Torch Lake at 19 miles long is Michigan’s longest inland lake and at approximately 18,770 acres is Michigan’s second largest inland lake.
Within it are several townships including Torch Lake Township, Central Lake Township, Forest Home Township, Helena Township, and Milton Township and Clearwater Township in Kalkaska County. Several villages and hamlets lie along its shore, including Alden, Eastport, Clam River, and Torch Lake. The lake is about 17 miles northeast of Traverse City and is separated by narrow strips of land from both Grand Traverse Bay on the northwest and Elk Lake at the southwest end. The lake is about two miles wide and is centered at 44°59′00′′N 85°18′30′′W. It has a maximum depth of 285 feet just off the east end of Campbell Rd. (Milton Twp.) and an average depth of 111 feet, making it Michigan’s deepest inland lake. It is a popular lake for fishing, featuring lake trout, rock bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, Pike, ciscoes, brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish.
The name of the lake is not due to its shape, rather, is derived from translation from the Ojibwa name Was-wa-gon-ong meaning “Place of the Torches”, referring to the practice of the local native American population who once used torches at night to attract fish for harvesting with spears and nets. For a time it was referred to by local European settlers as “Torch Light Lake”, which eventually was shortened to its current name.