Lake Macatawa, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Southwest -

Also known as:  Black Lake

The Ottawa tribe of Native Americans called Lake Macatawa “Ma-Ca-Ta-Wa” or Black Lake. The water, like many lakes in northern states, was dark from tannin released by decaying vegetation. Tributaries feeding into this natural lake include the Macatawa River, Pine Creek, and Winstrom Creek. Lake Macatawa formed at the mouth of the Macatawa River, just east of the Lake Michigan shore. When first surveyed in 1821, the surveyor was impressed enough that he purchased the Lake Michigan beach land that later became the Ottawa Beach and Macatawa Resorts.

The land rush created by the wildcat banking bubble sent settlers to the Lake Macatawa area in the early 1800s. By 1832, a sawmill had been built midway up the lakeshore, and three small settlements were platted out. When the wildcat banking boom crashed, the settlements more or less died. Many people moved away, and Lake Macatawa (aka Black Lake) was mostly quiet. Villages were un-platted and re-platted.

In 1846, a group of 60 Dutch Calvinists led by Rev. Albertus C. VanRaalte left Rotterdam (Netherlands) to head for New York, intending to settle in Wisconsin. After hearing about available lands in West Michigan, VanRaalte decided to look it over. He reached the banks of Black Lake on January 1st, 1847 and the first group of settlers arrived on February 9th, 1847. The settlers began clearing land and establishing their village. Industrious people, they soon had a village plotted out and a park established. After failing to obtain government assistance, the men got to work and dug a channel at the other end of the lake to connect it directly to Lake Michigan, bypassing the smaller crooked outlet. They also renamed it Lake Macatawa.

By 1871, two rail lines had built spurs to the new city of Holland, Michigan and business was booming. Many businesses grew up on the shore of Lake Macatawa. Unfortunately, the day of the Great Chicago Fire, Holland also caught fire in the drought. Over 80% of the city was burned and many lives lost. The staunch Dutch settlers simply began anew and, with help from businessmen in Grand Rapids, soon were back in business.

In the late 1800’s the resort business exploded when the Chicago yachting crowd discovered the resorts at the mouth of the channel. As the channel had been dredged to accommodate Great lakes freighters, steamships soon arrived filled with vacationers and summer residents. Now, more visitors arrived by boat than by rail. Many wealthy families bought property in the new ‘sub-divisions’ outside of the resorts on both sides of the channel, building two and three-story Victorian ‘cottages’ connected by narrow streets and wooden boardwalks. John Jacob Astor vacationed here, and Frank Baum worked on his most famous novel, The Wizard of Oz, at the family cottage on Lake Macatawa. Later, President Gerald Ford spent all of his summers at the family property here while growing up.

A variety of activities built up to amuse the summer guests, including a zoo near the Big Red lighthouse north of the channel. The proprietors dug a tunnel through the dune to take the elephants down to Lake Michigan. The tunnel still exists in Tunnel Park, now a county park. Several yachting and sailing clubs developed marinas on Lake Macatawa, excursion boats plied the lake, and Lake Macatawa cottagers developed a society of their own making.

In the 1920’s fire took its toll of both of the biggest resort hotels at different times, taking many of the cottages with it on both occasions. The lack of adequate fire equipment and the inability to get fire brigades up the narrow lanes caused much property to be sacrificed to the burning embers driven by lakeshore breeze. New cottages were built, but never on as grand a scale as the originals. Now these neighborhoods exist as gated communities, still served by the same narrow streets and wooden boardwalks. Many of the same families still summer here in Lake Macatawa.

Up the lake, the city of Holland grew and prospered, with furniture-making and tanneries. Hope College became known as one of the premier liberal arts colleges. The world’s largest pickle factory, belonging to HJ Heinz, cans over a million pounds of pickles a year. Now in business for over 100 years, the aroma of vinegar and spices can be smelled in certain areas of town.

Through all of its travails and triumphs, Lake Macatawa has remained a sailing hotspot. An easy sail from Chicago, the marinas cater to the visitors with fine dining and every sundry necessary to enjoy life. Because the channel and lake are dredged to accommodate Great Lakes freighters for local shipping, even the largest pleasure boats can enjoy a berth here. The Coast Guard Station is located on Lake Macatawa rather than Lake Michigan. Yachts are now joined by all sorts of sports water craft for water skiing and wakeboarding. Equipment rentals, including kayaks, are popular for bird watching and wildlife viewing along the Lake Macatawa shore and Macatawa River.

Lake Macatawa has always been a favorite for fishermen. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains three public boat launches, and there is public swimming and camping at the two units of Holland State Park. This unique park has space on both Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. The acres of state land assure plenty of room for hiking and exploring. Fishermen enjoy catching Bluegill and Crappie and larger game fish such as Walleye, Northern Pike, Muskie and Chinook Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Brown Trout. In winter, true fishermen don’t let the cold stop them: they can hardly wait until the ice is thick enough to spud a hole and drop in a line. Charter fishing can also be arranged from here.

For those wanting a day away from the water, the city of Holland has much to offer the visitor. Windmill Island with its 250-year-old Dutch windmill is a celebration of Dutch culture. One of the biggest celebrations each year in May is Tulip Time, where the streets are all lined with tulips and the festivities continue for the full week. Holland also has three museums and exhibits of interest at Hope College, plus music and theater. Downtown Holland has been revitalized and presents a full array of activities for every taste. Water quality has improved as the lake recovers from its difficult early industrial past, and Holland is determined to restore Lake Macatawa to better-than-new condition.

At only 30 miles from Grand Rapids and 150 miles from Chicago, Lake Macatawa is an easy weekend trip. To truly experience Lake Macatawa will take a little longer. Rental cottages and condos are available, even within the gated old communities at the mouth of the harbor, so pack your bags today.

Things to do at Lake Macatawa

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Macatawa

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

Lake Macatawa Photo Gallery

Lake Macatawa Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,780 acres

Shoreline Length: 14 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 577 feet

Average Depth: 12 feet

Maximum Depth: 36 feet

Drainage Area: 179 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hyper-eutrophic

At LakeLubbers.com, we strive to keep our information as accurate and up-to-date as possible, but if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you!
Please let us know about it on our Content Correction form.

Spread the word! Share our Lake Macatawa article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.