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Walloon Lake - Hemmingway's Michigan. Ernest Hemmingway was born here, spent 22 youthful summers here and came back to the lake for his honeymoon. The Hemmingway family still owns the family cottage. That's the kind of place Walloon Lake is, a family place, a summer place for the generations. The Hemingways first came here in the 1890's. Since then, Walloon Lake has hosted summer properties for many of the rich and famous. Currently, the Hilton Garner family and Michael Moore have homes here. The oldest continually-inhabited property, Cavell's "Breezes Over" was first occupied in the 1860's. Clearly there is something about Walloon Lake that causes people to be drawn here year after year.
Originally named Talcott Lake, an early businessman renamed it Walloon Lake after a place name on an old railroad map of the area. There has never been any trace of the Belgian family it was named for, however. The only town, the small settlement of Walloon Lake Village, occupies a spot at the "v" of the two arms of the lake, on the south-east shore. Glaciers re-shaped and deepened a river valley into one of the largest lakes in Michigan. Spring fed, Walloon Lake is about 100 feet above Little Traverse Bay, a short distance away.
Walloon Lake water depth varies from 28 feet to 100 feet, deep enough to support a good population of lake trout. In one letter, Hemmingway stated Walloon Lake was "the best rainbow trout fishing in America", a sentiment shared by the many anglers suffering from his passion for fishing. The lake also sports brown trout, smallmouth bass, bluegill, perch, walleye and rock bass. Fishing, however, is not the only water sport Walloon Lake is noted for; it also boasts excellent swimming, boating and sailing.
Once dotted with rustic cabins, Walloon Lake now sports many large homes. Vacant shoreline is seldom available, but realtors in the area are more than willing to "keep an eye out" for just the right property for anyone wishing to buy. Several developments and upscale condos are under construction and are in high demand even in the current real estate market. It's worth the trip to window-shop some of the most expensive waterfront property in Michigan. The homes are expansive and lovely; all show the same love of the water, with outdoor spaces just as important as the amenities inside. The Walloon Lake Trust and Conservancy has put nearly 1800 acres under protection, and a wide group of volunteers monitor water quality scientifically on a regular schedule. "Wallooners" claim the water is just as clear now as it was 100 years ago. The lake association boasts nearly a thousand members. Clearly, this is a much-loved lake.
For the vacation visitor, several bed and breakfasts, lodges and rental cottages provide comfortable lodging at a surprisingly reasonable price. Most cottages and resorts have boat landings and swimming areas. The marina located in Walloon Lake Village is a great spot to put the boat in the water, and there are several impromptu road-end boat launches. The ramp off Sumner Road, the one Ernest used, is still there on the west side of the west arm of Walloon Lake. Plans are in the works for a large public boat launch by the Department of Natural Resources, but extensive public comment and efforts by the Walloon Lake Association and the Walloon Lake Trust and Conservancy to protect a stand of old growth forest in the area has slowed its development.
The attraction of Walloon Lake isn't simply the lake, however beautiful it may be. The entire area is one of the most visited areas of Michigan. Several public and private golf courses are within a very short distance of the lake. The three largest and best-known ski resorts in Michigan are within 20 miles, and attractions such as skydiving, casinos and a municipal ski resort are located nearby in Petoskey, Boyne City, Boyne Falls and Charlevoix. Hiking, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ATV trails can keep the entire family occupied in all seasons.
A short trip away by car, the sands and dunes of Lake Michigan provide beautiful views over Michigan's sunset coast. Find Petoskey stones (a form of fossilized coral) and shells on the beach; visit the Charlevoix Lighthouse, built in 1911. And for family members who are not quite sure about spending their vacation in the wilderness, this tourist mecca sports several art galleries, farmers markets and upscale dining. Two of the better dining establishments in the area offer gourmet cooking courses for their guests, featuring such skills as menu selection and wine choice. Specialty crafts and farmers markets provide the ultimate shopping experience for the discerning buyer. Petoskey's Gaslight District is especially favored for holiday shopping.
Walloon Lake is 390 miles from Chicago and 330 miles from Detroit. In Hemmingway's day, it was possible to take the train, then a steamer to the family home. Sadly, the train no longer runs that far and must be connected with bus service at Kalamazoo. The route by car is scenic, with interstate-quality highway up US 131, changing to a well-maintained two-lane road for the last 45 miles alongside the old railroad bed. Most local roads around Walloon Lake are secondary, either paved or unpaved, and provide for some beautiful views of autumn colors. Nearest air service is approximately 35 miles away at Pellston or 50 miles away at Traverse City.
So, come to Walloon Lake for a visit. You may find, like Hemmingway, you're called to come back again and again.
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