Tittabawassee Lakes, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - East Central - Northeast -

Also known as:  Secord Lake, Sanford Lake, Smallwood Lake, Wixom Lake

The Tittabawassee River is one of Michigan’s main river systems, draining lands in the Northeast and East Central Michigan regions into the Saginaw River and eventually Lake Huron. The entire main branch of the river is 91 miles long. The four reservoirs referred to as the Tittabawassee Lakes are all within a 36-mile stretch. Secord Lake, Smallwood Lake, Wixom Lake and Sanford Lake are the storage reservoirs of four hydroelectric dams built along the Tittabawassee. The first three lakes are in Gladwin County, with Sanford Lake just over the county line in Midland County. The entire river system flows through wooded acreage, parts of which are located within state forest boundaries, imparting an up-north ‘feel’ to the entire river system. The river slows and widens where it courses through the reservoirs, creating easy paddling, great fishing, and room for the enjoyment of water sports. The lakes themselves are home to a large number of cottages and year-round homes. Located within several hours of cities such as Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Midland and Lansing, the lakes have become popular recreation destinations and receive a large number of visitors each year.

Because the lakes are formed from a succession of dams quite close together, each lake extends nearly to the next dam upriver, connected only by short stretches of slowly moving river. A few public parks exist along the lakes, such as Sanford Lake Park. All of the lakes provide a public access boat launch, and numerous private campgrounds and RV Parks exist for visitors who wish to sleep close to nature. Residents enjoy water skiing, power boating, jet skiing, swimming, pontooning and sailing on the wider portions of the lakes, but canoeing and kayaking generate much of the lake traffic. Canoe rentals and tours operate regularly-scheduled canoeing and kayaking runs along the 36-mile stretch, helping their patrons portage the three dams and transporting them and their watercraft back to their cars. The Au Sable Canoe racing team practices along this stretch of the river, but the river itself is seldom over-crowded. It is not unusual to see bald eagles nesting along the quiet stretches of the river, and a wide variety of wildlife and birds call the Tittabawassee River and lakes home.

All four of the lakes are considered good fisheries. Subject to stocking for over 50 years, the lakes support walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, black crappie, white crappie, white bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, plus northern pike and muskellunge, both of which are fighting game fish favorites. Sanford Lake even has a constructed pike marsh maintained by the state Dept. of Natural Resources where young pike and muskellunge are reared for stocking. A barrier-free fishing dock near the Sanford Lake dam offers fishing access to the handicapped and is a favorite with children. Ice fishing on the bays and inlets is popular but usually not safe on the main river portion of the lake. Water quality is relatively good, but there are fish consumption warnings posted against eating more than a small amount of fish from the lakes.

Because the lakes are mostly private and because it is hard to determine where the lakes end and the river begins, statistical information for the four lakes is hard to find. Official DNR maps for each lake do not list total acres or depths, but it is known that depths to about 40 feet do exist. Most of the waterway is between 5 and 30 feet deep. Sanford Lake is the largest, with 1429 acres, followed by Wixom Lake with approximately 1142 acres. Smallwood and Secord Lakes are smaller at 371 and 399 acres respectively. Several stretches of hiking trails exist along the river, and hiking clubs arrive regularly from the larger cities to take advantage of this natural area. Efforts are underway to continue the hiking trails to eventually connect the outlet of the Saginaw River at Lake Huron with the Straits of Mackinac. The translation of the Indian word Tittabawassee means “the water that follows the trail.” Two hundred years later, there is a coordinated effort to make those words again true.

The hydroelectric dams on the Tittabawassee were all built in the 1920s, with the Sanford Dam being completed in 1925. Now under the ownership of Boyce Hydro Power, the small company sells electricity to Detroit Energy. The private owner has been unable to afford to upgrade the generating plants to qualify for the Renewable Energy Credits granted to most electrical power generators in the state, and has not had sufficient funds to maintain the aging dams and other structures. In 2011, Sanford Lake water levels declined due to a leaky embankment. Because Boyce Hydro Power had already spent funds to repair the dam, the owner insisted that he could not afford to repair the embankment. Eventually, property owners created an association which raised the $80,000 for needed repairs, and the lake is back to normal. This situation highlights the importance of funding for dam repairs throughout the state in order to maintain lakefront property values and preserve tax revenues.

The four Tittabawassee Lakes welcome visitors with bountiful flora and fauna, great fishing, and refreshing water. Lodgings in the form of private lakefront rentals, many guest cottages, and small motels can be found in the area. The sparsely-populated countryside holds thousands of acres of state land, with plenty of hiking, horseback riding and snowmobiling trails. The small communities around the lakes provide grocery stores and camping/fishing supplies. Nightlife in this area consists of a campfire on the shore or neighborhood camaraderie at a local tavern; tourists are always welcome. Real estate is often available, many times on the lakefront or with lake views. The Tittabawassee’s four lakes are well worth a visit, be it a day’s worth of fishing or a week’s worth of hiking. Secord, Smallwood, Wixom and Sanford Lakes are waiting your discovery. Let’s not keep them waiting.

*Statistics listed are for Sanford Lake only.

Things to do at Tittabawassee Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Forest

Fish species found at Tittabawassee Lakes

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass
  • White Crappie
  • Yellow Perch

Tittabawassee Lakes Photo Gallery

Tittabawassee Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Boyce Hydro Power

Surface Area: 1,429 acres

Shoreline Length: 34 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 631 feet

Average Depth: 9 feet

Maximum Depth: 26 feet

Water Volume: 13,899 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1925

Spread the word! Share our Tittabawassee Lakes 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.