October 15, 2023

Lake Gitchegumee: An In-Depth Guide to its History and Attractions

Lake Gitchegumee, a man-made lake in Buckley, Michigan, offers a serene destination for outdoor enthusiasts with its lush landscapes and thriving ecosystem. Created in the early 1960s by Richard Symonds and his wife, the 103-acre lake has become a popular spot for fishing, boating, and simply enjoying the beauty of nature. Rich in history, the name "Gitchegumee" comes from the Ojibwe language, famously translated into English by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem "Hiawatha" as "shining Big-Sea-Water."

The lake is just a short 20-mile drive from the bustling Traverse City, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the best of both worlds. The surrounding area of Lake Gitchegumee boasts a variety of recreational activities, as well as property options for those looking to settle near the calming waters. Moreover, being in close proximity to healthcare facilities, such as Munson Medical Center, ensures that lake-goers can feel at ease knowing help is never too far away.

Key Takeaways

  • Lake Gitchegumee is a man-made lake in Buckley, Michigan, known for its scenic beauty and various recreational activities.
  • Its name is derived from the Ojibwe language and translates to "shining Big-Sea-Water."
  • The lake is conveniently located near Traverse City and Munson Medical Center, offering accessibility to urban amenities and healthcare facilities.

Lake Gitche Gumee: An Overview

Lake Gitchegumee, a man-made lake situated in Buckley, Michigan, holds a prominent position in Wexford County. It was created during the early 1960s by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Symonds, who formed a corporation called Buckley Shores, Inc. for the purpose of buying land along the headwaters of the east branch of Wheeler Creek within and south of the village of Buckley. Today, this lake presents an attractive destination for people looking for a serene and picturesque place to visit or reside.

The lake has a surface elevation of 879 feet (267 meters) above sea level and is nestled between some of the most scenic landscapes in Michigan. Its coordinates are approximately 44.54556°N latitude and -85.70553°W longitude. Lake Gitchegumee's surroundings provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as fishing, boating, hiking, and wildlife observation. Moreover, residents and visitors can find a variety of property options along the lake's shorelines, ranging from cozy cabins to luxurious estates.

Lake Gitchegumee's name, derived from the Ojibwe language, is sometimes referred to as "Gitche Gumee," which is famously mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha" (1855). The name translates to "the shining Big-Sea-Water," and it was Henry Schoolcraft who worked with the Ojibwe people at the time Longfellow wrote the poem. The original Gitche Gumee refers to Lake Superior ('the Big Sea'), but the peaceful Lake Gitchegumee in Buckley has adopted the name as well.

In conclusion, Lake Gitchegumee provides a beautiful backdrop for those seeking a peaceful retreat in Michigan's Wexford County. Its natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and rich history make it an appealing destination for both locals and visitors alike.

Etymology and Historical Significance

The name "Gitche Gumee" has its roots in the Ojibwe language, in which it is referred to as Gichi-gami, Gitchi-gami, or Kitchi-gami. It essentially means "big lake" or "big water" in the Ojibwe language. Lake Superior, known as Gitche Gumee, is the largest of the Great Lakes and holds a significant place in the history and culture of the Ojibwe people.

Father Frederic Baraga, a missionary who created the first dictionary for the Ojibwe language, defined Lake Superior as Otchipwe-kitchi-gami meaning "the sea of the Ojibwe people". His 1878 dictionary helped to understand and preserve the Ojibwe language, providing valuable insights into the culture of the Ojibwe people and their relationship with the lake.

Lake Superior, or Gitche Gumee, has also found its way into literature and popular culture. Most notably, it was immortalized in the poem "The Song of Hiawatha" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow's poem, which was published in 1855, used the term Gitche Gumee to describe the vastness and grandeur of the lake, further popularizing the name and its etymological significance.

The Ojibwe people, who have resided in the region surrounding Lake Superior for centuries, possess a strong connection with the lake. The name Gitche Gumee, as well as its variants Gichi-gami, Gitchi-gami, and Kitchi-gami, reflect the lake's historical and cultural importance to the Ojibwe people. In the years since the publication of Frederic Baraga's dictionary and the works of Longfellow, the name and the rich history it embodies have survived, cementing the legacy of Gitche Gumee and its connection to the Ojibwe people in people's minds.

