Torch Lake, Michigan, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Michigan - Northwest -

Torch Lake holds the dual distinction as Michigan’s longest inland lake (18 miles) and its second largest inland lake (18,770 acres). The lake’s unparalleled beauty is often attributed to its unique turquoise color. Torch Lake’s name is translated from its Ojibwa name, Was-Wah-gonink, or “Lake of the Torches.” This is due to the fact that local native Americans at one time employed torches to fish the lake at night. The torch lights attracted the lake’s fish population, which would then be gathered through the use of spears and nets.

Torch Lake is a glacial lake located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula, situated between Charlevoix (15 minutes) and Traverse City (30-40 minutes). This region of Antrim County is known as the Chain of Lakes, a moniker derived from the 14 lakes and connecting rivers that flow through the county. Torch Lake is part of the Lower Chain of Lakes which includes Intermediate Lake, Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, Torch Lake, Lake Skegemog, and Elk Lake. Water flows into Torch Lake from Clam Lake by way of the Clam River; water flows out of Torch Lake by way of the Torch River into Lake Skegemog. Although glacial in origin, Torch Lake was made deeper by construction of a hydropower dam downstream on the Elk River in 1916. The dam blocks the flow of water (and boats) into Lake Michigan. The lake’s maximum depth is an impressive 300 feet.

Boating on Torch Lake is prime-time recreation. Boaters can cruise for about 100 miles exploring all six Lower Chain lakes. A popular approach to Torch Lake is from Elk Rapids to the west. Boaters coming from Lake Michigan into the Chain of Lakes must arrange shuttle service past the dam. Torch Lake itself has several public access ramps, located at Torch Lake Village, Eastport, Alden, and one at the south end. The Torch River also has several public boat ramps.

Other popular Torch Lake water sports include sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, jet skiing, and water skiing. Sailing and windsurfing lessons are available. Visitors who don’t bring their own water transportation can rent boats, kayaks, and canoes from local businesses. After exploring Torch Lake by boat, take a dip in the lake’s cool, refreshing water. A popular swimming place is the 2-mile long sand bar at the south end of the lake. People arrive by boat and jet ski to swim and socialize with others.

With an average depth of 140 feet, Torch Lake makes an excellent location to fish for trout (lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout). While some trout spend the majority of their time in the coldest, deepest reaches of the lake, downrigger fishing is an excellent means of making a catch. Beyond trout, the visiting sportsman will also be rewarded with catches of yellow perch, smallmouth bass, rock bass. muskellunge, whitefish, and ciscoes.

Torch Lake is also famed for being the home of YMCA Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, the oldest American summer camp, still located on its original site, an area of approximately one square mile of the lake’s shore in Central Lake Township. The camp was first opened in 1904.

Torch Lake’s 40 miles or so of shoreline wend their way through towns and communities of various sizes, all with something to offer the interested traveler. The nearby town of Bellaire (only a little over 4 miles from the lake’s eastern shore) features a historical museum that documents life in the area from the Civil War through the 1960s. The town is also home to the Antrim County Courthouse, an historic building that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005. The Grand Victorian Bed and Breakfast Inn is the premier lodging in this town. Built in the 1890s, it was placed on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Registry of Historic Places in 1978 and opened to the public in 1989 as the bed-and-breakfast it remains today.

Three miles from Torch Lake’s shores is another quaint northern Michigan town, this one called Alden, the perfect getaway location for the traveler who wants to balance their outdoor adventure with some shopping. Alden is also home to Alden Depot Park and Museum, a restored train depot dating from 1908 that features exhibits on local history.

Less than 10 miles north of the lake is the 156-acre Antrim Creek Natural Area on the shore of Lake Michigan, an ideal place for hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. The Natural Area includes numerous endangered and protected species of plants, including the Pitcher’s Thistle and the Lake Huron Tansy.

When temperatures dip, winter sports around Torch Lake heat up. Winter sport offerings include downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski boarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Cabin and home rentals ring the lake, providing ideal lodging year round, just steps from the water with unbeatable views.

While Torch Lake may be the second-largest inland lake in the state of Michigan, it is also a stepping stone to enjoy the entire Chain of Lakes and all of the surrounding beauty of historic Antrim County.

Things to do at Torch Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Torch Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Cisco
  • Lake Trout
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Whitefish
  • Yellow Perch

Torch Lake Photo Gallery

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Torch Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 18,770 acres

Shoreline Length: 41 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 620 feet

Average Depth: 140 feet

Maximum Depth: 302 feet

Water Volume: 2,635,927 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 316 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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