If you get bored of small lakes and want a variety of lakes to cruise around on then the Chain of Lakes in Livingston County is a great place to look for a lake home. The lakes and canals of the Huron River Chain of Lakes lie in both Livingston and Washtenaw County. There is so much to do on the lakes. It is sometimes called ‘pontoon heaven’ by Chain of Lake boaters. There are nine lakes on the Huron River chain or lakes. There are eight main lakes that can be accessed by most boats. There is one more lake Ore Lake that is accessible only by smaller boats. Some areas on the river and some canals cannot be accessed by pontoon due to low under-road clearances, low water levels, or narrow passages. The lakes in the chain include Little Portage Lake, Big Portage Lake, Base Line Lake, Whitewood Lakes, Zukey Lake, Tamarack Lake, Gallagher Lake, Strawberry Lake and Ore Lake.
The Chain of Lakes spans two counties (Washtenaw County and Livingston County) and lies in multiple communities. The lakes lie in Hamburg Township, Dexter Township, and Putnam Township.
Here is how the Huron River Chain of Lakes lie in the two counties. The chain starts in the north with 191-acre Ore Lake. This is the only lake that cannot be accessed by larger boats Because of the height of the bridges and culverts. Going downstream on the Huron River you will enter all sports 257-acre Strawberry Lake. Many people boat over to Strawberry Lake to do their tubing and water skiing. Then take a side trip and go north via a channel to Zukey Lake with 155 acres. On Zukey Lake stop in a Zukey Lake Tavern for a drink and a meal. Zukey Lake is also a spot on the chain where many people head to because of the shallow sand bars. Boaters will hang out with friends on the sand bars and have lots of fun.
Then head downstream (which is south west) on the Huron River from Strawberry Lake lies two different lakes. The Huron River splits into two chanels of the river. You then can get to Gallagher Lake with 76 acres, or Loon Lake. What is great about the chain of lakes is there are so many places to fish. They say the fishing is some of the best in the county. From Loon Lake you go back to Gallagher lake to head further south west to 65-acre Whitewood Lakes. Whitewood’s name is plural as there are two basins connected by a broad channel. Head downstream by boat along the Huron River, a channel of the river branches off to little 16-acre Tamarack Lake, while the main river enters Base Line Lake. As a side note a round-trip boat tour through the major lakes takes about four hours, covering a distance of 13 miles. Next let's talk about Base Line Lake at 254 acres. It is the home of the University of Michigan Sailing Club.
From Baseline Lake you head south on the Huron River. Off to the right under a bridge on McGregor Road is Big Portage Lake (the largest lake on the Chain). Big Portage Lake also has a couple of sand bar spots that boaters gather at. From Big Portage Lake you can enter Little Portage Lake via a channel under a bridge on Pinckney-Dexter Road. At 644 acres in size, Big Portage Lake is the best-known lake in the chain and has Klaves marina, a State of Michigan DNR public boat ramp, and a place you can get a pizza. Little Portage Lake is the least developed in the chain; its 101 acres are surrounded by wetlands with few homes.
If you continued down the Huron River instead of going to portage lake eventually you would end up in Ann Arbor and all the way down to Belleville Lake. You just cannot take a pontoon or power boat. You would have to kayak or canoe because of the portages you would have to make.
The Portage Chain of lakes are all sports lakes however you are most likely not go water ski or Tamarack Lake or Gallager Lake. Most people do their tubing, skiing, and surfing on Strawberry Lake, Baseline Lake, or Big Portage lake. You can enjoy sailing (two different clubs that I know of), power boating, water skiing, surfing, jet-skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding. Canoes, paddle boards and kayaks explore the many bays and inlets. Sometimes the waves and the amounts of boats make it a little tougher to paddle board.
Big Portage Lake has the is noted as a sailing destination, but launching from the DNR boat ramp is problematic due to a low road under-clearance that does not allow for masts. Most experienced sailors know they will need an auxiliary motor to get to the lake before they can raise a mast and unfurl sails. Those who regularly sail here join the Portage Yacht Club, a full-service membership-supported sailing club that sponsors regular races and regattas. A marina located near the south end of Big Portage Lake serves as a source for boat gas, repairs, dock space, boat rentals and incidentals. The marina regularly rents pontoons to lake visitors and can provide waterway maps. The marina also rents canoes and kayaks and offers a wide range of classes and tours.
