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Protecting Northern Michigan's ​Water Resources

Douglas Lake (Cheboygan County)

Few lakes have been as well studied as Douglas Lake in northwest Cheboygan County. Home of the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS), Douglas Lake has seen its fair share of Secchi discs, thermometers, graduate students, and stunning research publications. The lake has taught and inspired a multitude of students on subjects that range from limnology to ethnobotany.

3,727 acres


15 miles


80 feet


Overview of Douglas Lake (Cheboygan County)


Primary Outflows

Surface Area

3,727 acres


15 miles

Maximum Depth

80 feet

Known Aquatic Invasive Species


Few lakes have been as well studied as Douglas Lake in northwest Cheboygan County. Home of the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS), Douglas Lake has seen its fair share of Secchi discs, thermometers, graduate students, and stunning research publications. The lake has taught and inspired a multitude of students on subjects that range from limnology to ethnobotany. 

With over 3,700 acres of surface area, Douglas Lake is ranked the 28th largest lake in Michigan. After the last glaciers retreated some 14,000 years ago, a scattering of enormous ice chunk remnants formed the lake’s seven distinct basins. The deep basins are separated by shallow shoals of less than 15 feet of depth, most of which are heavily vegetated with a diverse assemblage of aquatic plants. The deep basins, the deepest of which reaches 80 feet, contain little to no vegetation. The Biological Station property includes the entire eastern lake shoreline as well as a portion of the north shore and much of the southern shore. The remainder, including Pells Island, is largely privately owned.

Water flows into Douglas Lake from a handful of small creeks, the largest being Bessey Creek on the west end of the north shore and Beavertail Creek in the northeast corner of the lake. Water flows out of Douglas Lake in the southwest corner, forming the East Branch of the Maple River. The high quality water flowing out of Douglas Lake contributes to an expansive network of lakes and streams called the Inland Water Route, which is ecologically and economically important due to recreational use, transportation, and the diverse and healthy aquatic ecosystems. The Maple River empties into Burt Lake and continues onward through the Inland Water Route until flowing into Lake Huron at the City of Cheboygan. The endangered Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle is found in the East Branch of the Maple River.

Monitoring and Research:

Douglas 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 Douglas Lake each summer by volunteers as part of the Watershed Council’s Volunteer Lake Monitoring (VLM) Program.

Shore surveys were conducted on Douglas Lake by the Watershed Council in 1998 and 2002. 

In 2012, a UMBS limnology class worked with the Watershed Council to perform an in-depth survey of aquatic plant populations in the lake.

Additional Resources:

See additional resources on our Aquavist page.

View an interactive map of Douglas Lake, including public access sites, at Michigan Fishweb.

A wide variety of maps for this area are available online at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) Data Resources page.

Comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring (CWQM)Bass Lake, Beals Lake, Bear River, Ben-Way Lake, Birch Lake, Black Lake, Black Lake Watershed, Black River, Boyne River, Burt Lake, Burt Lake Watershed, Carp River Watershed, Cheboygan River, Cheboygan River Watershed, Clam Lake, Crooked Lake, Crooked River, Deer Lake, Douglas Lake, Duncan-Grass Bay Watershed, Elk Lake, Elk River, Elk River Chain Of Lakes, Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, Ellsworth Lake, Grand Traverse Bay Watershed, Hanley Lake, Huffman Lake, Intermediate Lake, Lake Bellaire, Lake Charlevoix, Lake Charlevoix Watershed, Lancaster Lake, Larks Lake, Little Traverse Bay Watershed, Long Lake, Marion Lake, Mud Lake, Mullett Lake, Mullett Lake Watershed, Munro Lake, Nowland Lake, Paradise Lake, Pickerel-Crooked Lakes Watershed, Round Lake, Scotts Lake, Silver Lake, Six Mile Lake, Skegemog Lake, Spring Lake, St. Clair Lake, Susan Lake, Thayer Lake, Thumb Lake, Torch Lake, Twin Lake, Walloon Lake, Walloon Lake Watershed, Wildwood Lake, Wilson Lakebass-lake beals-lake bear-river ben-way-lake birch-lake black-lake black-lake-watershed black-river boyne-river burt burt-lake-watershed carp-river-watershed cheboygan-river-rivers-streams cheboygan-river-watershed clam-lake crooked-lake crooked-river deer-lake douglas-lake duncan-grass-bay-watershed elk-lake elk-river elk-river-chain-of-lakes elk-river-chain-of-lakes-watershed ellsworth-lake grand-traverse-bay-watershed hanley-lake huffman-lake intermediate-lake lake-bellaire lake-charlevoix lake-charlevoix-watershed lancaster-lake larks-lake little-traverse-bay-watershed long-lake marion-lake mud-lake mullett-lake mullett-lake-watershed munro-lake nowland-lake paradise-lake pickerel-crooked-lakes-watershed round-lake scotts-lake silver-lake six-mile-lake skegemog-lake spring-lake st-clair-lake susan-lake thayer-lake thumb-lake torch-lake twin-lake walloon-lake walloon-lake-watershed wildwood-lake wilson-lake inland-lakes rivers-streams watersheds
2019 Douglas Lake Aquatic Plant SurveyAquatic Plant Surveys, Douglas Lakeaquatic-plant-surveys douglas-lake inland-lakes
2018 Burt Lake Watershed Management PlanBurt Lake, Burt Lake Additional Docs, Burt Lake Watershed, Crooked Lake, Douglas Lake, EGLE/EPA Approved Watershed Management Plans, Huffman Lake, Lancaster Lake, Larks Lake, Mud Lake, Munro Lake, Pickerel Lake, Round Lake, Spring Lake, Thumb Lake, Wildwood Lakeburt burt-lake-additional-docs burt-lake-watershed crooked-lake douglas-lake watershed-plan-approved huffman-lake lancaster-lake larks-lake mud-lake munro-lake pickerel-lake round-lake spring-lake thumb-lake wildwood-lake inland-lakes watersheds
2015 Douglas Lake Shoreline SurveyDouglas Lake, Shoreline Surveysdouglas-lake shoreline-surveys inland-lakes
2012 Lakes at the Top of the Lower Peninsula Profile CWQMComprehensive Water Quality Monitoring, Douglas Lake, Lancaster Lake, Munro Lake, Paradise Lakecomprehensive-water-quality-monitoring douglas-lake lancaster-lake munro-lake paradise-lake inland-lakes

The purpose of the Douglas Lake Improvement Association is to preserve, protect and improve the quality of Douglas Lake and its environs and the quality of life of its residential community. Learn more.

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