Torch Lake at 19 miles (31 km) long is Michigan's longest inland lake and at approximately 18,770 acres (76 km²) is Michigan's second largest inland lake. Within it are several townships including Torch Lake Township, Central Lake Township, Forest Home Township, Helena Township, and Milton Township and Clearwater Township in Kalkaska County. Several villages and hamlets lie along its shore, including Alden, Eastport, Clam River, and Torch Lake. The lake is about 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Traverse City and is separated by narrow strips of land from both Grand Traverse Bay on the northwest and Elk Lake at the southwest end. The lake is about two miles (3.2 km) wide and is centered at 44°59′00″N 85°18′30″W. It has a maximum depth of 315 feet (96 m) just off the east end of Campbell Rd. (Milton Twp.) and an average depth of 111 feet (34 m), making it Michigan's deepest inland lake. It is a popular lake for fishing, featuring lake trout, rock bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, Pike, ciscoes, brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish.
The name of the lake is not due to its shape, rather, is derived from translation from the Ojibwa name Was-wa-gon-ong meaning "Place of the Torches", 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. For a time it was referred to by local European settlers as "Torch Light Lake", which eventually was shortened to its current name.
The lake is known for nature activities including hiking, canoeing, fishing and diving. Due 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 owning vacation homes on the 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.
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