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Lake Comparisons
An interesting comparison of the Elk River Chain-of-Lakes, the Elk River Chain-of-Lakes with other large inland lakes in Michigan, Torch Lake and the Great Lakes with the other largest freshwater lakes in the United States, and finally, the Great Lakes with all the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Reservoirs are excluded. View tables.


According to “Elk-Skegemog Lakes Association: Fifty Years of Stewardship”, Elk Lake received its name from an elk skull with antlers attached found in the Elk River.


“Skegemog” is an Algonquin word meaning “meeting of the waters”.


Freeze-Thaw Dates for Elk Lake
ESLA has been recording the freeze and thaw dates for Elk Lake for many years.

  • Earliest Freeze Date: December 22, 1989
  • Earliest Thaw Date: March 4, 1998
  • Latest Freeze Date: January 28, 1995
  • Latest Thaw Date: April 25, 1996

Elk Lake has a surface area of 8,088 acres and includes 25.8 miles of shoreline. The lake has a maximum depth of 192 feet and an average depth of 67 feet.


Skegemog Lake has a surface area of 2,755 acres and includes 15 miles of shoreline. The lake has a maximum depth of 29 feet and an average depth of 11 feet.


The Elk River Watershed covers 320,000 acres and contains 54 lakes, 220 streams and tributaries, as well as 110 miles of connecting waterways. It is the largest watershed in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed.


The Elk Rapids area was first home to Native Americans known as the Anishinabek, who lived and played on its white sand beaches long before the first European settlers appeared.


‘Native plants’ refers to plants that were here before Michigan was settled by Europeans in the 1700’s. Here is a list of some native species that have hardy root systems and serve as effective natural shoreline protection:

Red Osier
Dogwood
Big Bluestem Grass
American Hazelnut
Bottle Brush Grass
Sand Dune Willow
Hardstem Bulrush
Paper Birch
Black Eye Susan
White Cedar
Blue Eyed Grass
Sand Cherry
Indian Grass
White Pine
Goldenrods
Bearberry
Arborvitae
Wool Grass
Milkweed
Bergamot
Sumac
Alder
From Crystal Facets, Crystal Lake Assoc, Fall/Winter


The Elk-Skegemog Watershed is a 402 square mile portion of Antrim County, Grand Traverse County, and Kalkaska County including Elk Rapids, Milton, Whitewater, and Clearwater Townships.


Elk and Skegemog Lakes are at the bottom of the Elk River Watershed. The Watershed extends from close to Lake Charlevoix all the way to the mouth of the Elk River in Elk Rapids.


Nature Preserves On Our Lakes And Rivers
Many preserves exist on Elk and Skegemog Lakes. These were created over the years by the hard work and generosity of donors and ESLA members. Large or small in size, each one represents a piece of our shoreline that will remain forever as it exists today. Many are best viewed by boat. ESLA is always looking for opportunities to help create more natural areas. If you have an idea, please contact your zone representatives or other board members so that we can work with you and dedicate more shoreline as Natural Areas. Listed below are the existing natural areas on our lakes.

  • Kewadin Wetlands Natural Area – 41 acres along the northern-most shore of Elk Lake next to the Milton Township Park.
  • North Skegemog Natural Preserve – 37 acres at the northwestern tip of Skegemog Lake, north of the Elk/Skegemog Narrows.
  • Palastra-Holm Nature Preserve – 19 acres on Elk Lake south of Whitewater Township Park.
  • Skegemog Lake Wildlife Area – 3300 acres with 5.5 miles of shoreline along the south and east sides of Skegemog Lake.
  • South Elk Lake Wetlands Nature Preserve – 30 acres with 750 feet of frontage on Elk Lake at the southeast shore of Elk Lake.
  • The Battlecreek Natural Area has been established in partnership with Whitewater Township and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.