Lake Michigamme, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Upper Peninsula -

Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Lake Michigamme’s name derives from the Ojibway word for ‘big water’, the same Native American word that gives the state its name. With over 4,300 acres of water, it certainly is big. Although the lake is located next to one of the main highways (US 41/M28) in the northernmost part of the state, much of the lakefront is heavily wooded and undeveloped with some cottages, a state park, and a few resorts along the 36-mile shoreline. If the lake were farther south in the Lower Peninsula, visitor numbers would be much larger. The Upper Peninsula is like that: rugged, uncrowded and beautiful.

Lake Michigamme gained its earliest European population with loggers and miners who arrived to harvest the vast natural resources found in this remote place. Only a dozen or so miles south of Lake Superior, iron ore was discovered early, and the dense stands of pine and hardwoods were harvested and shipped south via the Great Lakes to build cities like Chicago. Copper mining became important on the Keweenaw Peninsula just to the north, and workmen filled their free time with fishing and hunting the vast empty lands. One major drawback was the long and harsh winters. The area gets a wealth of snow, and summer is relatively short. So, when settlers tried farming in the area, the dense tree covering, the rocky surface, thin topsoil and short growing season soon dissuaded them. The little town of Michigamme grew at the west end of the lake, housing primarily mining-related residents. Despite the difficulties of living in such a seemingly inhospitable place, the area around Marquette and Baraga counties gained a determined population of intrepid pioneers who put down roots and couldn’t be budged from the beautiful area. The descendants of some of them still remain here and can be found at Lake Michigamme.

A few hundred cabins and cottages dot the shoreline of Lake Michigamme, clustered in groups with long stretches of forest between them. Much of the shoreline is rocky, with a few sand beaches located on the eastern end of the lake. Several islands dot the surface, but none appear to be inhabited. Much of the undeveloped shoreline is not served by any kind of road. Several small resorts offer cabins or campgrounds and at least one rents boats, pontoons, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats. A small rock dam to maintain summer water levels has replaced an older, failing concrete dam; the dam is owned by the Lake Michigamme Property Owners Association.

Van Riper State Park occupies the eastern arm of Lake Michigamme. The 1,044-acre park offers a variety of amenities and lodging choices to the discerning camper, including a modernized camper cabin, several handicap-accessible mini-cabins, electrical service including 50 amp for larger RVs, playgrounds, beach, beach house, boat launch, picnic tables, RV dump station, picnic shelters, concession store, wifi, ball fields, rustic campsites with pit toilets, a rustic cabin on the Peshekee River, and trails for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, wildlife watching and hunting in season. There are five short walking trails within the park that are suitable for families. Spurr Township Park is located at the far west end of the lake with a boat launch; a third boat launch is located on the north side of the lake off Brown Road.

Fishing draws a good number of anglers, although the surrounding thin, acidic soils make the lake relatively unproductive, so there is little food or breeding cover in the lake. Recently, discussion has centered around creating some artificial fish attracting structures to improve fishing. Over the years, the Department of Natural Resources has stocked several species of sport fish, but few appear to reproduce well naturally. Northern pike appear to be one of the better producing fish, and walleye, rock bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, black crappie, burbot, lake whitefish, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass, brook trout, muskellunge and tiger muskellunge are all found in the lake. In winter, ice fishing is often a favored activity, as long as the angler knows where the best fishing holes can be located.

Winter sports are nearly as popular as summer activities in this area of the Upper Peninsula. Several snowmobile trails in the area connect to larger trail networks in Marquette County. Wildlife watching is popular year round, with the luckiest few observers having the opportunity to spot one of the rarely-seen moose in the area. The moose were air-lifted into the area from Canada in the 1980s to increase the numbers of what had originally been a high natural population of the large animals. The efforts were relatively successful, but the elusive moose are seldom seen by visitors. Their reintroduction is celebrated annually as part of several festivals held in Michigamme. There is even a cafe in the town named for the memorable ‘moose-drop’.

There is no shortage of things to see and explore in this historic area. As iron ore was first discovered in 1845 a few short miles to the east of Lake Michigamme, evidence of this history is everywhere one looks. Several trails north of the highway next to Lake Michigamme wander past the ruins of several mining ventures. The Michigamme Historical Museum has displays of photographs, artifacts and interesting items from 125 years of the area’s history. On the mining theme, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum is located at Negaunee, 25 miles to the east. If copper mining is of interest, the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum is about 70 miles away at Michigan Tech/Houghton. Here you can view the Guinness World Record 17-ton native copper slab on permanent loan from the State of Michigan. The Coppertown Mining Museum is a few miles north of Houghton in Calumet. In keeping with the area’s history of Great Lakes travel, the Marquette Maritime Museum is also about 25 miles from Lake Michigamme in Marquette. From larger ports in the area, Great Lakes excursion boats and fishing charters can be arranged.

If sports interest the family, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Ishpeming, 25 miles from Lake Michigamme. An unusual extreme sport, Guts Frisbee holds its US National Championships in Marquette each summer. Guts is a home-grown Upper Peninsula sport that has gained worldwide attention in recent years, with a large fan base in Japan and Great Britain. Due to the popularity of GUTS, the International Frisbee Association Hall of Fame is located at Calumet Coliseum. And for scenic hikes, follow the waterfall trail. A map of some of the lovely waterfalls in this part of the Upper Peninsula will lead visitors to them.

If camping isn’t your favorite form of lodging, there are several property owners who regularly rent their cottages by the week or longer. Many also provide a boat or canoe for enjoying the beautiful lake. Hotels can be found in the larger cities, and small motels and cottage resorts can be found along the main roads throughout the area. Many are small with only a few cabins and often are reasonably priced, with decor maintained to bring back 1950s nostalgia. Real estate can be found if you check with local realtors in nearby towns. So, come discover the Upper Peninsula that caused hundreds of thousands of mid-westerners to travel by car and car ferry to visit in years past. The lure of a true ‘up-north’ vacation will beckon you back again and again.

Things to do at Lake Michigamme

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Ruins
  • Playground

Fish species found at Lake Michigamme

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Brook Trout
  • Burbot
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Tiger Muskellunge
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Michigamme Photo Gallery

Lake Michigamme Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Lake Michigamme Property Owners Association

Surface Area: 4,360 acres

Shoreline Length: 36 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,552 feet

Maximum Depth: 72 feet

Drainage Area: 193 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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