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Tri-Lakes Watershed

The Tri-Lakes are situated at the southeastern end of a large watershed of about 8,919 acres. Round Lake, at the western edge of the chain, is the first of the three lakes to receive inputs of nutrients from runoff from the majority of the watershed. Of the total acreage in the watershed, 7,517 acres, or about 84% of the total watershed flows into Round Lake alone. There are two inlets into Round Lake: Cole Creek on the north end of the lake and a second smaller inlet on the west side of the lake coming from Burden Lake. Lake Mecosta receives flow from Round Lake and has several small hidden inlets on the southwest part of the lake. Blue Lake is the last lake of the chain. Gilbert Creek flows into the channel between Mecosta and Blue Lakes, however, it flows through the channel and does not enter either of the lakes. It exits as the West Branch of the Little Muskegon River.

It has long been recognized that logs, sticks, and other woody structure in rivers provide habitat for a variety of aquatic insects. These insects are the foundation of the food chain and are essential to sustaining a healthy fishery. Recent research indicates that the same holds true for lakes. Several recent studies have examined the impact of shoreline development on lakes. The conclusion of these studies is that excessive development of shorelines and loss of shoreline vegetation are adversely impacting the quality of our lakes. For a lake property owner, these are extremely important findings and underscore the need to properly manage lakefront property on the Tri-Lakes.

Caring for Your Shoreland
10 Ways to Protect the Tri-Lakes
  1. Don’t use lawn fertilizer that contains phosphorus—it's the law!

  2. Use the minimum amount of fertilizer recommended on the label — more is not necessarily better!

  3. Water the lawn sparingly to avoid washing nutrients and sediments into the lake.

  4. Don’t feed ducks and geese near the lake. Waterfowl droppings are high in nutrients and may cause swimmer’s itch.

  5. Don’t burn leaves and grass clippings near the shoreline.  Nutrients concentrate in the ash and can easily wash into the lake.

  6. Don’t mow to the water’s edge. Instead, allow a strip of natural vegetation (i.e., a greenbelt) to become established along your waterfront. A greenbelt will trap pollutants and discourage nuisance geese from frequenting your property.

  7. Where possible, promote infiltration of stormwater into the ground. Build a rain garden to capture runoff from driveways and downspouts.

  8. Don’t dump anything in area wetlands. Wetlands are natural purifiers.

  9. If you have a septic system, have your septic tank pumped every 2 to 3 years.

  10. Don’t be complacent — your collective actions will make or break the lake!


The take-home message here is straightforward: Maintain or restore as much natural shoreland as possible. That is not to say that you can’t—or shouldn’t—have an area to swim, moor boats, fish or lounge by the shore. However, manicured lawn to the water’s edge and boundless seawalls are not conducive to a healthy lake. Natural shorelines are easier to maintain and provide many ecological benefits.

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