Fishing in Lake Gitche Gumee

Common Fish Species

Lake Gitche Gumee, located in Wexford County, Michigan, near Buckley, is a popular reservoir for anglers looking to enjoy an abundant variety of fish species. Some of the most commonly found fish in Lake Gitche Gumee include:

  • Largemouth Bass: This popular sport fish is known for its aggressive strikes and strong fighting abilities, making it an exciting catch for anglers.
  • Smallmouth Bass: Similar to largemouth bass yet smaller in size, the smallmouth bass offers a thrilling experience when caught in Lake Gitche Gumee.
  • Northern Pike: Known for their sharp teeth and fierce disposition, northern pike are a challenging and satisfying catch for experienced anglers.
  • Walleye: This popular game fish is highly sought after for its delicious taste and can be found in Lake Gitche Gumee.
  • Bluegill: These small, colorful fish are a favorite among beginner anglers, offering a fun and rewarding experience.
  • Crappie: With their distinctive spiky dorsal fin, crappie are a popular target for anglers looking to add variety to their catch.
  • Sunfish: Another small fish species, sunfish offer a pleasant fishing experience for both beginners and experienced anglers.

In addition to the common species listed above, anglers have also reported catching yellow perch in Lake Gitche Gumee.

Fishing Techniques

When fishing in Lake Gitche Gumee, it's essential to use the right techniques to target specific fish species. Here are some tried and tested fishing techniques used by local anglers to catch their desired catch:

  • Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass: Anglers often find success using spinning or baitcasting gear with a variety of soft plastic baits. Weedless worms, such as purple weedless worms, are especially effective for catching bass in Lake Gitche Gumee.
  • Northern Pike: Fishing with large spoons, spinners, or crankbaits can be very effective for catching these aggressive predators. Wire leaders are recommended to prevent bite-offs due to their sharp teeth.
  • Walleye: Anglers targeting walleye often use live bait, such as minnows or leeches, combined with slip-sinker rigs or jigging techniques.
  • Crappie, Bluegill, and Sunfish: Smaller lures and live baits are typically used for these smaller species. Lighter line and smaller hooks are recommended in order to entice them to bite.

Geographical Features

Lake Gitchegumee, nestled in Wexford County, Michigan, is a man-made reservoir that enchants visitors with its serene beauty. Created in the early 1960s by Buckley Shores, Inc., this picturesque lake has become an attractive residential area and recreational spot for its residents and visitors alike. Lake Gitchegumee boasts an elevation of approximately 1,004 feet above sea level and is conveniently located within the ZIP Code 49620.

Wexford County itself is part of the larger Great Lakes region, with Lake Superior straddling the border between the Canadian Province of Ontario and the U.S. states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. This strategic location enhances the natural charm of the area, drawing visitors to explore the interconnected beauty of the wider lake network.

Round Lake, a close neighbor to Lake Gitchegumee, further contributes to the area's aquatic splendor. Both residents and visitors can enjoy various recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, and swimming. The diverse shoreline also provides ample opportunities for leisurely walks and picnics, making the region a tranquil retreat from daily life.

A defining characteristic of this area is its interesting blend of both serene waters and dynamic rapids. Nearby river systems offer exciting opportunities for adventure enthusiasts, seeking to conquer the rapids through activities like whitewater rafting and canoeing. This juxtaposition of calm lakes and challenging rapids adds to the area's allure and caters to a wide audience with diverse interests.

In summary, Lake Gitchegumee and its surrounding areas offer an abundance of geographical features that foster recreational activities and promote natural beauty. From the tranquil waters of Round Lake to the exhilarating rapids nearby, locals and visitors can experience the full spectrum of aquatic delights while exploring the picturesque landscapes of Wexford County.

Property around Lake Gitche Gumee

Lake Gitchegumee, located in Michigan, offers potential homeowners a limited supply of properties. Various types of real estate options can be found around the lake, from waterfront homes to vacant lots ready for development.

Waterfront homes on Lake Gitchegumee attract buyers seeking tranquil lake living with picturesque views. These properties often come with features like private docks, wraparound decks, and spacious living areas. Prices for waterfront homes on Lake Gitchegumee vary, but interested buyers can expect to find options in the range of $289,900 and $349,000.

