Muskegon Lake, Michigan, USA

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USA - Midwest - Michigan - West Central -

Also known as:  Lake Muskegon

One of Michigan’s little-known vacation hotspots is Muskegon Lake. Lake Muskegon, as it is sometimes called, has been a major port on the eastern Lake Michigan shoreline for more than 150 years. The mile-long Muskegon River channel connects Muskegon Lake to Lake Michigan. The cities of Muskegon and North Muskegon have been known as powerhouses of industry since the mid-1800s. Largely because of its industrial past, Muskegon Lake has seldom been thought of as a tourism destination – a mistake that increasing numbers of visitors are rectifying. Muskegon Lake was a sought-after resort community around the turn of the last century. And, people are finally discovering that the 4,232-acre lake still holds its historic charm.

“Muskegon” is derived from the Ottawa Indian term “Masquigon” meaning “marshy river or swamp”. The lake and surrounding wetlands are considered vital parts of the coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes. Muskegon Lake is noted for its water-borne fun: more than one yacht club calls the lake ‘home port’. Sailing is a favorite here, as are power boating, water skiing, kite-boarding, pontooning and paddle sports. With 13 marinas and seven launch sites, Muskegon Lake offers plenty of access to visiting lakelubbers. Sailboat races and regattas are held regularly in the warmer months. Fishing is a favored activity on Muskegon Lake. Besides the highly-recommended walleye fishery, the lake offers up northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, Chinook salmon, brown trout, lake trout and catfish. The fishing never stops, even in winter, when the ‘hard water’ enthusiasts flock to the ice. Those wishing to cast for the really big ones can charter a fishing boat out of Muskegon onto Lake Michigan. The Muskegon River upstream is a favorite for paddle aficionados, with much of the river available to canoeing and kayaking along with river bank campsites. Bear Lake, with 415 acres lies just north of Muskegon Lake and can be reached by channel.

As for swimming, the city of Muskegon provides several public parks with access to water and swim areas, including Kruse Park, advertised as Michigan’s only ‘dog beach’. Two large public beaches on Lake Michigan are located on both sides of the Muskegon River Channel: Muskegon State Park north of the channel and city-owned Pere Marquette Park south of the channel. The two-and-a-half mile beach at Pere Marquette is designated one of the cleanest beaches on the Great Lakes. And, Harbour Towne Beach is located on Muskegon Lake on the south side of the channel. Muskegon County contains nearly a dozen Lake Michigan public beaches, so water access is always at hand. One of the better-know is P J Hoffmaster State Park, just south of Muskegon at Norton Shores.

Muskegon offers much for visitors to enjoy: many historic homes are available for tours. The restored Frauenthal Theater has evolved into the Frauenthal Theater for the Performing Arts and hosts visiting artists and a regular concert series. It is the home of the West Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Muskegon Museum of Art joins several galleries in delighting the discerning eye, while antique shops abound. The Lakeshore Museum Center maintains several historic properties, including an 1875 fire station. Probably the best known is the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum with its WWII submarine, the USS Silversides, and the USCGC McLain, a Prohibition-era Coast Guard cutter that saw enemy action in WWII. Warship buffs can even arrange sleep-over duty on one of the ships. Also, the USS LST393, docked at the waterfront, holds a veteran’s museum; the SS Milwaukee Clipper, built in 1904, provides tours of a passenger cruise ship with a long and varied history. Those wishing to take a modern-day cruise can either book the Port City Princess for a cruise around Muskegon Lake or a longer trip into Lake Michigan. And, for the most up-to-date water travel, the Lake Express High Speed Ferry can transport both autos and passengers to Milwaukee in two-and-a-half hours.

For more active adventures, the Muskegon Luge and Outdoor Sports Complex at Muskegon State Park offers a wheel luge run in summer. The City of Muskegon Lakeshore Trail provides a paved pathway for walking or bicycling along most of the lake’s south shore. The Musketawa, meandering 26 miles from Muskegon to Marne, opens up the countryside for hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and snowmobiling. Those wishing less strenuous activity can enjoy the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve with the Al Bell Trail, the Fred Wilder Observation Tower and the Wilder River Walk. And as a drawing card for children, Michigan’s largest amusement park and water park is only 20 miles away.

Beautiful Muskegon Lake lies at the mouth of the Muskegon River before it enters Lake Michigan. The river itself, Michigan’s second longest, played a major role in the development of Muskegon during the logging era. Because Muskegon Lake provided an excellent sheltered natural port and the river provided a method of log transport, Muskegon quickly became the heart of the Michigan timber industry. At one point, 47 sawmills dotted its shores. A number of lumber barons earned their fortunes cutting, selling and shipping the products of Michigan’s vast forests. Noted for their philanthropy and civic pride, these same business tycoons contributed generously to education and the arts, building a fine metropolis along Muskegon Lake’s shores. Many of the ornate homes and buildings have been restored to provide bed-and-breakfast establishments and urban living for resident professionals.

The protected harbor was excellent for industrial shipping; however, the natural outlet of the Muskegon River to Lake Michigan had a propensity toward shifting sand, causing seriously shallow areas. Because ships were often stranded due to the shallow river outlet, Congress finally authorized funds to enlarge and dredge the river to better accommodate shipping in the 1860s. This rich shipping history is reflected in the fact that Muskegon Lake itself holds two navigational lighthouses, and the entrance supports four more: two on the North and South breakwaters and two on the north and south banks of the channel entrance to Muskegon Lake. The former Coast Guard light station on the channel has been restored and is the home of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Facility-Lake Michigan Field Station.

The Port of Muskegon supplied much of the timber for rebuilding after the devastating fires of 1871, including the Great Chicago Fire. The timber resources were eventually used up, and Muskegon moved on to develop other industries, such as paper mills and the building of tanks during WWII. Most heavy industry has since moved away, and local residents have obtained funds to complete clean-up of polluted sediments to further restore the lake to optimum health.

By the late 1800s, Lake Michigan Park became a famed destination of vacationers and day visitors who flocked to the resorts built near the shore. An amusement park, dance hall and other attractions kept tourists arriving in a steady stream. Around 1900, an actor’s colony of sorts developed along Lake Michigan in the area of the current Pere Marquette Park. Famed silent film actor and director Buster Keeton lived here summers as did a number of vaudeville stars and stage acts. By 1938, the Actor’s Colony had faded; lake tourism had changed. Parks now provide the best options for visitors to enjoy the lakefront. And the Muskegon Lake area provides them in great abundance.

Visitors wishing to enjoy this little-known watery paradise will find all types of vacation accommodations, including resort hotels, cottages and private homes for rental. Camping is permitted at both of the state parks along Lake Michigan but may require prior reservations on busy weekends. Real estate on the lakefront is available for a surprisingly economical price. And new condos, lofts and townhouses overlooking Muskegon Lake can often be found. So, hook up the boat trailer, and pack the kids and the car. Discover Muskegon Lake this year. You’ll wonder why you didn’t find it before!

Things to do at Muskegon Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Amusement Park
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Muskegon Lake

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

Muskegon Lake Photo Gallery

Muskegon Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 4,232 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 580 feet

Average Depth: 23 feet

Maximum Depth: 79 feet

Water Volume: 101,635 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 23 days

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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