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Nearly everyone fondly remembers a Bass Lake somewhere. But there are many lakes named Bass Lake, often several per state. This Bass Lake is located in Indiana's Northern Lake Country Region; 1,400-acre Bass Lake has been considered a 'mystery lake' ever since its discovery by European settlers. Bass Lake lies at the top of the surrounding hills and has no visible inflowing water source. Drainage ditches in the area actually flow away from the lake. Most lakes in the area are of glacial origin; Bass Lake sits at the top of one of the sand ridges left by the retreating glacier. Modern geological testing has proved that the majority of the lake's water comes from springs bubbling from the underlying aquifer and a few flowing wells along the shore. Property owners at the lake now pump additional ground water into the lake in an attempt to keep water levels more stable. A small artificial drainage ditch was dammed, and the court set the water level to be maintained at 715 feet.
Located in Starke County, the area around Bass Lake was the home of several Potawatomi villages. A few miles to the north, the Kankakee Great Marsh supplied a wealth of hunting and trapping opportunities that attracted European trappers and traders. The Potawatomi were relocated in 1838, and available dry land was devoted to farming. By 1871, dredging of the Kankakee began to reduce the size of the marsh, making the newly-available land attractive to more settlers. By this time, Bass Lake had already developed a reputation as a resort community. Resort hotels dotted the shoreline by 1890, with visitors coming by train from Chicago to enjoy boating, fishing and swimming. The famous Knickerbocker Ice Company had a large ice harvesting operation on the south shore of the lake; ice blocks were cut and shipped to Chicago by train. Steam excursion boats plied the waters in summer, transporting visitors to resort hotels on the north shore not served by a passable road. Postcards and playbills from the era show that dance halls and hotels provided both local and nationally-know entertainers during the summer. The small unincorporated village of Bass Lake along the western shore grew to the point that it once boasted a hospital and a variety of businesses.
Bass Lake's shoreline soon became lined with summer cottages. The State of Indiana established a State Beach along the sandy southern shore and took over management of a formerly private fish hatchery at the east end of the lake. Through the 1920s, trains carried visitors from the big city to fill the hotels and made Bass Lake a well-known resort destination. The sand-bottomed swim areas were especially popular as bathers could wade in shallow water for some distance before the depth increased perceptibly. The era of the summer resort hotel passed at Bass Lake by the Second World War, as it did throughout the country. The era of the family automobile made day trips to the lake feasible and cheap. More cottages were built and much of the shoreline passed into private hands. The State Beach is now managed as a county park. The fish hatchery operation was closed. The village of Bass Lake settled into a smaller and quieter existence. It became a closely-knit community of summer and year-round residents joined together by their love of and care for Bass Lake.
Bass Lake is popular as an all-sports lake; water skiing, tubing, pontooning, canoeing, kayaking and sailing are all popular. Fishing is as enjoyable now as it was 100 years ago. The lake supports the usual largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, crappies, bluegills and perch. But this unusual lake also provides a sustained walleye fishery and a good supply of white bass - both unusual in Indiana lakes. The State maintains a stocking program, and the property owners association works with home owners to maintain and improve water quality. The lake's unique hydrology has made it the subject of much interested study over the years, and the property owners association avails itself of the expertise of the many scholars who have explored its conditions. Many winters, the lake freezes over enough to provide 'hard water' for ice fishing. The roads surrounding the lake provide excellent mountain biking, hiking and general exploring. An 18-hole public golf course is located on the north shore of the lake, and an old-fashioned drive-in movie theater provides family fare all summer long. A campground is located at the former State Beach, will full hook-ups and amenities. A public boat launch is located near the campground, as is a marina with boat rental.
Bass Lake makes a great base camp for further exploring in the northern Indiana area. Just six miles south, Tippecanoe River State Park offers excellent canoeing waters, with a canoe campground. Visitors may bring their own water craft or rent from the office. A nature interpretive service, horsemen's camping, bridle paths and cross-country ski paths keep Tippecanoe a favorite year round. About 10 miles north of Bass Lake, the remnants of the former Kankakee Great Marsh are preserved in the Kankakee State Fish and Wildlife Area. Offering open water, marshes, riparian timber and 11 miles of river, the wildlife area is open for hunting, fishing, boating and camping. A shooting range is also provided.
At only 40 miles from South Bend and 65 miles from Gary, Bass Lake is easily accessible. Indianapolis is less than a two-and-a-half hour trip. Many of the private residences along the shore are available as vacation rentals. Most provide a boat for the visitor's use. Some small resorts offer housekeeping cabins and motel-style rooms right on the lakefront. Other vacation rentals are available in Plymouth and LaPorte, both less than 30 miles away. Real estate is also available at Bass Lake, both with lake frontage and lake views. So, spend your next vacation at tranquil Bass Lake. You'll want to make it your year-round home!
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