Lake Leelanau, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Northwest -

Also known as:  Carp Lake

Michigan is a bounty of natural resources – a place where every town is less than two hours from a body of water. Among these bodies of water, Lake Leelanau (pronounced LEE-lan-awe) stands out not only because of its Narrows, which separate the North Lake from the South Lake, but also because of its close proximity to some of the most outstanding attractions in the country. Lake Leelanau lies in the Northwestern Lower Penninsula of Michigan. This coastal area is a popular vacation destination. The tourist town of Traverse City is a short distance southeast of the lake. The north basin of Lake Leelanau meets Lake Michigan near the picturesque town of Leland. Although a dam prevents boats from entering Lake Michigan by way of Lake Leelanau, the inland lake remains connected to Lake Michigan through the mile-long Leland River. Across Lake Michigan lie the Manitou islands, which are a natural treasure for the state. Whichever direction you head, Lake Leelanau is a gateway to the best Michigan has to offer its visitors. Even if you don’t venture from the shores of the lake itself, you’ll experience history, beautiful scenery, and great activities.

Lake Leelanau has been designated as a warm and cold water fishery. Recreational fishing is a rich experience in Lake Leelanau because the North and South basins have different depths of water, attracting specific types of fish to each part of the lake. Award winning Brown Trout have been found in North Lake Leelanau for more than half a century. Bluegills are plentiful in the more shallow water of the South Lake. Northern Pike, several types of Bass and Yellow Perch can be found in both the North and South Basins. Thanks to efforts to populate the lake, Walleyes are by far the most abundant fish in Lake Leelanau. Nearby Leland holds a Walleye Festival each spring, celebrating the millions of Walleye that now fill the lake. Fishtown, a century-old fishing village in historic Leland, hosts charter fishermen who offer guided fishing trips, equipment and even instruction. Smoked fish is available in town from the local fisheries as well as fresh fish in the restaurants. Leland also has a full service marina, honoring the long tradition of boating in the Great Lakes State. The public ferry to the Manitou Islands departs from the Fishtown docks. The Islands are a haven for wildlife. They are accessible by private boat or ferry, and camping is permitted on both islands. Visitors to the island will enjoy the guided tours of preserved shipwreck sites and other historic landmarks.

Residential properties are available along the 41 miles of Lake Leelanau shoreline and in the lakeside communities of Leland and Cedar. The North and South basins of the lake are intersected by State Highway 204, which leads to the nearby community of Suttons Bay. Lake Leelanau is a designated source of water for portions of these communities. Though this region is not densely populated, with more than half of the land being woodlands and agricultural, the lake shores are well developed with private residential properties. East of Lake Leelanau, Traverse City is the nearest urban area and is known for sweet Michigan cherries and an annual Cherry Festival in July. There are wineries in the area that can make a drive through Traverse City to Lake Leelanau even more enjoyable. For those who prefer the road less traveled, M-22 follows the western coastline of Michigan and is the more scenic route to Lake Leelanau from points south. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the country are along the coast of Western Michigan. You can climb vast sand dunes, breathe clean air, and dip your feet into the pristine waters that define this particular area of the country.

Winter is cold in Michigan, so when warm weather finally arrives, the entire state comes alive with art, music, food and all the gifts of summer. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is not far from Leelanau Lake and has breathtaking views along with summer events like the annual Manitou Music Festival.

Lake Leelanau is one of the many recreational lakes that make Michigan a wonderful place to spend summer vacation with family and friends. Cottages, log cabins and campgrounds abound near Lake Leelanau. With so many bodies of water, Michigan has no shortage of places to rent and purchase fishing boats, kayaks, and other water sports equipment. Gas service and launches are available for boats on both North and South Lake Leelanau, and the waters are navigable to the town of Cedar.

Those who brave the cold Michigan winter enjoy the beautiful scenery and ski resorts near Lake Leelanau. Ski runs for all levels of experience and terrain parks for snowboarders are within thirty minutes of the Lake Leelanau area.

Lake Leelanau runs 15 miles through the Leelanau Peninsula and has approximately 41 miles of shoreline. The entire lake includes two bodies of water, referred to as North Lake Leelanau and South Lake Leelanau. North Lake Leelanau is 2,950 acres. South Lake Leelanau is an expansive 5,370 acres. Together, the North and South Lakes span 8,320 acres. Between the two lakes, the water narrows near Highway M-204 in the community of Lake Leelanau. Called ‘The Narrows,’ this channel is a mile long and creates the border that defines the two basins. The North Lake averages 43 feet in depth, while the South Lake has an average depth of only 25 feet. Cedar River empties into Lake Leelanau and accounts for most of the water surface of the South Lake. Lake Leelanau Watershed drains 158 square miles of water. At its deepest point, South Lake Leelanau is 62 feet. North Lake Leelanau plunges 121 feet at its deepest.

Fountain Point, an historic landmark and summer resort on the South Lake, is one of the highlights of Lake Leelanau. The artesian spring at Fountain Point formed in 1867 when French fur trader Andre de Beloit attempted to drill for oil and instead struck a spring of water that has been streaming ever since. The spring is an attraction that has helped earn Fountain Point at Lake Leelanau a place on the Nation’s Historic Registry.

Things to do at Lake Leelanau

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Lake Leelanau

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Leelanau Photo Gallery

Lake Leelanau Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Leelanau County Drain Commision/ Leland Dam Authority

Surface Area: 8,320 acres

Shoreline Length: 41 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 617 feet

Maximum Depth: 121 feet

Drainage Area: 158 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligo-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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