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Protecting Northern Michigan's ​Water Resources

Elk River Chain of Lakes Shoreline Survey

Project Summary

During the summers of 2016 and 2017, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council led a coordinated effort to conduct a shoreline survey for 15 Lakes in the Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed. The surveys were meant to document conditions that could impact water quality, including the three biggest threats to inland lakes: nutrient pollution, habitat loss, and shoreline erosion.

Within the Watershed, shoreline properties have a large connection to the surrounding landscape and can serve as the last line of defense for protecting water quality. Conducted on a parcel-by-parcel basis, survey results indicate that human activity along sections of the shoreline of many Lakes is likely impacting the lake water quality to some extent. Importantly, Lake water quality remains quite high in all Lakes surveyed. The purpose of each survey was meant to identify areas of the shoreline that can be enhanced and improved to prevent nutrient pollution, erosion, increase fish habitat, and help protect and conserve the Elk River Chain of Lakes for future generations.

Improving areas with poor greenbelts will help the character and quality of your Lake by helping to reduce nutrient pollution and sediment input from erosion along the shoreline. Please visit the Michigan Shoreland Stewards (http://www.mishorelandstewards.org/) for more information on healthy lake practices along the shoreline.

Below are individual Lake reports for all lakes surveyed, highlighting greenbelt status, areas of erosion, and the presence of a bioindicator algae, known as “Cladophora”. Clicking a lake name will open the respective report in a new browser window. Please scroll beneath the lake list for a map depicting survey results. A legend for each map layer is shown by clicking the arrow next to the checked layer. Scroll down for information on greenbelts, Cladophora, and erosion from the survey. For individual parcel results, please contact Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council at (231)347-1181.

Comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring (CWQM)
2017 Torch Lake Shoreline Survey
2017 Thayer Lake Shoreline Survey
2017 Skegemog Lake Shoreline Survey
2017 Lake Bellaire Shoreline Survey
2017 Elk Lake Shoreline Survey
2017 Clam Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Wilson Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 St. Clair Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Six Mile Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Intermediate Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Hanley Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Ellsworth Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Ben Way Lake Shoreline Survey
2016 Beals and Scotts Lake Shoreline Survey
2010 Elk River Chain of Lakes Profile CWQM

Three Lakes Association
Three Lakes Association
The mission of the Three Lakes Association is to provide leadership to preserve, protect, and improve the environmental quality of the Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed for all generations with emphasis on Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, Torch Lake and their tributaries.
P.O. Box 689, Bellaire, Michigan, 49615
Friends of Clam Lake
Friends of Clam Lake
To be a responsible advocate of reality, truth and vigilance, with a focus on the continued quality of Clam Lake and the safe public and private use of this wonderful treasure in the Chain-of-Lakes.
Elk Skegemog Lakes Association
Elk Skegemog Lakes Association
The mission of the Elk Skegemog Lakes Association (ESLA) is to do all things and take such actions as may be necessary or desirable to protect and preserve the environment of the area of the Elk-Skegemog watershed, including connecting lakes, streams and wetlands.
P.O. Box 8, Elk Rapids, Michigan, 49629
Intermediate Lake Association
Intermediate Lake Association
Dedicated to the conservation and protection of Intermediate Lake.
PO Box 795, Central Lake, Michigan, 49622
Six Mile Lake Association
Six Mile Lake Association
The Six Mile Lake Association is dedicated to protect the quality of our lake and its watershed, and to make our community the best place to live, anywhere.
P.O. Box 421, Central Lake, Michigan, 49622
Torch Lake Protection Alliance
Torch Lake Protection Alliance
Torch Lake Protection Alliance (TLPA) was established in 1994 to provide a unifying voice for people who regard the preservation of Torch Lake as a top priority, enabling current and future generations to enjoy the responsible use of this geological jewel.
P.O. Box 706, Bellaire, Michigan, 49615
Torch Conservation Center
Torch Conservation Center
Torch Conservation Center, Inc is a local nonprofit organization promoting stewardship in the Torch Lake Watershed through freshwater education and land conservation to ensure a sustainable future for Torch Lake.
P.O. Box 1142, Bellaire, Michigan, 49612
The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay
The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay
The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay is the only organization solely dedicated to the mission of protecting and enhancing the quality of the Grand Traverse Bay watershed and all its waterways.
13170 S. West Bay Shore Drive Suite 102, Traverse City, Michigan, 49684


Greenbelts are a natural buffer of native vegetation between the water’s edge and your lawn that helps to reduce erosion by stabilizing the soil, filtering nutrients and other pollution. Greenbelts can also deter geese who prefer well-manicured lawns and unrestricted access to the water.

Erosion Severity

Erosion introduces sediments and excess nutrients attached to soil particles. An abnormal increase in sediments can clog the gills of fish, macroinvertebrates, and degrade habitat including fish spawning grounds. Increased nutrients can cause algal blooms that degrade lake water quality.


L = Exposed soils, gullies up to 1″ deep.


M = Exposed soils, gullies greater than 1″ but less than 6″ deep, and/or banks undercut by 6″ (minor slumping)


H = Exposed soils, gullies greater than 6″ deep, and/or banks undercut by more than 6″ (severe slumping)

Cladophora Density

Cladophora is an algae that grows as a film and in later growth stages as filaments on hard substrate near the shoreline. Increased nutrients, such as phosphorus from failing septic systems, enhance Cladophora growth to abnormal levels. Monitoring Cladophora serves as a useful bio-indicator of changes to nutrient inputs near the shoreline.

To improve your stewardship of the ERCOL, visit the Michigan Shoreland Stewards (MiSS) website. ​The MiSS program provides recognition for lakefront property owners who are protecting inland lakes through best management practices on their property and provides recommendations for improving your shoreline