Explore World-Class Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan
Walloon Lake is located within the Little Traverse Bay Watershed and empties into Lake Michigan via the Bear River. (Click here to see all Walloon Lake, Michigan Homes for Sale) Walloon Lake is considered an outstanding ecological, aesthetic, and recreational resource. Rolling glacial terrain surrounds its deep waters, including its five distinct depressions or basins:
- Foot – 94 ft.
- Mud Lake – 14 ft.
- West Arm – 100 ft.
- North Arm – 52 ft.
- Wildwood – 80 ft.
The lake and its watershed are located in Bay, Evangeline, and Melrose townships of Charlevoix County; and Bear Creek and Resort Townships of Emmet County. The lake has a relatively small watershed (22,650 acres) compared to its lake surface area (4,270 acres). Five percent of the Walloon Lake Watershed is classified as wetlands. Of particular importance is the North Arm’s wetland complex where over 5,000 acres of the land drain through the wetlands before reaching the waters of the North Arm.
Walloon Lake is primarily fed by groundwater (53%) and only has a few small inlet creeks, Schoof's Creek and Fineout. Walloon Lake is characterized as an oligotrophic lake. It has low plant growth and algae, high water clarity, and is generally cold and deep. The lake supports populations of walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, rock bass, perch, and stocked rainbow and lake trout. (Click here to see Northern Michigan's finest collection of vacation rentals)
The Village of Walloon Lake
Today, the village boasts about 30 businesses, roughly half of them seasonal. Prior to recent development, there was only one building - a longtime general store.
The new Hotel Walloon, a three-story year-round waterfront inn designed as homage to its Progressive Era predecessor. Across from the hotel stands a pair of historic lakefront cottages that were saved from the wreckers and repurposed as retail storefronts. Those house an antique shop and a jewelry design studio. Next door, a renovated commercial building houses professional offices and an art gallery.
Next to the hotel is the Barrel Back Restaurant, a year-round upscale dining spot that opened in 2013 overlooking the lake. Under the restaurant, there is a 60-slip marina out of Tommy's Michigan, a watersports retailer.
Across from the village green, there is a small plaza of 50-square-foot sheds that house artisans selling crafts, apparel, home goods and souvenirs. Clustered together next to a new bakery, the shops have become a mini destination on their own. Those pop-up stores, as nice as they are, are illegal in most towns in Michigan," said Robert Gibbs, a Birmingham-based planning consultant tapped to plan the village redevelopment.
Most municipal building codes require structures that have full footing, plumbing, heating and cooling, and other features before occupancy is permitted. By working closely with the community "Jon was able to pull this off," Gibbs said.
The village of Walloon Lake, located at the "foot" of its paint splatter-shaped namesake, is reclaiming its historic status as a destination getaway. When the Grand Rapids & Indiana railroad brought visitors around the turn-of-the-century, the lake was called "Bear Lake," derived from the Native American name Muhqua Neblis, meaning "bear water."
The village was named Talcott until it was changed to Walloon Lake in 1900, a time when the community numbered about 300 and was frequented by vacationers from urban centers like Chicago, Detroit and Grand Rapids. By 1905, the village boasted multiple hotels and stores, a depot, boat livery, stables, small manufacturers and more.
The lake is closely associated with literary giant Ernest Hemingway, whose family bought a cottage on the lake named Windemere. Hemingway, who spent his boyhood years on Walloon, used the area as setting for a series of short stories featuring alter ego character Nick Adams.
Since the turn of the century, Walloon Lake has attracted development. Its irregular shoreline results in a high (3.0) shoreline development factor (i.e., the ratio of shoreline length [27.5 miles] to lake surface area). This means the lake is more susceptible to pollution from shoreline activity (development, erosion, fertilizer use, etc.) than a lake that is rounder. The lake, however, has managed to maintain its excellent water quality despite pressures and impacts from increasing shoreline development.
While several features, including the lake's depth, the presence of marl (a type of soil that contains calcium carbonate and clay), and its small watershed size enhance the lake's ability to buffer its waters from the detrimental effects of development, the lake is not unaffected. The irregular shoreline of Walloon Lake and its long retention period (4.1 years) make it particularly sensitive to nutrient additions from development.
The majority of pollutants entering the lake are nutrients, primarily phosphorus, and sediment from nonpoint sources, such as runoff from fields and roads, and leachate from failing septic systems. With over 830 dwellings along its shoreline, many aging septic systems are contributing wastewater seepage directly into the lake. In addition, many of the shoreline soils do not adequately remove nutrients from septic system effluent.
Wetlands provide a variety of important ecological services that contribute to the health of Walloon Lake and other surface waters in the Watershed, including fish and wildlife habitat, water quality protection, flood control, and erosion prevention. Walloon Lake has five large wetland complexes: Schoof’s Creek, Jones Landing, Mud Lake, Lily Pad Bay, and South Arm Creek. These wetlands are all detailed in the “Walloon Lake Wetlands and Tributaries Assessment 2012” in Reports and Studies.
Monitoring and Research
Walloon Lake is monitored every three years through the Watershed Council’s Comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring (CWQM) Program for dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, pH, nitrate-nitrogen, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and chloride levels. Water transparency, chlorophyll-a, and water temperature are also monitored in Walloon Lake each summer by volunteers as part of the Watershed Council’s Volunteer Lake Monitoring (VLM) Program. The Advisory Committee of the Little Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan is working to protect Walloon Lake, as its water drains into Little Traverse Bay.
Walloon Lake Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How many acres is Walloon Lake?
A. The lake covers 4,270 acres (17.3 km2) and is primarily fed from groundwater. Its maximum depth is just over 100 feet (30 m).
Q. How far is Traverse City from Walloon?
A. Distance from Walloon Lake, MI to Traverse City, MI There are 46.51 miles from Walloon Lake to Traverse City in southwest direction and 69 miles (111.04 kilometers) by car, following the US-31 route.
Q. Did Hemingway live in Michigan?
A. Follow the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway in Michigan. ... Born on July 21, 1899, just outside of Chicago, Ernest Miller Hemingway grew up in the middle-class town of Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway spent parts of his first 22 summers with his family in Northern Michigan, near Petoskey.
Q. What county is Walloon Lake MI in?
A. Charlevoix County, Walloon Lake is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Charlevoix County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 290.
Q. What are the Primary Inflows?
A. Groundwater, Schoofs Creek, South Arm Creek
Q. What are the Primary Outflows?
A. Bear River
Q. What is the Surface Area?
A. 4,586 acres
Q. What is the Shoreline?
A. 30.5 miles
Q. What is the Maximum Depth?
A. 100 feet
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