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Summer in Michigan's Northeast region is synonymous with a place like Hubbard Lake. Less than 20 miles inland from Lake Huron's 'sunrise coast', Hubbard Lake has hosted many summer residents over the past 150 years. The large, natural lake of 8,850 acres was obtained via treaty with the Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. Its very remoteness kept it from most European settlement for the first 20 to 30 years. First simply called the 'bottomless lake', the beautiful waterscape was named Coral Lake, then Alcona Lake before officially being named Hubbard Lake in 1867 after noted Michigan geologist, Dr. Bela Hubbard. It was about this time that summer visitors started arriving.
Hubbard Lake has several inflowing streams, largest among them the West Branch River, Holcomb Creek and Sucker Creek. The water flows out of the lake to the Lower South Branch of the Thunder Bay River over a small six-and-a-half-foot dam. The small dam was constructed to assist in floating timber from its tributaries during the area's logging era. As in years gone by, the shoreline holds several resort properties. Most have cabin rentals, swim areas and a variety of water-based activities. A few offer higher-end lodgings with restaurants and boat-in dining. The tiny community of Spruce and the laid-back town of Hubbard Lake hold all types of services needed by the many property owners whose cottages line the shore. The all-sports, all-season lake is a favorite for watersports, such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing, pontooning, tubing and swimming. One small marina sells boat gas and rents pontoons.
Fishing is always a major drawing card to Hubbard Lake. The clear waters offer ideal habitat for a variety of fish species. Yellow perch, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, rock bass, walleye, northern pike and tiger muskie are regularly caught, while lake whitefish, cisco and lake trout make rare appearances on the end of a line. The inflowing creeks hold brook trout, while an occasional rainbow trout-apparently a hold-over from former stocking efforts-can occasionally be caught. Three public boat ramps allow for plenty of access to the water. Two Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) concrete boat ramps have been upgraded to include ample parking for vehicles and boat trailers. A third boat ramp is provided by Caledonia Township. In winter, the lots are often filled with the vehicles of ice fishermen who particularly enjoy their forays onto the 'hard water' to fish.
Pike marsh wetlands were constructed during the 1960s to increase the numbers of predator fish and improve the fishery. The fishing remains good in no small part due to the efforts of the Hubbard Lake Sportsman & Improvement Association, a local group that monitors water quality, helps with fish surveys, facilitates stocking efforts and sponsors fishing tournaments that are well attended. The Association has placed brush fish attractors at various locations in the lake. Caledonia Township, which owns the boat ramp on the north side of the lake, appears to have a small township park surrounding the launch area but provides no information online about this public area.
Located about four hours north of Detroit, cottages in years past were often built by working class owners whose families returned to the lake for generations. In recent years, many have been enlarged or rebuilt into more luxurious homes and are attracting a higher-income population. Today, a wide range of properties can be found at Hubbard Lake, although real estate values are rising for everyone. As costs at the popular destination lakes near Lake Michigan have risen, more and more lakelubbers are discovering the joys of Hubbard Lake and its surroundings. The area has much to offer visitors, from a golf resort nearby to the former ski runs on Mt. Mariah to the south of the lake. Although the ski resort is no longer there, the hills and ski runs still exist and welcome many locals visit in winter for sledding and skiing. The attractive views from the hill above Hubbard Lake have encouraged at least one developer to look toward developing a high-end housing development on this local landmark.
The 446-acre Hubbard Lake State Game Area encompasses a section of the southwestern lakeshore along the West Branch River. Managed specifically for wood duck and mallard, there are several access points with parking available within the game area. Although the river connects with the lake, boat travel between the two is not possible due to low road clearance. The game area is ideally suited to nature lovers and bird watchers who enjoy the wide variety of waterfowl living here in their natural environment. All of the inflowing streams at Hubbard Lake are well-suited to nature observation, many of which can be sighted from the roadway that encircles the lake.
Lake Huron is less than 20 miles east as the crow flies. The unimproved Negwegan State Park is almost due east of Hubbard Lake and offers hiking trails and an unspoiled Lake Huron beach. A few primitive campsites may be reserved. Visitors are advised not to attempt to access this quiet state park without a four-wheel-drive vehicle as the access roads can contain very deep sand. The state park lies within a section of the larger Thunder Bay River State Forest. To the south of Hubbard Lake is the Huron National Forest. Several forest sections hold numerous campsites, most of which are primitive. Other local destinations include the annual Harrisville Arts & Crafts Show.
The City of Alpena, 25 miles to the northeast, holds a number of well-known attractions such as the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This underwater sanctuary features numerous shipwrecks, some of which can be seen from a glass-bottomed boat. Tours are available. The area is very popular among divers; several dive charter companies are available to arrange dives on specific sites. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center serves as the visitors center and holds exhibits and historical information on the shipwrecks.
Lighthouse fans will want to arrive in time for the annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival which visits several area lighthouses. With over 300 lighthouses on the Great Lakes shorelines, there are often several lighthouses that can be visited within a single day. The festival is produced in collaboration with lighthouse preservation groups along Lake Huron's shore and guaranteed to provide plenty of opportunity for photography and a major taste of Lake Huron history. While in Alpena, the Besser Museum of Northeast Michigan is well worth a visit. Here, one can dig for fossils at Lafarge Fossil Park, enjoy the large exhibits of Native American art and artifacts, and learn more about early Michigan and its lumbering and fisheries history.
Anyone who visits the Hubbard Lake area for the first time is in for a treat. The many activities, natural landscape and historical immersion will make you want to stay for at least a week. Along with rustic resort cabins, lovely resort inns and many private short-term lakefront rentals, several motels and small inns are located nearby. Alpena offers a variety of hotels and several quaint bed & breakfasts. And camping in the state and national forests offers an economical and secluded vacation beneath the pines and under the stars. This is Michigan's northwoods at its finest-and easy to access from downstate.
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