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Paradise Lake is truly a lakelubber's paradise. This 1900-acre lake in Michigan's Northwest region has been a paradise for countless numbers of cottage owners and yearly visitors since early in the 20th century. Originally called Carp Lake, the name was changed sometime after 1960 for reasons no one quite remembers. They are fond of quoting that "there is Paradise in Carp Lake but no carp in Paradise." The town of Carp Lake inhabits the west shoreline of what is now Paradise Lake. To add to the confusion, some websites call this Lake Paradise. And older residents still have a tendency to call it Carp Lake, as did their parents and grandparents. For Paradise Lake is that kind of a lake, where generations of families come every summer to teach the youngsters to swim and fish in the still waters.
Nearly 10 miles of shoreline is well-supplied with cottages and year-round homes. More than a handful of resort camps still greet visitors on the shores of Paradise Lake. The area is heavily wooded, and at least three preserve areas maintain that 'wild' atmosphere around the lake. Deer and wild turkeys are often sighted along with the occasional black bear. Eagles swoop to pluck fish from the waters, and loons raise their young on the lake. Waterskiing, tubing and jet skis are popular among the younger crowd, while the more seasoned citizens cruise along the shoreline on pontoons. Some of the resorts provide rowboats, canoes, kayaks or peddle-boats along with their cabins, and it is not unusual to see a sailboat or sailboard skimming across the surface. A small marina at the west end of the lake offers public access, boating necessities and bait. A second public access location is found nearby.
Fishing is a big drawing card to Paradise Lake. The tannin-stained waters hold largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch. The lake has enough weed cover to make angling productive, although the lake is relatively shallow. Fishing tournaments are held here annually, sometimes sponsored by the Paradise Lake Association, a voluntary association of property owners who have banded together to monitor and care for their beloved lake. In recent years, Paradise Lake has become infested with invasive Eurasian milfoil, a difficult-to-eradicate foreign species. The Paradise Lake Association has led the fight to solve the milfoil problem and institute better water monitoring and controls over possible infestations from invasive species. Zebra mussels have already moved into the lake, although they have not yet affected fishing and are mostly a nuisance.
Weed harvesting, chemical treatment and weevils have failed to get the milfoil problem under control, so the locals are now trying something entirely new. The Paradise Lake Improvement Board has installed an aeration treatment developed for wastewater treatment plants called 'laminar flow aeration'. This relatively new treatment circulates oxygen to the bottom of the water column continuously during the ice-free months. Then a safe biological activator goes to work digesting and reducing muck and sediments from the bottom. This in turn disrupts and destroys the milfoil while leaving deep-rooted native plants and fish communities undisturbed. The residents of Paradise Lake are eagerly looking forward to progress on the weed problem and to the day when boating is no longer impeded by weeds and algae. This new form of treatment has been tried in many states to clear reservoirs and lakes and has in a somewhat different form been used for wastewater treatment for many years.
A small dam was built across the Carp Lake River, sometimes called simply Carp River, at some point to stabilize water levels and perhaps increase the depth of the lake (records are pretty hard to come by for this area). It is unclear who has responsibility for adjusting flow at the dam: legal lake levels have never been set for Paradise Lake, likely because water levels have remained stable. The Carp River still flows as one of Michigan's shortest rivers, just 10.5 miles to Lake Michigan. This particular area at the 'Tip O'The Mitt' has been identified as the Carp Lake area for many, many years. Less than 10 miles away, the 'Big Mac' bridge handles car traffic to the Upper Peninsula. Those wishing to visit Mackinaw City for a day often find lodgings around the Paradise Lake area as it is far cheaper in terms of price. That way, Mackinaw City visitors can save their cash for an extra pound or two of the famous Mackinaw City Fudge.
While in Mackinaw City, most take the opportunity to visit historic restored Fort Michilimackinac at the foot of the bridge. As for the strange name, we can blame the French who joined together four Native American words: mish-inni-maki-nong. This means something like 'great connecting sound fault place'. To pronounce Mackinac like a native, one must always remember to make the ending rhyme with Saginaw . . .whether it ends with 'w' or 'c'. Also on the grounds of the Fort Michilimackinac Historical Park are the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and nearby several other historic attractions and learning opportunities. A short ferry ride away, Mackinac island sports the famed Grand Hotel and a variety of horse-drawn activities on this non-motors tourist hotspot. Only five miles or so to the west along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Wilderness State Park offers camping, nature trails, swimming and a number of cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps that can be reserved for a week's vacation. One interesting addition to these rustic cabins are the parking enclosures. Consisting of a low wall, it is suggested that guests park within them and close the gate to keep porcupines from gnawing on their brake lines during the night.
Paradise Lake is only 30 miles from historic Harbor Springs and its deep-water port. Within an hour's drive, nearly every well-known ski resort in northern Michigan can be reached. Michigan has many miles of groomed snowmobile trails that cross near Paradise Lake, and snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing and mountain biking all find a place along the local trails. Paradise Lake is a year-round home base for both summer and winter sports, not the least of which is ice fishing. The several small resorts around the lake rent cottages with kitchenettes, offer camping spaces and sometimes also have a small motel nearby with access to the water. A number of residents advertise their private homes and cottages by the week. Although the village of Carp Lake itself is too small to have more than a couple of restaurants and pubs, lodgings can be found at Petoskey and Harbor Springs. And there is often real estate available on Paradise Lake itself. So come to visit the 'Tip O' The Mitt' for a week or two to find your Paradise.
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