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Michigan’s largest inland lake has shared many memories among the residents and tourists who paid it a visit. It is a popular destination for people who want to go fishing, swimming, enjoy watersports, among others. But before it became a popular tourist destination, Houghton Lake served a different purpose to those who lived in the area.

Houghton Lake is found in the Roscommon County in the north-central area of Michigan. But aside from Roscommon on the southwest, it reaches to three other townships: Markey Township on the northeast, Lake Township on the northwest, and Denton Township on the southeast.


Size of Houghton Lake

It has a surface area of 20,044 acres. This makes it the largest inland lake in Michigan and one of the largest natural inland lakes in the United States. However, it is also particularly shallow. Its average depth is only 7.5 feet, which makes it only a bit deeper than an Olympic swimming pool. At its deepest point, it’s 22 feet deep.


A.K.A. Roscommon Lake

Before it got its name, Houghton Lake was known as Roscommon Lake. It was named after the Roscommon County where the lake is located. It was in 1879 that the lake got its new name in honor of the state’s first geologist and famous explorer and physician, Douglas Houghton. Douglas Houghton died at the young age of 36, putting an end to his many promises to science. In his honor, the lake was named after him. Along with the lake, the city of Houghton, the Houghton County, and Douglas Houghton Falls were named in his honor.

In 1873, the Emery family settled in the area around Houghton Lake. They were the first white settlers of the land. Augustus Emery and his family made their way to the lake after leaving Chesaning, Michigan. Here, Augustus and his three sons built their family home on 160 acres of land.


Commerce and Life at Lake Houghton

In the mid-1800s, the area around Houghton Lake became a means of transporting lumber. Lumber was transported from Houghton Lake to Muskegon River. From there, they will be brought to sawmills and shipping facilities in Muskegon. Lumbering became a big part of the development of the area around Houghton Lake. This became the primary industry of the area by late 1800s. As more lumber camps operated in the area, more people started to settle in around the lake. By 1883, a community was established at Houghton Lake.


By the early 1900s, however, the lumbering industry was declining. Due to this, the railways that were used to transport lumber became passenger lines. These passenger lines catered to fishermen, hunters, and tourists who want to explore the “north country.” This was the beginning of Houghton Lake’s popularity for great fishing in Michigan.


Recreation and Luxury

Years later, Houghton Lake became primarily as a resort area. Businesses and vacation homes were built around the lake’s area. Houghton Lake’s abundance in aquatic life and gorgeous views of nature attracted tourists from all across the globe. Today, Houghton Lake is one of the top vacation destinations in Michigan.

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