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Black Lake is a popular sporting lake located in Cheboygan and Presque Isle counties in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Surrounded by acres of water and scenic woodlands, Black Lake has become a popular vacation destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Open to year around recreation, visitors come to northeastern Michigan to test their fishing and hunting skills; boat, ski and swim the sparkling water; or cross-country ski and snowmobile snow-covered hiking trails.
People of the Chippewa Nation and early French fur traders were among the first to move and trade along the shores of Lake Huron and Michigan's northeastern forests. It wasn't until the mid- to late-1800s that quarrying limestone and logging drew settlers to the Black Lake area. Now, surrounded by Mackinaw State Forest's second growth forest and scenic lakes, tourism and outdoor recreation make up much of the area's economic base.
Black Lake gets its name from the water's dark color, a result of natural tannins found in native plants. Don't let the color mislead you, Black Lake is known for its excellent water quality and sturgeon fishery thriving in its 50-foot depths. Covering 10,130 acres, Black Lake is ranked by the state's Department of Natural Resources as the eighth largest lake in Michigan. From the northwestern to southeastern end, Black Lake extends six miles in length with a width just under four miles. Upper Black River flows into the west side of Black Lake providing the majority of inflow from the Black River watershed. The north end of Black Lake is a shallow basin with areas dominated by weed beds. The deeper basin lies at the southern end where additional tributaries, including Rainy River, Canada Creek and East Branch River, add to the 23-foot average depth of Black Lake. Near the northwest shore, Black Lake eventually drains into Lake Huron via the Lower Black River.
Black Lake has long been known for its quality lake sturgeon and walleye fisheries. In 1920, when the number of lake sturgeon was dropping, the Black Lake Association was formed to help document the lake's environment and preserve the excellent water quality. Today the association continues to monitor Black Lake through additional vegetation and shoreline studies. Beyond the shores of Black Lake, Sturgeon for Tomorrow volunteers "stand guard" over spawning sites to stop illegal harvesting. Through volunteer efforts these organizations help ensure that Black Lake's sturgeon have a promising future.
Both a fishing license and sturgeon fishing tags are required to fish Black Lake's unique sturgeon season. The sturgeon spear fishing season usually opens the first Saturday in February and ends after a total of five days or after five sturgeon are caught, whichever comes first. A lottery is used to select each day's 25 anglers with the season ending in hours or days depending on their success. Updates on Michigan's sturgeon fishing regulations can be found at the link provided below. In addition to sturgeon, the lake boasts a considerable number of walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch, sunfish, pumpkinseed, cisco, brook trout, red horse sucker, rock bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.
Fishing and sporting activities abound within Onaway State Park located on Black Lake's southeastern shore. Found within the park's 158 acres are sand cobblestone beaches ideal for sunbathing and swimming; modern campsites with bathrooms, showers and electric hook-ups; using the boat launch or canoe, kayak and rowboat rentals, boaters can explore the 19-mile shoreline; picnic shelters are found near playgrounds and three-mile nature trail that opens to cross-country skiing during winter months.
Black Mountain Forest Recreation Area sits at the northern end of Black Lake offering more adventures for the outdoor enthusiast. Rustic campsites are tucked under the white pines or spread along the lakeshore. Large numbers of deer, wild turkey and some black bear make hunting and wildlife viewing popular pastimes. Horseback riding is permitted on marked trails and roadways that lead through the forest. During winter months paths are open to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. An additional 60 miles of trail are open to off-road vehicles (ORVs) with separate areas designated for dirt bikes, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
Drive five miles south of Black Lake and you arrive in the community of Onaway. Called the "Sturgeon Capital of Michigan," the community of Onaway hosts the annual Black Lake Shivaree. The February festival is filled with winter activities for all ages including snowmobile races, motorcycle ice races, dog sled races and of course, fishing contests. The community's close proximity to ice fishing and open-water fishing on Black Lake; camping in state forests and parks; and miles of snowmobile, skiing and hiking trails make Onaway a year-round recreation destination.
Visitors to Onaway and Black Lake will find endless opportunities to explore Michigan's natural wonders. A scenic 10-mile drive east of Black Lake takes you to Ocqueoc Falls, the largest waterfall in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Drive 15 miles south and you will arrive at an area of geologic interest - Shoepac Lake, a deep water-filled sinkhole and an area of dry sinkholes now filling with trees and native plant life.
Less than 10 miles to the west of Black Lake you will find the shores of Mullett Lake. Known for its own quality fishing and boating, Mullett Lake is part of the 40-mile long Inland Waterway that flows through the Cheboygan River into Mullett Lake, Indian River, Burt Lake, on through Crooked River before entering Crooked Lake and ending at Pickerel Lake. At the beginning of the Inland Waterway you will find the community of Cheboygan on the shores of Lake Huron. Only minutes northwest of Black Lake, Cheboygan offers full-service marinas, a wonderful selection of cozy restaurants, and beautifully maintained city center with appealing shops open for fun-filled excursions.
Black Lake is conveniently located 20 miles east of Interstate 75, 40 miles southeast of the Straits of Mackinac and 270 miles north of Detroit. The natural beauty and gentle lakefront terrain offer an ideal escape for city dwellers and area residents alike. Beyond the state forest and park found on Black Lake you will find an excellent selection of vacation rentals and real estate properties nestled among the pines. Let the peace, quiet and charm of this destination sweep you off your feet. Whether you come for summer fishing and hiking or winter skiing and snowmobiling Black Lake is waiting for you.
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