northeast of the lake, and it’s the county seat of Antrim County. The Intermediate River outlet meets Cedar River in the town of Bellaire. It’s in this town that the Bellaire Dam was built in 1902. Its original purpose was for power generation, but in the 1950s the dam was decommissioned and currently does not serve as a power source. Its main use today is for water level control; in recent years the official water level has been set at 610 feet. This influences Lake Bellaire’s water level because the dam is just upriver from where the lake’s inlet begins, and the water from Intermediate and Cedar Rivers is the major source of the water input into the lake. The Bellaire Dam is the only structure standing in the way of the Elk River Chain of Lakes being navigable by small watercraft from one end of the chain to the other.

Lake Bellaire, with an average depth of 43 feet and a maximum depth of 95 feet,, has been called “Fisherman’s Paradise” for its excellent fishing waters. Brown trout, lake trout, muskie, splake, perch, northern pike, crappie, walleye, rock bass, and smallmouth bass are all on the hook in this lake, and observers will likely see fishing enthusiasts trying their luck from the shore and by boat. Visitors are often surprised at just how clear the lake’s waters are, and often the sandy bottom can be seen. Two public boat launches are available on Lake Bellaire for those with watercraft.

Lake Bellaire is approximately 4.5 miles at its maximum length and 1.3 miles at its widest. The excellent water quality in this mesotrophic (moderately fertile) lake, as well as the surrounding lakes, is due in no small to the vigilance of the area residents, who treasure inland lakes for the great natural resources they are. The local lake preservation organization, called the Three Lakes Association (TLA), focuses its efforts on Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, and Torch Lake. The nonprofit association has been helping to protect and improve water quality for these lakes since 1966. This three-lake chain is part of the larger Chain of Lakes in Michigan, which contains 14 lakes total and spans roughly 75 miles in length. The Elk River Chain of Lakes contributes 60 percent of Grand Traverse Bay’s input water and contains nearly 35 percent of all of Michigan’s inland water.

The Grass River Natural Area (GRNA), founded in 1969, is located near Lake Bellaire, and features 1,443 protected acres of diverse natural habitats. More than 400 species of plants, 60 species of reptiles, fish, and amphibians, and 65 species of birds are in residence here, with upland forests, marshes, rivers, swamps, creeks, and fields serving as their chosen homes. A famous attraction in the state, it features more than 7.5 miles of well-maintained trails for guided tours or self-guided exploration. Classes are available for young and old, and the center is open year round for summer hikes or winter skiing. Walks are organized around the flora and fauna–from bluebird viewing to mushroom identification, from wildflower hikes to wildlife watches. The GRNA is an incredible resource for outdoor educational opportunities, and it’s just plain fun.

The village of Bellaire, with a population of about 1,164 residents, is to the north and northeast of the lake, while Forest Home Township contains both the village of Bellaire and Lake Bellaire itself. The village of Bellaire’s economy depends directly on vacationers and travelers, with millions of dollars every year brought in by recreation and tourism. Therefore, every effort is being made to keep the area’s natural resources clean, beautiful, and attractive. Several other enticing lakes surround Lake Bellaire, including Elk Lake, Lake Skegemog, and Thayer Lake, all to the southwest; Lake of the Woods and Green Lake to the southeast; Intermediate Lake to the north; and Birch Lake to the west. The fun and fast pace of Traverse City is only a 45-minute drive away to the southwest, and Mackinac Island is a pleasant two-and-a-half-hour day trip to the northeast. Lewiston is just over an hour away to the east. Lake Bellaire is really a centrally located spot from which to launch a fun-filled Michigan vacation.

Things to do at Lake Bellaire

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Lake Bellaire

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Crappie
  • Lake Trout
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Splake Trout
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Lake Bellaire Photo Gallery

Lake Bellaire Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Antrim County Drain Commissioner

Surface Area: 1,793 acres

Shoreline Length: 12 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 590 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 588 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 591 feet

Average Depth: 43 feet

Maximum Depth: 95 feet

Water Volume: 75,396 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1902

Water Residence Time: 219 days

Lake Area-Population: 1,164

Drainage Area: 43 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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