Chain of Lakes

The Elk River Chain of Lakes supplies a whopping 60 percent of Grand Traverse Bay’s surface water.  The Chain of Lakes is 55 miles long, consisting of 14 lakes connected by rivers.  The waterbodies lie within Antrim, Kalkaska and Grand Traverse Counties.  The lakes are Beals, Scotts, Six Mile, St. Clair, Ellsworth, Wilson, Ben-Way, Intermediate, Lake Bellaire, Clam, Torch, Skegemog and Elk.

This subwatershed covers more than 500 square miles. Torch Lake is Michigan’s second largest inland lake and is also the longest.

We partner with Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, several conservation groups and lake associations to implement our EPA-approved Watershed Protection Plan in the Chain of Lakes.  Right now that primarily involves two projects:  stream hydrology studies and fish shelters.

Stream Hydrology Studies

We’re conducting stream hydrology studies of Rapid River and Grass River to see what’s causing excessive sedimentation.  Thank you to our many dedicated Adopt-A-Stream volunteers who are helping monitor several sites on Rapid River, Grass River and their tributaries!   Thank you also to all our volunteers who are testing stream velocity and conducting streambank erosion assessments.  Once we determine the causes of sedimentation, we’ll develop a comprehensive plan to reduce it.

Fish Shelters

Fishing in the Chain of Lakes is about to get even better!  We’re part of a partnership to install 80 fish shelter structures Bellaire, Clam, Elk, Intermediate and Torch lakes.  These shelters will provide crucial protection for smaller forage fish, which is vital because shoreline development has decreased natural shallow-water structures.  This will increase the diversity and number of fish.

Shelters will use all-natural materials that are approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  If any shelters are placed in front of a waterfront owner’s property, written permission will be obtained before placing the structure.  Shelters will be placed in 15 to 25 feet of water.

You can download a brochure to learn more about the fish shelter project and how you can get involved or visit the Three Lakes Association website to see a map of the current fish shelters.

This project is a collaboration between the Watershed Center and:

Photo:  Stephanie Lockman shows off her record Muskie for Elk Lake.  Photo by Kyle Anderson.

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