Paw Paw Lake, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Southwest -

Paw Paw Lake. Just the name invokes lazy, hot summer days in a secluded country setting. Situated in Southwest Michigan, 891-acre Paw Paw Lake is a country-like setting but not at all secluded. Chicago is only two hours away, and Benton Harbor is considered a ‘trip to town’ at a little over ten miles. The lake’s close proximity to population centers is what made Paw Paw Lake a popular resort by the late 1800s.

The area around Paw Paw Lake was settled early in the 1820s by adventurous lumbermen and farmers who quickly realized the advantages of the Paw Paw River for milling grain and operating sawmills. The small city of Coloma was first known as ‘Shingle Diggins’ because of the shingle-making facility built there. It later became Dickerville and finally Coloma. By the time Coloma was the common name, many orchards were producing apples, peaches and cherries in the ideally-mild climate afforded by nearly Lake Michigan.

First a stagecoach stop and later a railway depot made Coloma and its neighboring hamlet Watervliet easy to get to and poised to grow. And the first things to grow were resort businesses on Paw Paw Lake. By 1895, Chicago newspapers were touting Paw Paw Lake as a spot destined to become a popular resort. That prophetic statement forsaw many large resort hotels and dance pavilions being built along the lake’s 9-mile shoreline. Within a 10-year period, 50 hotels and 10 dance pavillions were built along the lake. A railroad was built from Coloma to the shore, making it easy for vacationers to reach their destination in reasonable comfort. Double-deck excursion boats plied the water; one boat, the Margaret, was said to have held 250 people.

Train records show over 40,000 people coming to Paw Paw Lake in one summer. The last big dance pavilion, the Crystal Palace Ballroom, built in 1925 could handle 2500 dancers at one time. The Crystal Palace Ballroom continued in operation into the 1950s, hosting such famous dance bands as Bob Crosby, Lawrence Welk, Jimmy Dorsey and the Benny Goodman orchestra. But times changed, automobiles became common and being accessible by train wasn’t as necessary to enjoying a summer holiday. The masses of vacationers moved on-and left the beautiful lake to the residents and summer cottages. Today, lovely homes and condos dot the shoreline and another generation of lakelubbers enjoys the summer days at Paw Paw Lake.

Paw Paw Lake has settled into a summer routine that residents and visitors alike love to partake of. The local yacht club teaches sailing and sponsors boating safety classes, children’s classroom activities, clean-up days and the weekly potluck. Remote control boat races have been added recently and are very popular with the children. The Paw Paw Lake Association works diligently to treat weeds and educate property owners in ecologically-sound lawn and lakefront care. The shoreline is quite heavily developed, but a large number of the properties are summer residences and the off-season is somewhat deserted.

For the fishermen in the family, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides two public boat launch sites. Several fishing tournaments are held throughout the year, and Paw Paw Lake has produced several trophy fish: Longnose Gar, Largemouth Bass, Bowfin and Bluegill. Crappie are also caught, and the lake has very good Pike fishing through the ice when using tip-ups. Primarily a drainage lake, Paw Paw Lake has two small inlet drains and one outlet with an overflow spillway at state Highway M-140 that eventually winds its way to the Paw Paw River. Tiny Lake Stella is connected to the bigger lake by a short channel. The irregular shoreline provides several small bays and inlets ideal for fishing. Charter fishing can be arranged on Lake Michigan nearby. For winter sports, the Michigan Snowmobile Association can direct you to suitable trails in the Coloma area.

Paw Paw Lake is the ideal summer home base for exploring the Lake Michigan shoreline. Warren Dunes State Park is 25 miles away. Coloma sports Deer Forest, an exotic animal park that is popular with the children. Paw Paw Lake offers all sorts of water sports, swimming and fishing. A public golf course is located along the south shore. Adults enjoy the Lake Michigan Wine Trail. Local campgrounds can handle any type or size of camping vehicle. And no one can resist a leisurely drive along the Blue Star Highway, through Lake Michigan dune country and views of luxurious lakeshore homes. If birding is your pleasure, the nearby Sarrett Nature Center in Benton Harbor can provide maps and direct you to favored locations to view both inland and shore birds.

Coloma holds several festivals throughout the year: the Glad-Peach Festival is the big celebration of two main local crops. The area provides many of the cut flowers for major markets, and peaches are one of the premier crops. The Festival includes such activities as car shows, peach baking contests, a parade and a 10K run. A great time is had by all.

If Paw Paw Lake sounds like the kind of get-away destination you’d enjoy, local realtors can help you line up rental cottages for a weekend, a week or a month. If you find you don’t want to leave, realtors can help you locate the condo or summer residence of your dreams. So, come on over and stay awhile. Paw Paw Lake welcomes you.

Things to do at Paw Paw Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Paw Paw Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Bowfin
  • Crappie
  • Gar
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Longnose Gar
  • Pike
  • Sunfish

Paw Paw Lake Photo Gallery

    Paw Paw Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

    divider

    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Berrien County Drain Commissioner

    Surface Area: 891 acres

    Shoreline Length: 9 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 620 feet

    Average Depth: 35 feet

    Maximum Depth: 91 feet

    Water Residence Time: 2.3 yrs

    Trophic State: Eutrophic

    Spread the word! Share our Paw Paw Lake 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.