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An undiscovered gem among Michigan lakes is Goshorn Lake. This tiny 26-acre lake lies nestled behind the dunes in Michigan's Southwestern Tourism Region between Saugatuck and Holland. Conveniently, Goshorn Lake is located at the end of 65th Street in Saugatuck, adjacent the Blue Star Highway. The private lake jealously guards its beautiful sandy beaches, its excellent sand-bottomed swimming areas and the view of the dunes beginning at the west end of the lake. Goshorn Lake is all about quiet sunsets, fishing with the kids or a campfire near the beach. Private homes and vacation rentals hide among the many trees lining the shore. Half a mile away, mighty Lake Michigan casts its breakers against the beach and adds to the ever-shifting sand dunes. Here everything is quiet. The mute swans do nothing to break the stillness.
Far back in history, a small creek winding across the area was blocked by blowing sand for a time, forming the lake. Core sampling performed by nearby Hope College shows wood over 5000 years old lying in the bottom sediment. The creek and springs provide the water to keep Goshorn Lake alive. The lake has been settled since at least 1838, when an early settler built a small dam across the outlet creek to operate a mill. As Goshorn Creek isn't large enough to float logs, the mill was soon abandoned in favor of better waterways to transport the products of the booming lumber industry. Goshorn Creek was left to meander crookedly downstream to empty into the Kalamazoo River. At one point in its early history, a floating bridge crossed the narrows of the lake as road building on the unstable dune sand was too difficult. Both the dam and the floating bridge are long gone. What has survived are families that treasure their cottages and permanent homes along the shore. For generations of families, going to the lake has meant a summer cottage at Goshorn Lake, either their own or one rented for the annual vacation. Many families return year after year.
Goshorn Lake is designated a 'no-wake' lake, with no high-powered boat motors allowed. The slow speed boating limit protects both the fragile shore habitat and the many swimmers who often swim across the lake from point to point. The Goshorn Lake Property Owners Association monitors both lake ecology and boating speed limits. Fishermen find the hot spots easy to access without large motors and catch bass, crappie, walleye and pan fish regularly. It's the perfect lake to teach bobber-watching patience to youngsters and experienced anglers enjoy using their skill to outwit the wily game fish in the lake. The kayak fan or canoeist will find the peaceful one-mile shoreline a delight to paddle in the early mornings in search of wildlife and birds.
Less than a mile from Goshorn Lake, Lake Michigan beckons the explorer. The famed Saugatuck Dune Rides amusement has it's entrance off 65th Street just south of the lake. A bit north, Saugatuck Dunes State Park Day Use Area holds title to two-and-a-half miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and dunes up to 200 feet high. Hiking trails through the area provide plentiful opportunities to explore the delicate dunes' ecology. In winter, the trails are available for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Adjacent the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, the Felt Estate Mansion is available for tours and culinary events. The 17,000-square foot home was built in 1928 by self-made millionaire Door Felt, inventor of an early adding machine and office equipment. Mr. Felt purchased several hundred acres of Lake Michigan shoreline in 1919 with the idea of building a summer home for his family, including children, grandchildren and spouses. The Great Depression unfortunately destroyed many fortunes, among them that of the Felts. The magnificent mansion and grounds are being restored. Dinner concerts are held in the third-floor ballroom. The mansion and grounds are less than two miles from Goshorn Lake.
Other natural areas in the vicinity of Goshorn Lake are properties under the protection of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance. The Alliance works to provide habitat for many species of birds, amphibians and plants. Of particular interest to the naturalist are the Interdunal Wetlands or Wetpannes - a globally rare ecological feature. The mixed dunes and wooded areas provide habitat for a wide variety of resident and migrating birds, and protection for several threatened amphibians and plants. The alliance works to protect historic features, including Singapore, the lumber mill-port village (1837) buried by the dunes, the Old Lighthouse on the Old Harbor (destroyed by tornado in 1956) and the the Saugatuck Chain Ferry; America's only remaining hand-cranked chain ferry.
The short drive south on 65th Street from Goshorn Lake brings the visitor into the renowned resort town of Saugatuck. Often called the Art Coast of Michigan, the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas, immediately to the south, have been a favored artist's holiday spot for many years. With artists and tourists both present in abundance, there are myriad opportunities for specialty shopping, galleries and the performance arts. From the publicly-funded Saugatuck Center For The Arts to the many private galleries and craft studios, every type of art is available here. The Waterfront Film Festival rates immediately after Cannes and Sundance in importance. Saugatuck is also a favorite in winter for finding the perfect unusual holiday gift while the visitor attends the many holiday festivities, including carriage rides and musical performances. Also immensely popular is the famed Oval Beach on Lake Michigan. Charter fishing arrangements are available from several local captains. The Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society provides tours of several historic buildings, including the oldest multi-room schoolhouse in the Midwest. Yachting aficionados often sail to the Saugatuck harbor, then rent an inland cottage for a few days. The city takes pride in its reputation for tolerance, with some resorts catering especially to GLBT guests.
Goshorn Lake is only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago. The wise visitor will travel at least part of the trip along the Blue Star Highway, which runs along the Lake Michigan bluffs. Many wineries and fruit producers have outlets along the highway. Detroit is only three hours away, making Goshorn Lake easy to get to for a weekend or longer. Holland is less than 10 miles north of Goshorn Lake and holds a variety of unusual and delightful activities for the visitor.
At Goshorn Lake, you can be in the middle of everything and still "get away from it all." From cottages to condos, there are all sorts of vacation rentals available. Real estate prices are surprisingly reasonable. So, whether you desire a quiet evening on the deck watching the sunset or the cultural stimulation of multiple art galleries and venues, this is the place to be. Come make Goshorn Lake the new family tradition. You'll be back year after year.
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