Thunder Lake, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Upper Peninsula -

Thunder Lake in Michigan can mean two things: a 63-acre lake in Mason County or a 340-acre lake in Schoolcraft County. In this article, Schoolcraft County’s lake is the focus, although both lakes are beautiful and attract their share of recreation enthusiasts and anglers.

Schoolcraft County’s Thunder Lake is a strikingly clear lake nestled in the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This lake, with a maximum depth measured at 20 feet, is a vacation destination all year long with activities to warm the hearts of every kind of traveler. Located close to Inwood, Michigan, a township of about 722 residents, Thunder Lake is surrounded by evidence that Michigan takes very seriously the preservation of its natural surroundings. State parks are abundant in Michigan, and Indian Lake State Park is located nearby, in Manistique, with campgrounds and many leisurely outdoor activities for the whole family. Playgrounds are on site, as are picnic tables and pavilions, boat rentals, beaches with good swimming areas, a boat launch, hiking trails, and more.

Fishing in warmwater Thunder Lake means the catch of the day is unpredictable: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill, yellow perch, brook trout, bullhead, and northern pike are all commonly found in this lake, with the population of crappie noted as being exceptionally large specimens. Thunder Lake is a popular fishing lake in warm months without extensive fishing in winter months, when some experts say the catches are bigger and more frequent due to the scarcity of anglers trying their luck. Ice fishing in the winter, along with snowmobiling, hunting, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, hiking, and generally enjoying the scenic and pristine winter landscapes, are all popular activities around Thunder Lake. Hunters seek deer, duck, turkey, bear, and other specific predatory animals–all within season and with correct licensing, of course.

In warmer months, canoeing, kayaking, boating, biking, hiking, golfing, and sightseeing keep the nature lovers on Thunder Lake busy and content. A public-access boat launch is available on the eastern shore of this shallow, white-sand-bottomed lake. There are several camping areas in the locality, and many campsites have excellent amenities for travelers who want to experience the best of the great outdoors but appreciate a hot shower in the morning. Off-road vehicles are a popular recreation here, as is relaxing on the white-sand beaches that encircle parts of Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

Thunder Lake is a quiet and remote destination for the family that allows day trips to other more urban areas within conveniently short distances. Close by is the city of Manistique, Michigan, only 15 miles to the southeast. Munising, a popular destination on Lake Michigan, is an easy drive north of Thunder Lake. For more day-trip water exploration options in the area, Upper Thunder Lake is to the north of Thunder Lake, as is Leg Lake. Hutt Lake and Murphy Lake are found to the northeast, To the southwest are a variety of lakes, including Bear Lake, Carr Lake, Banana Lake, Jackpine Lake, and Wolf Lake.

Seney, Michigan, is a small town near Thunder Lake. It’s the namesake of Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a protective habitat for more than 200 bird species and dozens of animal species that was established in 1935 to help repair and reverse the damage done to the environs after decades of wetlands overuse and exploitation. Moose, gray wolves, river otters, beavers, black bears, osprey, bald eagles, ducks, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, and common loons are all known to maintain habitats in the Seney refuge. The refuge was also the location, from the 1930s through 1950s, of a very successful attempt to create a breeding population of Canada geese that would help remove the species from the endangered list. The Canada goose population has since soared, and the birds are now common and have a large and stable population in the United States.

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge is also important for its status as a wilderness area, with more than 25,000 acres of the refuge so dedicated. In this wilderness area is a glacially created sub-arctic patterned bog ecosystem, which is thought to be one of the best, developed of those remaining in the contiguous United States. This bog area is called the Strangmoor Bog and is a national natural landmark.

Thunder Lake attracts tourists from throughout the United States, and its rich history is one of the reasons that many people make this area a vacation stop. The closest city to Thunder Lake is Manistique, Michigan, which was once an area that thrived on the lumber industry and held a large population. Many of today’s residents in Manistique are involved in the industry of tourism, which has become the premiere source of economy in recent decades.

The clarity of the water in Thunder Lake is well known and has been said to sometimes make fishing more challenging. Fish seem unlikely to bite when they are in very clear water versus muddy or murky lakes. In some of the more shallow locations around the lake, the bottom is regularly visible and the plant life and fish are easily seen from above. Part of the reason for this excellent water clarity is the strong input of groundwater into Thunder Lake by creeks and streams. A strong and consistent inflow of water allows the lake to have a fairly rapid water cycle, which renews the water and can replenish the oxygen supply in the lake. To support a large diversity of fish, good oxygen levels are essential. Carr Creek feeds into the lake from the southwest corner; Kilpecker Creek feeds in from the northwest. Thunder Lake has only one outlet: Big Murphy Creek, located at the southern end of the irregularly shaped lake. The lake vaguely resembles the silhouette of a seated feline, with pear-shaped body that runs north to south in orientation and a “tail” from the southwest end of the main body that extends further south in the rough shape of the number 2.

Hiawatha National Forest, roughly one million acres in area, is a protected zone in the Upper Peninsula geographic region of Michigan. Thunder Lake sits very close to the center of this forest, with lush habitats of fir, maple, cedar, and white pine–the state’s national tree–surrounding the lake on all sides to varying degrees. This forest is also referred to as the Great Lakes National Forest, as its perimeter touches three of the five Great Lakes. As might be expected from a former lumber industry area, there are miles and miles of old logging roads and well-used paths that area residents and holidaymakers enjoy both for their helpful guidance and for their natural meandering qualities. In summer, the full canopy cools the air below and allows the hiker or biker to get some relief from the heat, while in the fall the variety of species of trees creates a gorgeous full-color attraction for leaf peepers.

As with many other areas in Michigan, the array of lovely single-family homes available for vacation rentals or for purchase is wide and promises to make house hunting a favorite sport. Hundreds of private vacation rentals, including cabins, cape cods, and modernized historical homes, are available, and many areas have real estate on offer for retirement homes or summer cottages, as well as land on which to build that longed-for vacation home. Bed and breakfasts are available in nearby lakeside towns, as are private inns, hotels, and motels. Family adventures await–as do quiet romantic second honeymoons and spontaneous weekend getaways. Schoolcraft County’s Thunder Lake is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored.

Things to do at Thunder Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • State Park
  • National Forest
  • Playground

Fish species found at Thunder Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Brook Trout
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Thunder Lake Photo Gallery

    Thunder Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Surface Area: 340 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 202 feet

    Maximum Depth: 20 feet

    Lake Area-Population: 722

    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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