why we protect torch lake

A Remarkable Place

Fun Facts about Torch Lake

The geological formation of Torch Lake began around 11,000 years ago.

At 19 miles long, Torch Lake is Michigan’s largest inland lake.

Torch is just under 2 miles wide.

Torch averages 142 feet deep and is approximately 350 feet deep at its deepest point.

The lake is warmest in July and August when it reaches an average temperature of 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Oftentimes, the lake freezes over in the winter.

Underground springs (45 degrees) continually add 48-50 degree F water to Torch Lake. 

Some say Torch Lake got its name because it’s shaped like a Torch, but actually, it comes from the Native American word Was-Wah-Go-Ning, which translates to “lake of the torches.” Birch wood torches were used to hunt fish that lived deep in the lake. The light from the torches would attract whitefish and trout to the surface.

The lake is home to a wide variety of fish, including lake trout, rock bass, yellow perch, small mouth bass, pike, brown trout, rainbow trout, whitefish, and muskellunge. Different fish live at different depths of the lake.

It’s said that Torch Lake was named the Third Most Beautiful Lake in the world by National Geographic. It’s not surprising given the lake’s color and clarity, which is caused by calcium carbonate white sediment and relatively few organic materials. But color and clarity are being threatened as Golden Brown Algae (GBA) and Eurasian Watermilfoil spread due to development around the lake, fertilizer flowing into the lake, outdated septic systems, and the introduction through other water sources. For more on invasive species in Torch Lake, visit the Torch Conservation Center.

How did the Torch Lake sandbar come to be?

According to Torch Conservation Center, the unique ankle-deep waters that draw thousands to Torch Lake every year, was formed over thousands of years as glaciers advanced and receded. They left a high ridge of sand, gravel, boulders and clay above the southern shore of Lake Skegemog.

At that time, Torch Lake was connected to Lake Skegemog in the south and to Lake Michigan in the north.

Ten thousand years ago air temperatures warmed and the glacial period ended. A river formed in the Rapid River Valley, which was many times larger and longer than the current Rapid River.

For thousands of years, this old river carried large volumes of meltwater, which formed a large delta. The meltwater carried sand and filled the area, eventually separating Lake Skegemog from Torch Lake.

The old Rapid River pushed sand north and formed the Sand Bar on the south shore of Torch Lake.

Later, during the lumbering era (1880–1920), Torch River was dredged so tugs could haul millions of logs to Elk Rapids and steamers could take goods and tourists to Alden and other villages around Torch Lake. The sand that was dredged was deposited at the west end of the Sand Bar where it remains today.

Members of the TLPA present a check to Kalkaska County Sheriff Pat Whiteford

Every year, TLPA provides financial support to the Kalkaska Country sheriff for overtime patrol to ensure we are keeping the thousands of people who come to the sandbar safe over the Fourth of July. We also fund trash receptacles and porta-jons, and serve on the township Sandbar Task Force, which provides lake and lake area clean-up after the holiday. Our Sandbar Fund is extremely important and needs ongoing support. To donate to this fund, please visit our donation page or send a check to TLPA, PO Box 706, Bellaire, MI 49615.

Threats and Challenges

From invasive species, to development, to bad behavior on the lake, learn about how Torch Lake is threatened — and how we can help.