Lake County’s unparalleled natural resources have given it a rich history, which can still be experienced today with a visit to one of the county’s unique museums:

Key Dates in Lake County History

1843: Lake County is named for the many lakes inside its borders. Many Union soldiers and their families settled in Lake County after the Civil War.

1880’s: The first brown trout was planted in Lake County’s Baldwin River, a tributary to the Pere Marquette River. Since then, the rivers have continued to be a mecca for anglers in search of trout, salmon, and steelhead.

1880’s-1900’s: The county had a booming white pine timber business. As a result, many railroads and lumber camps created Lake County communities, including Stearn’s Siding located near Branch (named after Justin Stearns, who later became Michigan’s Secretary of State) and Marlboro -now a ghost town (founded as a cement production center by Fredrick Farnsworth, a banker and art collector from Detroit).

1912: The resort community of Idlewild was founded, just east of Baldwin. It became a major summer vacation destination for African Americans, primarily from Chicago, Detroit, and many other large urban centers in the Midwest. The area was a major tour stop on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” for some of the biggest names in African American musical entertainment and became known as “Black Eden”.

1933 – 1942: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camps in the area  engaged young men in tree planting and wildlife habitat improvement that lended to the incredible natural resources found in the Manistee National forest that occupies a significant portion of the county.

Midwest US with star for Lake County Michigan Location
Lake County Map

Lake County Today

Lake County is where Michigan’s  “Up North” begins!  With US 10 and M37 intersecting in its core community of Baldwin, the county is well-travelled by those heading to Traverse City, Ludington, Mackinac and beyond.

The County’s natural resources continue to play a key part in its economy. Offices for both the US Forestry Service and Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources are located in Lake County. 

With over 150 lakes and rivers, world-class fishing and hunting, and renowned motorized trail systems, tourism remains the county’s top industry.  This causes its population of 12,594 (2022) to increase greatly from its significant number of visitors, as well as those owning second homes in the county, particularly in the summer and fall.