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Protecting Northern Michigan's ​Water Resources

Burt Lake Watershed

Burt Lake is one of Michigan’s premier inland lakes. The beauty of Burt Lake has attracted visitors for more than a century with its clean water, scenic shoreline, and superb fishing. Burt Lake’s tributaries are also a draw with their good water quality and trout fishing opportunities.

Overview of Burt Lake Watershed

Rivers in the Watershed


250,000 acres

Watershed Management Plan



click to view larger image

The Burt Lake is one of Michigan’s premier inland lakes. The beauty of Burt Lake has attracted visitors for more than a century with its clean water, scenic shoreline, and superb fishing. Burt Lake’s tributaries are also a draw with their good water quality and trout fishing opportunities.

In spite of their grandeur, these valuable water resources have not always been appreciated. Impacts to Burt Lake’s water quality date back to the late 1800’s when lumbering occurred throughout the watershed and associated industries were built along the shores of the lake. Burt Lake was primarily seen as a resource to use for water supply, navigation, and waste disposal. Burt Lake’s tributaries experienced a similar fate with damage from erosion and sedimentation from logging.

Although 100 years and more have passed, water quality concerns still exist for Burt Lake and its tributaries. The pollutants that threaten Burt Lakes health today are not primarily from industrial sources such as tanneries and lumber companies, but from nutrients and sediments generated by different human activities such as shoreline development, recreation, fishing pressure, streambank erosion, and forestry activities.

Inventories completed as part of the Burt Lake Watershed Planning Project have surveyed a variety of land use activities contributing nonpoint source pollution to the lake and its tributaries. Reducing the amount of nonpoint source pollution and preventing future contributions to Burt Lake are essential to protecting the many high quality uses this resource provides, which include swimming, boating, and fishing.

Geographic Description:

Burt Lake is a large, deep, high quality lake located just west of I-75 in Cheboygan County. It is entirely contained within Burt and Tuscarora Townships. Burt Lake is part of northeast Michigan’s Inland Waterway and is the state’s fourth largest lake. The watershed of Burt Lake encompasses more than 250,000 acres. Burt Lake is ranked among Michigan’s top 50 fishing lakes. Cheboygan and Emmet Counties are scenic and are utilized extensively as vacation destinations. Recreational activities are primarily water-based and center on large, clean lakes such as Burt Lake. 

During periods of high recreational use, both Counties’ populations increase more than three–fold. This tourist trade is vital to the local economy. There is a trend toward converting seasonal cottages to year-round homes. The combined pressure of these trends could result in water quality degradation unless management programs are initiated. The continued recreational attractiveness of the area depends almost exclusively on maintaining high water quality in the area lakes. It has been shown in areas such as Lake St. Clair that a decline in lake water quality can severely hurt a local economy by reducing tourist trade and by causing a decline in property values, which directly affect local tax revenues.

Additional Publications:

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
2022 Burt Lake Shoreline SurveyBurt Lake, Shoreline Surveysburt shoreline-surveys inland-lakes
2022 Burt Lake Septic SolutionsBurt Lakeburt 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
2016 Burt Lake Watershed Resource Inventory SummaryBurt Lake Additional Docsburt-lake-additional-docs burt inland-lakes
2016 Burt Lake Aquatic Plant SurveyAquatic Plant Surveys, Burt Lakeaquatic-plant-surveys burt inland-lakes
2012 Burt Lake Tributary Monitoring ReportBurt Lakeburt inland-lakes
2011 Burt Lake ProfileBurt Lakeburt inland-lakes