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Lake Profile

Crystal (Beulah, MI)

General Information

Description Crystal Lake, an oligotrophic lake in Benzie County, is the ninth largest inland lake in Michigan, USA.
Country United States of America
Latitude 44° 39' 33" (44.6592)
Longitude -86° 9' 23" (-86.1564)
State Michigan

Physical Characteristics

Description Crystal Lake contains .242 trillion gallons of water. The watershed covers 43.97 square miles, with approximately 35% (15.4 sq. mi.) being the lake surface. Maximum depth approaches 165 feet (mean 70.7 feet). The watershed encompasses portions of four townships, served by wells and septic tanks, and two small communities, with municipal water supplies and sewers. Lakeshore residences are predominantly single-family with seasonal usage. A landmark county ordinance ensures that septic systems are maintained at current standards. The lake is almost entirely surrounded by high forested bluffs surrounding a narrow beach zone created by a dramatic drawdown in the logging era. Crystal Lake had no natural outlet to Lake Michigan until 1873 when its level was permanently lowered.

The deep waters of the open lake are oligotrophic and water quality is exceptionally high. Nearshore waters show slightly elevated levels for some parameters, but water quality is still very good. Nutrient loading and sediment transport are of some concern, but development and land use (if not properly managed) have potential for much greater adverse effects upon water quality. Nutrient input is limited by the absence of major point sources and the small land/water ratio of the watershed. Sources include one major and several minor tributaries, individual septic systems, and atmospheric deposition. Sediments are surface runoff from the tributaries, storm drains, and localized construction activities. Manageable sources are being addressed to control inputs and protect the environmental quality of the watershed.

Volume 0.92 km3
Surface Area 42.50 km2
Depth Mean depth: 21.5 m
Maximum depth: 50.0 m
Age 0 - 10,000 years before present
Origin Glacial
Trophic State Oligotrophic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 74.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 2:1


Economic Value
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Description Stewardship of the Crystal Lake Watershed involves a balanced approach to meet scientific and community needs while interfacing with diverse groups that often have differing opinions as to what parameters should be monitored, who should conduct the studies, and how data should best be collected, interpreted, and utilized. Volunteer efforts of the Crystal Lake Watershed Fund, Inc. (now the CLWA) have been directed by local environmental professionals, while encouraging active involvement by local citizen volunteers, schools, regional colleges and universities, and governmental agencies.
Other Issues Nutrient pollution
Urbanization and sprawl
Monitoring CLWA sponsors a comprehensive Environmental Science and Water Quality Monitoring Program. The CLWA actively supports citizen initiatives for water quality monitoring, septic system control, sustainable development, and land conservancy through education. The CLWA Program is directed entirely by local environmental professionals, which allows flexibility in experimental design, sampling, analysis, evaluation, and training. This is in keeping with well-established state and national programs that encourage proactive involvement by local citizens, local schools, and regional universities with local, state, and federal agencies acting in advisory, consulting, and participatory roles. The CLWA Science Review Panel and an external reviewer provide oversight.

Environmental studies of the Crystal Lake Watershed over the past 80 years have addressed short- and long-term impacts and future trends, and include water quality monitoring; geological, hydrological, and ecological surveys; fishery surveys; algae identifications; septic system assessments; and aerial, topographical, and land surveys. Options for wastewater collection and treatment for two contiguous watersheds were considered in a detailed facilities plan. Crystal Lake was the first EPA case study to receive a finalized Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of alternative waste treatment systems for rural lake projects. It is the location of an ongoing grant as part of the National Onsite Demonstration Project. The CLWA program builds on these studies. It involves both routine year-round monitoring of conventional environmental parameters and original scientific investigations of the Crystal Lake Watershed.

The CLWA also participates with the Benzie County Section of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the Benzie/Leelanau County Public Health Department, and the Interlochen Arts Academy, as well as with other lakes, in joint programs of the Michigan Lake & Stream Associations, the North American Lake Management Society, the Michigan Sea Grant Program, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Active dialogue among scientific and community groups is important in building a broad committed base of support and joint participation.

The CLWA Program is integrated into nine components:

-Water Quality Survey: Water quality monitoring of the Crystal Lake Watershed.
-Secchi Disk Program: An annual program specific to water clarity.
-Water Quality Testing Program: Biannual determination of nine water quality parameters.
-Advanced Self-Help Program: An annual program specific to total phosphorus.
-Citizens' Lake Monitoring Program: A pilot workbook program with 17 Michigan lakes.
-Innovative Treatment: Support of demonstrations of processes for individual onsite wastewater treatment systems.
-Biological Survey: Monitoring of plankton, macrophytes, fish, etc., including zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil.
-Adjacent Watersheds: Studies in parallel with other watersheds in the region.
-Educational Programs: Hands-on experiences in water quality monitoring; "Eco-Explorations" with students.

The CLWF Program encompasses five "sampling regimes" within the Crystal Lake Watershed:

Deep-Lake: Open waters of the lake, including bottom sediments.
Near-Shore: Littoral zone about the lake perimeter.
Cold Creek: Locations throughout the major tributary.
Tributaries: Additional locations including minor tributaries and the outlet.
Miscellaneous Events: Selected natural and anthropogenic (manmade) events.

CLWF volunteers have conducted numerous surveys which have provided opportunities for students and interns to gain field experience in water quality monitoring. Physical, chemical, and biological parameters selected for monitoring in the CLWF Program are based on recognized importance and/or historic significance in past studies:

Physical: Water depth, Secchi disk depth, turbidity, air and water temperatures.
Chemical:DO, conductivity, pH, redox potential; ortho, soluble, and total phosphorus; dissolved and suspended solids; hardness, alkalinity, chloride, sulfate; ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and organic nitrogen; and individual elements: aluminum, arsenic, calcium, copper, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, lead, silica, sodium, zinc.
Biological: Algae, plankton, macrophytes, and other aquatic species, including exotics, and chlorophyll a.
Other: Rain, snowmelt, shoreline deposits, stream flows, soils, and sediments.

Monitoring equipment includes a differential global positioning system (DGPS) for sample locating, conventional water samplers, a sediment corer, plankton collection devices, and a multiparameter sampling probe (Hydrolab H20) with automatic data logger for uploading to a personal computer and an extensive database. Analyses have been performed during sampling (vertical profiles), at local laboratory facilities on the lake, at local schools, and at the Great Lakes Water Quality Laboratory, a local facility, following QA/QC procedures and standard methods.


Daniels, Stacy L., and Thomas Osborn. 1996. Crystal Lake: Water Quality Monitoring, Report for 1994 and 1995. CLWF, P.O. Box 104, Beulah, MI 49617. 80 pp.
Daniels, Stacy L. 1994. "An 'Experience' in Water Quality Monitoring." CLWF, P.O. Box 104, Beulah, MI, 49617; 4 pp.
Crystal Lake Watershed Fund, Clean Water Committee of Crystal Lake, and Ad Hoc Committee. 1987. Crystal Lake-Life or Death. Benzie County, Michigan. 32 pp. (Also annual updates.)

Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality
Biological Resources and Habitats

Water Quality

Biodiversity Conservation

Species of Concern


Crystal Lake and Watershed Association



Crystal Advisory Number 4903
The Comedy of Crystal Lake

Additional Data Sources

US EPA (2004) National Listing of Fish Advisories Database

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