Torch Lake (Antrim County, Michigan)

Coordinates: 44°59′00″N 85°18′30″W / 44.98333°N 85.30833°W / 44.98333; -85.30833
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Torch Lake
Torch Lake Antrim County (July 2019).jpg
Torch Lake is located in Michigan
Torch Lake
Torch Lake
Location within the state of Michigan
LocationAntrim & Kalkaska counties, Michigan, U.S.
Coordinates44°59′00″N 85°18′30″W / 44.98333°N 85.30833°W / 44.98333; -85.30833
Etymologywaaswaaganing (Ojibwe) 'place of torches'
Primary inflowsClam River
Primary outflowsTorch River
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length19 miles (31 km)
Max. width2 miles (3.2 km)
Surface area18,770 acres (7,600 ha)
Average depth111 ft (34 m)
Max. depth285 ft (87 m)[1]
Water volume0.78 cu mi (3.3 km3)
Surface elevation591 feet (180 m)[2]
SettlementsAlden, Eastport, Clam River, Torch Lake, Kewadin

Torch Lake is a lake in the Northern Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. At 19 miles (31 km) long, is Michigan's longest inland lake, and at approximately 29.3 mi2 (76 km2), it is Michigan's second largest inland lake, after Houghton Lake. It has a maximum depth of 310 feet (94 m) and an average depth of 111 feet (34 m), making it Michigan's deepest inland lake, as well as the state's largest by volume.[3]

Surrounding it are several townships including Torch Lake, Central Lake, Forest Home, Helena, and Milton in Antrim County, and Clearwater Township of neighboring Kalkaska County. Several villages and hamlets lie along its shore, including Alden, Eastport, Clam River, Torch Lake, and Torch River. It is a popular lake for fishing, featuring lake trout, rock bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, pike, ciscoes, brown trout, steelhead, rainbow trout, atlantic salmon and whitefish.


Torch Lake was originally formed at the end of the Last Glacial Period, along with neighboring Lake Michigan. Receding glaciers carved the surface of the Earth, and melting glaciers filled the new basins, which are now known as the Great Lakes. Torch Lake (along with other long lakes in the region like Lake Leelanau and Elk Lake) were originally bays of the young Lake Michigan. However, sandbars formed at the northern end of these lakes, separating them from Lake Michigan.[4]

The name of the lake is not due to its shape, rather, is derived from translation from the Ojibwe name waaswaaganing meaning "Place of Torches" or "Place of Flames", referring to the practice of the local Native American population who once used torches at night to attract fish for harvesting with spears and nets (Lac du Flambeau in Wisconsin is named after the same Ojibwa term).[5] For a time, it was referred to by local European settlers as "Torch Light Lake", which eventually was shortened to its current name.

View of Torch Lake


Torch Lake is part of a watershed that begins in northern Antrim County with Six Mile Lake, which is connected by the Intermediate River with Lake Bellaire. The Grass River flows from Lake Bellaire into Clam Lake, which in turn drains into Torch Lake via the short Clam River. Torch Lake itself is drained by the Torch River, which flows into Lake Skegemog, which opens into Elk Lake. Elk Lake flows into the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay at Elk Rapids. This watershed is popularly known as the Chain of Lakes.

The lake itself is entirely within Antrim County. However, the southern shore of the lake serves as part of the actual border between Antrim and Kalkaska counties. The lake is located about 17 miles northeast of Traverse City.


The lake is known for nature activities including hiking, canoeing, fishing and diving. Owing to the low amount of boat activity, it is a nature-lovers paradise. Noted for its exceptional beauty; its waters are unusually clear and exhibit a bright turquoise hue, often resembling Caribbean waters. This quality has made the lake a popular spot for the development of resorts and second homes with notables including Kid Rock, Eminem, and Michael Moore[6][7] owning vacation homes on the lake.

At the south end of the lake is a sandbar, locally known as the Torch Lake Sandbar. This sandbar is a popular summer tourist destination, especially around the Fourth of July.[8] The popular location has been considered controversial by locals, due to boat traffic, and, in 2021, a COVID-19 outbreak among the Fourth of July partygoers.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michigan’s 20 Largest Lakes.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Torch Lake (Antrim County, Michigan)
  3. ^ "Michigan's 20 Largest Inland Lakes" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Torch Lake". Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  5. ^ "Ojibwe Culture – Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl". Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  6. ^ Critic tweaks Occupy Wall Street supporter Michael Moore for Torch Lake manse | Detroit Free Press. Retrieved on 2011-12-27.
  7. ^ "Michael Moore's Lavish Lakefront Michigan Mansion -- See The Photos". November 13, 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  8. ^ Group, Michael Livingston Michigan News. "Fourth party returns to Torch Lake sandbar". Traverse City Record-Eagle. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  9. ^ Tanda Gmiter | tgmiter@mlive. com (2020-07-11). "Several people at massive Torch Lake July 4 party have tested positive for coronavirus". mlive. Retrieved 2022-01-28.
  10. ^ Spelbring, Meredith. "Weekend party at Torch Lake sandbar leads to coronavirus outbreak". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2022-01-28.

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