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Beautiful Gun Lake, located off US 131 north of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been a vacation and boating destination for well over a hundred years. Originally five small natural lakes, 2,680-acre Gun Lake was formed when a dam was built across the Gun River in the late 1800s. Local farmers were enraged enough over the loss of their farmland that the dam was mysteriously blown up several times. Now, Gun Lake has settled peacefully into its well-deserved status as the largest lake in southwestern Michigan.
Originally, Gun Lake was the favored hunting and fishing territory of Ottawa, Pottawatomie and Chippewa Indians. One leader of the Ottawa Indians of Southern Michigan was powerful Chief Noonday who has roads named after him in the area. By the late 1800s, the lake was a haven for fishermen, and vacationers soon followed. In 1885, the Morrell family opened a small resort with a steamboat offering midnight cruises on Gun Lake. The Chicago elite would travel to Gun Lake for the summer, to enjoy both the fishing and boating on the clear waters. By 1895, as many as 5000 people would attend a five-day Farmers Picnic, with camping, music and square dancing on the lakeshore.
Wealthy families began to buy property and build lavish "cottages" along the shoreline. One of the most striking of these residences still stands, having been recently renovated as a noted resort. Michigan's favorite villain, Al Capone, owned a home and guest cottage overlooking Gun Lake at one time. These buildings have been incorporated into yet another resort. Today, the shores of Gun Lake are the year-round homes to many residents and the summer destination of many more. Homes are available in every price range.
Many vacation rental arrangements are available both online and via local real estate firms around Gun Lake. For the camper crowd, both 5,200-acre Yankee Springs State Recreation Area and Barry County State Game Area abut the lake, providing over 300 camping spaces from rustic to modern cabins and day access activities. A horse camping area is provided for equestrians wishing to enjoy the many trails. Several hiking trails are available where one can enjoy the wetland ecosystem and upland woods and prairies. The public access areas encompass nine lakes within their boundaries.
Pleasure boating, including jet skiing and pontooning are favorite warm weather activities. Rentals of watercraft are available at local establishments, and many Gun Lake resorts provide pontoons or fishing boats. For those who bring their own boats, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides two public access boat launch sites on the lake. The sandy bottom and shallow depths make the lake especially attractive for swimming, often from the two small islands, Orangeville and Yankee Springs.
During the summer months the Gun Lake Business Association provides free ride service on Friday and Saturday nights with the picturesque Gun Lake Trolley. It's the perfect, no-hassle way to frequent local businesses and runs nearly the circumference of the lake.
Eight small inlets and the Gun River Dam outlet offer varied fishing experiences for the angler. Walleye, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Muskie, Bluegill, Crappie, Rock and Largemouth Bass are all found in Gun Lake waters. Three Walleye rearing ponds are located off the Hall Lake Inlet for state stocking purposes. Downstream, the Gun River is a designated trout stream over much of its length. More than one trophy fish has been wrestled from these waters.
Gun Lake doesn't lose its appeal when temperatures drop. Autumn color tours allow visitors to savor some of the best fall color viewing. Winter brings ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and all winter sports.
For those wishing a bit of nightlife somewhat more lively than Gun Lake local businesses, the lake is
approximately 11 miles west of Hastings, 27 miles southeast of Grand Rapids, and 32 miles northeast of Kalamazoo. For the avid golfer, there are ten golf courses within a short drive.
One way to encourage the youngsters to look forward to their Gun Lake vacation is to pick up a copy of the seven books in the Gun Lake Adventure series for 9-12 yr olds. This paperback series by Johnnie Tuitel spins enjoyable mystery yarns around a differently-abled child who vacations at Gun Lake each summer. It's a very upbeat and most enjoyable series for young readers.
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