In addition to waterfront homes, there are also several vacant lots available for those looking to build their dream homes from scratch. These lots offer a unique chance to create a personalized lakeside retreat. Listings for vacant land on Lake Gitchegumee typically range from $44,933 to $79,900.

Some properties around the lake are located within small communities, such as the Lake Gitchegumee Association. This community offers its residents the benefits of a peaceful and tight-knit neighborhood. A waterfront lot in the Lake Gitchegumee Association is a prime example of such a property, with a gently sloping landscape towards the water's edge.

When searching for property around Lake Gitchegumee, resources like Zillow and Redfin can provide comprehensive listings and valuable insights. Additionally, reaching out to local real estate agents can help make the search process easier and more efficient.

In conclusion, Lake Gitchegumee presents a range of property options for those looking to enjoy lakeside living in Michigan. Whether considering a cozy waterfront home or seeking the perfect plot of land for a custom build, this area is worth exploring for prospective homeowners.

Close Proximity Locations

Lake Gitchegumee is a picturesque reservoir located in Wexford County, Michigan, United States. The lake and its surrounding areas provide visitors with a variety of attractions and activities to explore, making it a great destination for a day trip or an extended stay.

The nearby town of Buckley offers a welcoming small-town atmosphere and various amenities for visitors to the Lake Gitchegumee area. The Mesick Historical Museum is a short 10.08 km drive from the lake and provides a glimpse into the local history through its diverse collection of artifacts and exhibits, transporting visitors back in time1.

For golf enthusiasts, the Kingsley Club, a private golf course, is situated not too far from the lake. Open since 2001, the golf course offers a scenic and challenging experience to its members and guests2.

In addition to these attractions, Lake Gitchegumee is centered within a 14.9-mile radius of various outdoor activities, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and opportunities for wildlife watching3.

Visitors to Lake Gitchegumee can also explore nearby Lake Superior, known as Gitche Gumee4. Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, offers numerous recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and kayaking, as well as beautiful vistas for photography enthusiasts.

Whether you want to learn about the local history at the Mesick Historical Museum, enjoy a round of golf at the Kingsley Club, or experience the beauty of nearby Lake Superior, the Lake Gitchegumee area has something for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the depth of Lake Gitchegumee?

Lake Gitchegumee is a man-made lake in Buckley, Michigan. The depth of the lake varies, and there isn't a specific depth provided in the available information.

Is there a depth chart available for Lake Gitchegumee?

There isn't a publicly available depth chart for Lake Gitchegumee. As a man-made lake, it's likely that the depth varies throughout the waterbody.

What is the connection between Lake Gitchegumee and Lake Superior?

While there isn't a direct connection between Lake Gitchegumee and Lake Superior, both bodies of water share the name "Gitchegumee" or "Gitche Gumee." Lake Superior is sometimes referred to as Gitche Gumee, a name which originates from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha" (1855) and the Ojibwe people who called it the "shining Big-Sea-Water" (source). Lake Gitchegumee in Michigan borrows its name from this connection.

Are there any interesting facts about Lake Gitchegumee?

Lake Gitchegumee in Michigan is a private access lake and was created in the early 1960s by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Symonds of Big Rapids, Michigan. They formed a corporation called Buckley Shores, Inc. to buy land around the headwaters of the east branch of Wheeler Creek in Buckley (source).

What is the significance of Gitche Gumee in song lyrics and poems?

The name Gitche Gumee became famous thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha" (1855). The poem mentioned Gitche Gumee as the shining Big-Sea-Water and this name has been used in other works as well, such as Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" which refers to Lake Superior as Gitche Gumee (source).

What does the Gitchegumee Property Owners Association do?

The Lake Gitchegumee Property Owners Association (LGPOA) is an organization that works to maintain and improve the quality of life for property owners around Lake Gitchegumee in Michigan. It strives to preserve the natural beauty of the lake and promote a sense of community among its members. The LGPOA hosts meetings, manages a boat launch for members, and addresses member concerns and questions.


  1. https://www.travalour.com/attraction/28260-lake-gitchegumee/nearby-attractions
  2. https://itouchmap.com/?d=1622237&s=MI&f=reservoir
  3. https://www.topozone.com/michigan/wexford-mi/reservoir/lake-gitchegumee/
  4. https://www.lakesuperior.com/the-lake/lake-superior/281almanac/
Charlie Hardcastle
Charlie is Editor-in-Chief of Sea Magazine
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