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Learn About Inland Lakes and Streams

An aerial view of a northern Michigan forest. Green trees in all directions with an inland lake in the middle
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Learn About Inland Lakes and Streams

Did you know? Michigan has over 36,000 miles of streams, and more than 11,000 lakes and ponds.

These precious water resources and the benefits they provide are protected by several state laws from impairment due to pollution, physical alterations and nuisance aquatic species. The state's water resources are monitored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and partnering organizations to determine the water quality, the quantity and quality of aquatic habitat, the health of aquatic communities, and compliance with state laws.

A Natural shoreline with shoreline protection methods.

Shoreline Protection

Because shore protection structures can have negative effects on natural resources and other shoreline properties, shore protection structures should only be installed when they are needed to address erosion problems and the type of shore protection used should be carefully considered.  Near shore shallow waters provide habitat for a greater variety of organisms than all other aquatic zones and are essential in the life cycles of many of Michigan's fish and wildlife.
A dense mat of european frog-bit floating on the surface of a pond, with a few white flowers.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Different than aquatic nuisance, an invasive species is one that is not native and whose introduction causes harm, or is likely to cause harm to Michigan's economy, environment, or human health.

Aquatic Nuisance Control

Although aquatic plants are a natural component of every aquatic ecosystem, excessive plant growth can sometimes be a nuisance for riparian property owners and other lake users.
More information
A family on a green boat cruising across an inland lake on a summer day

Watercraft ordinances

Inland Lakes in Michigan can have various ordinances related to wake boats.  These types of ordinances can establish vessel speed limits, prohibit or restrict use of certain vessels, water skis, water sleds, aquaplanes, surfboards or other similar contrivances, restrictions on certain types of boating activities on all or parts of the waterbody, or restriction on certain types of boating activities during specified hours of the day or specified days of the week.  Vessel owners are responsible for any damage to life or property resulting from a wake or swell created by the negligent operation or propulsion of the vessel, if the vessel is being operated with his or her consent.  Michigan Department of Natural Resources enforces these ordinances which can be found below.

How is my water quality monitored?

SWAS staff monitoring stream

Inland Lakes monitoring strategy

There is a great deal of existing monitoring on Michigan’s inland lakes, not only by EGLE but by many local organizations, other local and state agencies, and multiple federal agencies.

Read the Monitoring Strategy for Michigan's Inland Lakes
WRD Beach scenic

Beach advisories

Local officials are constantly monitoring beaches to make sure the water is safe to swim and play in.
Check for beach closures and advisories
A strikingly vibrant bluegill fish held in a hand. The fish is a medley of bright yellow, green, and aqua with a dark navy spot behind its gills.

Fish monitoring

Since the 1980's, Michigan's fish have been monitored for many different potential contaminants. This data is used to determine if fish from lakes and streams are safe to eat.
Michigan Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program
4 kayakers on water part of MI Paddle Stewards program Credit: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

How's My Waterway?

This is an web application put together by the EPA and holds information about your watershed, swimming, protection efforts, drinking water information, and more.
Learn about your waterway

Get involved with your water quality

Volunteer with the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps). The MiCorps program was established in 2004 to assist the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in collecting water quality data for use in water resources management and protection programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Inland lake means a natural or artificial lake, pond, impoundment, or a part of 1 of those bodies of water.

    The term "Inland lake" does not include the Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair, or a lake or pond that has a surface area of less than 5 acres.
  • Watersheds catch, store, and release water. When rain falls or snow melts, the water flows downhill, collecting into wetlands, small streams, and drainages, which then feed streams, rivers, lakes, and recharge groundwater. In Michigan, these waters then flow into or connect to one of the Great Lakes. The land area that collects the water that feeds a body of water is called a watershed.
  • When reading about inland lakes and streams on our website, you may see the words "Part 301" a lot. Part 301 is a part of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

    It covers inland lakes and streams, meaning any natural or artificial lake, pond, impoundment, river, stream, or creek, or any other body of water that has definite banks, a bed, and visible evidence of a continued flow or continued occurrence of water, including the St. Marys, St. Clair, and Detroit rivers.

  • Shore Protection: Because shore protection structures can have negative effects on natural resources and other shoreline properties, shore protection structures should only be installed when they are needed to address erosion problems and the type of shore protection used should be carefully considered.  Because of these negative effects of vertical walls EGLE recommends the use of natural shoreline treatments.  New shoreline hardening should be avoided where alternate approaches such as plantings and natural stone can be used to protect property from erosion.  The purpose and benefits of plantings/stone are to provide a natural transition between the open water and upland, while providing habitat.

    Permanent Docks or Permanent Boat Hoists: Permanent docks or boat hoists which are left in year around require a permit.  Seasonal docks and hoists do not require a permit if they are for private, non-commercial use by a landowner, do not unreasonable interfere with the use of the water by others, do not interfere with water flow and will not be placed in wetlands.

    Beach Sanding: Placement of sand, pea stone, or other clean fill below (waterward) of the water line requires a permit.  A reasonable amount of sand may be placed landward of the water line without a permit as long as the sand does not shift the location of the existing ordinary high water mark or the shoreline contour.  The sand cannot be placed in a wetland.

    Dredging or Excavation:  Any dredging below (waterward) of the ordinary high water mark of a lake or stream requires a permit.   Dredging of a pond within 500 feet of a lake or stream also requires a permit.  A permit is needed for any excavation where the purpose is enlargement of or ultimate connection with an existing lake or stream.