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Coldwater Lake, in quiet Southwest Michigan, is the epitome of the traditional Michigan lake vacation destination. Nestled just north of the Indiana state line in Branch County, Coldwater Lake forms the foundation of a 16-mile-long chain of glacier-created lakes trailing northward along the Coldwater River. The lakes are part of a group of watery treasures that include Northern Indiana's largest lakes and several very popular state parks. Part of the headwaters of the St Joseph River, Coldwater River begins where it flows out of Coldwater Lake and on through East Long Lake, Wright Lake, Lake Bartholomew, Archer Lake, Middle Lake, Mud Lake, First Lake and the three basins that constitute Marble Lake. Several other small lakes are connected via channel to the chain. Although Coldwater Lake has some areas of deeper water in the center, much of the lake ranges from 15 to 45 feet in depth and is considered a warm-water fishery.
The vast majority of Coldwater Lake's shoreline is privately-owned, with a large number of cottages and homes hugging the water's edge. One of Michigan's newest state parks, Coldwater Lake State Park encompasses 400 acres of former farmland, swamp and waterfront along the south shore. Facilities have not yet been developed, so the park doesn't provide beach or boat launch amenities as of yet, but is open to hunting in season. Public access to the water is offered at a state-owned boat launch facility on the northwest shoreline. No public beach areas are available on Coldwater Lake; the nearest public beach is located on Marble Lake near the village of Quincy at the north end of the chain. Many private cottages and homes are available as vacation rentals; many rentals are year-round. Most of these offer a swimming area and boating facilities. Some rentals have been in the same family for years, and vacationers reserve their favorites year after year.
Distinct neighborhoods divide the many lakefront cottage communities, often with their own neighborhood associations and sponsored activities. The Iyopawa Island neighborhood, including the causeway leading to it, is an especially desirable vacation retreat. A sandbar off the south side of the island functions as the community swimming hole; a number of boats are beached here every summer day, captain and crew enjoying a cooling dip. Coldwater Lake is an all-sports lake, so power boats, sailboats, wind-surfers, water skiers and personal water craft all enjoy the entire chain of lakes.
Canoes and kayaks particularly enjoy the sheltered bays and Coldwater River, where they share space with the many fishermen who venture out to try their luck. The lake offers up bluegill, smallmouth bass, walleye, red-ear sunfish, crappies and perch and northern pike. Coldwater Lake is considered one of southern Michigan's best waters for largemouth bass and in winter draws ice fishermen. Two marinas provide docking space, supplies and repairs, and rentals of pontoon boats, kayaks and fishing boats. Several restaurants along the shore provide both take-out meals and more formal dining accessible by both road and water. Several private campgrounds on the chain draw tent and RV campers, who often bring their boats and water toys. A public park and campground at Quincy on Marble Lake provides day use, swimming, boating and hiking with access to the entire chain.
Visitors to the Coldwater Lake area will find their time off the water just as enjoyable; there are many activities and attractions in the area to round out any family vacation. Two golf courses are located at Coldwater Lake. Historic downtown Quincy, along US 12-the old Sauk Trail-still maintains an air of small-town hominess, with shops anchored along the Main Street lines with Victorian homes. A few miles to the east, Allen is called the Antique Capital of the World, with the entire main street a series of individual antique shops. Much larger Coldwater offers major shopping venues, the historic Tibbits Theater (built in 1882 and being restored), nearby wineries, antique steam locomotive rides to Quincy and back and even a nostalgic drive-in theater with two screens and shows every summer evening. The city is also home to several annual events like the winter Ice Festival, Apple Festival, Strawberry Festival, car show and Downtown Art Walk. Coldwater also offers several reasonably-priced chain hotels for the weekend or business visitor. South of Coldwater Lake, Pokagon State Park, one of Indiana's premier park facilities, sprawls along the shore of Lake James. Nearby an outlet mall will please the shopping fan, while cross-country ski trails at Pokagon State Park will occupy the non-shopper. NASCAR fans will find Coldwater Lake convenient to Michigan International Speedway, while dirt track fans can enjoy the stock car races at Butler Motor Speedway about 25 miles away. Kids big and little will enjoy the go-kart track in Coldwater.
Coldwater Lake is the ideal vacation destination for the family. Vacation lodgings can be found in all price ranges, including a few bed-and-breakfast establishments. Conveniently located near US 12 and Interstate 69, Coldwater Lake is easy to get to from anywhere in the Midwest. Some real estate is usually available on the lakefront, while vacation rentals are plentiful. So schedule a visit to the beautiful Coldwater Lakes chain for this summer. It will quickly become a favorite spot for your entire family . . .perhaps for generations.
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