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The Huron River Chain of Lakes or the Portage Chain of lakes lie close to Ann Arbor and Brighton. From Big Portage Lake and Little Portage Lake it is about about 15 minutes from the city of Ann Arbor. It is about the same distance from the northern most lake to Brighton. So within 15 minutes you can get to all the restaurants, stores, and businesses in Ann Arbor or Brighton.
The connected lakes aren’t the only lakes in the area. The chain’s 235 square mile sub-watershed contains 172 lakes over five acres in size and 22,000 acres of wetlands. Although some lakes have problems with aquatic weed overgrowth, all are used for boating, swimming, fishing and water sports. Nearby is thousands of acres of public recreation areas, including Brighton Recreation Area, Pinckney State Recreation Area, and Hudson Mills Metropark.
Big Portage Lake
Little Portage Lake
There are no condos on any of the chain of lakes. If I had to give a generality I would say most of the homes are closer together. All the lakes are built up with very few buildable lots. They homes are mainly year-round homes though some people still use some homes as cottages. Many homes surround each lake. The lake homes range in size from tiny cozy cottages as little as 400 square foot in size to average single family homes to bigger luxury lakefront homes over 5000 square foot in size. Most waterfront homes on the chain of lakes are on smaller lots.
The lots around the lakes are mainly flat or with a few stairs. There are not many homes that sit up on a hillside. I do not believe there is any where on the chain of lakes where homes sit up on a hillside with 40 or more stairs to get up to the house. These are not bowl lakes.
Michigan Sailing Club.
They are co-operative organization/club dedicated to the pleasure and fellowship of small-boat sailing. Our all-volunteer club offers racing, windsurfing, paddle-craft, swimming, and leisurely day-sailing on Baseline Lake. Members also enjoy barbecues, educational seminars, family events, and the fellowship of sailors who share their talents and enthusiasm.
We provide a sailing facility to the local community as well as to UM students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the Michigan Sailing Team. Our members are individuals from the UM community and beyond in SE Michigan who love to sail and windsurf. Join us at our waterfront clubhouse near Dexter and meet friendly new people while enjoying the sport of sailing during spring, summer, and fall.
Portage Lake Yacht Club
Portage Yacht Club (734-426-4155) is one of the leading inland lake sailing centers in the Midwest and one of the oldest sailing clubs in Michigan. Located on 650-acre Portage Lake, 17 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, it provides a venue for sailors of all skill levels. The sailing season runs from early May through late September. Wind conditions can vary from light for a casual, easy sail to heavy for a more challenging sailing adventure. The topographic features around the lake often produce winds that shift direction giving skippers the opportunity to master their skills on a typical inland lake. In addition to offering moorings for both single- and multi-handed sailboats, the Club also offers boat rentals, junior instruction, and an adult learn to sail program. Midwest Sailing, located on the site, provides boat sales as well as boat parts and accessories.
The Club is known for its sailboat racing program which has produced National and North American champions in several sailing classes as well as prestigious US Sailing national championships. Innovations in the rules of racing first used at PYC have been adopted internationally.
Races are held on Tuesday evenings for single-handed boats including Lasers, MC Scows and Sunfish and on Thursday evenings and Weekend days for multi-handed boats including 18-ft Interlakes and 19-ft Flying Scots. Invitational regattas are held for the PYC sailboat classes in August and September. The Club has also hosted national and regional championship events.
Fishing on the chain of lakes
A number of species were stocked in the late 1930's, including bluegill and largemouth bass from 1937-
1942, yellow perch from 1937-39, and walleye in 1937 and 1938. The first fisheries survey was an
extensive survey conducted in 1941. Game fish included largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike,
walleye, various panfish, and a good number of ciscos (a species of whitefish). Rainbow trout were
stocked from 1942-44, but this was discontinued due to poor survival. To address the minimal amount of
cover in the lake, 200 brush structures were installed in 1949 to enhance fish habitat. Legal sized trout
were stocked from 1955-64 (excluding 1957), but switched to fall fingerlings from 1965-70. Tiger
muskellunge were stocked on an alternate year basis from 1980-86, at which point the tiger musky
program was discontinued in Michigan. Walleye were stocked intermittently in the 1980's and 1990's as
well as 2001, 2004 and 2006. Channel catfish were stocked once in 2004. Fisheries surveys in 1967,
1983, 1995 and 1999 documented good fish populations and anglers report good bluegill and largemouth
bass fishing. This is from a survey of Portage lake.
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