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Ice huts dot the frozen surface of Van Etten Lake in northeast Michigan. Inside the huts anglers sip thermoses of coffee and pull strings of perch from the icy water. The 1,409-acre lake has been providing visitors with four seasons of recreation opportunities for over a hundred years and the area's native people with food and fish for far longer than that. With its fish-filled waters set against the backdrop of state and national forests, Van Etten Lake is destined to become a favorite Michigan getaway.
The Pine River is the primary inflow of Van Etten Lake. Van Etten Creek is the lake's main outflow, and the creek goes on to meet the Scenic AuSable River before flowing on into Lake Huron. A dam, whose construction pre-dates 1922, controls water levels at Van Etten Lake's outlet and is managed by the Iosco County Drain Commission. Van Etten Lake is part of the Pine River - Van Etten Lake (PRVEL) Watershed. The PRVEL Coalition was created in 2005 to protect the watershed which encompasses 282 square miles in Iosco and Alcona Counties.
Van Etten Lake has a maximum depth of 25 feet and an average depth of 14 feet. It is considered a warm water fishery, and anglers can expect to find healthy populations of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and northern pike. Crappie and rainbow trout can also be found in the lake, and the Michigan DNR stocks Van Etten Lake with walleye. The western side of Loud Island, Van Etten's large island, is a particular favorite with anglers.
Access to the lake for boating and waterskiing is from public boat launches including one in the Van Etten State Forest Campground. The campground also has trails for hiking and ORV use. The lake is near the Huron National Forest. Established in 1909 and combined with the Manistee National Forest in 1945, the Huron - Manistee National Forest covers almost a million acres. Trails for horseback riding and hiking cross the forest, and there are places for camping. The national forest includes a 23 mile long section of the AuSable River and a 26 mile long section of the Pine River, both of which are designated National Scenic Rivers. The Pine River is favored by kayakers and has a section of light rapids, and the AuSable River offers spectacular scenery best seen from a canoe.
The Tuttle Marsh National Wildlife Area, a short drive from Van Etten Lake, is a fantastic place to see wildlife and waterfowl. The wildlife area encompasses 4,100 acres and is home to teals, golden eyes, herons and mallards. Hunting is allowed in season, and large herds of deer can by found during the winter.
Van Etten Lake is just a few miles from Lake Huron. Visitors to the Great Lake can charter a boat or enjoy the sand beach on the shore of Lake Huron. Water recreation opportunities are almost limitless, and in the winter trail for skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling round out the fun. Van Etten Lake borders the town of Oscoda which has restaurants, shops and a variety of accommodations. Lakefront vacation rentals and real estate for sale are also available on the lake. The Wurtsmith Air Force Base borders Van Etten Lake's western shore. The air force base was decommissioned is 1992, but a museum onsite documents the base's role from World War II through Desert Storm.
With its fish-filled water and beautiful surrounding countryside, Van Etten Lake is sure to become a favorite outdoor destination. Add the thousands of acres of water in Lake Huron and miles of scenic rivers, and the water recreation choices are endless. Van Etten Lake in Iosco County promises an unforgettable northeast Michigan vacation.
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