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Klinger Lake in Saint Joseph County has been a top recreation and fishing spot in western lower Michigan for well over 150 years. Located less than three miles north of Indiana, Klinger Lake has developed a reputation as a fishing and recreational boating lake among local residents. The lake is named for one of the first settlers in White Pigeon Township named Peter Klinger. The Klinger family ran a small store to trade with the local Native Americans.
As the area grew, Klinger Lake's large size and proximity to both the small city of Sturgis and to tiny White Pigeon made it an attractive spot for summer residents to enjoy the cool breezes. Another local early settler began renting out his oak grove to campers and picnickers, thus beginning the resort business. In earlier years, several resorts and boarding houses occupied part of the shoreline. Complete with dance halls and speakeasies, these kept visitors entertained for an evening or for a summer-long stay. Tour boats had a short-lived run and local rumor has it that Al Capone occasionally visited here- understandable as this area was near his liquor distribution area during Prohibition and just north of US 12, the main route between Detroit and Chicago in the days before the Interstate system.
At 822 acres, Klinger Lake is the largest lake in Saint Joseph County. Water enters the lake from Thompson and Tamarack Lakes, with outflow at Sherman Mill Creek draining to the Fawn River. Water level is maintained by a small water-control dam on Sherman Mill Creek. The Klinger Lake Association maintains the court-ordered level under the supervision of Saint Joseph County staff. The lake's maximum depth of 71 ft allows for a variety of fish, although the average depth is around 21 feet. Fishing is good enough that several bass tournaments are staged here each year. Northern Pike, Bluegill, Crappie, Walleye and Rock Bass are also caught. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has maintained an aggressive stocking campaign at Klinger Lake for several years with good results. Although the majority of the shoreline is private homes and cottages, the Michigan DNR maintains a public access boat ramp on the northwest shore.
The bottom of the lake is primarily marl (a mixture of clay, sand, and limestone) with a wide sand perimeter. The Klinger Lake Association works closely with Michigan water resource offices to monitor and maintain the water quality. Given the density of homes around the lake and their length of tenure, Klinger is surprisingly clean. As with most lower Michigan lakes, there is plentiful plant cover for fish populations, and the local Association works diligently to eradicate invasive species and monitor zebra mussels.
The majority of the shore is densely populated with cottages and summer homes. The Kirsch family, founders of the Kirsch Curtain Rod business in Sturgis, maintained a home here for many years. Kirsch also employed many of the builders and purchasers of other Klinger Lake homes and was a mainstay of employment in the area until the business was purchased by the Rubbermaid corporation early in this century. Despite the population density, the Klinger Lake shoreline harbors a variety of wildlife and waterfowl, including great blue herons, geese, swans, migrating and resident ducks and the occasional bald eagle.
Summer cottage rentals at Klinger Lake are available, although limited. Real estate for sale is more plentiful in a wide range of prices. For the visitor, lodging is available in Sturgis at several motels and at a variety of bed & breakfast facilities in the area.
A popular activity is visiting Shipshewana in Indiana less than 10 miles away. This haven of Amish crafts, food and lodging makes a great base for the fisher folk in the family to head north to Klinger Lake while the avid crafter/antique hunter spends the days visiting the shops and farmsteads of the Amish community. Both will report this their best vacation ever. Located about 150 miles from Detroit and 125 miles from Chicago, Klinger Lake and Shipshewana can easily make for a great getaway weekend.
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