Welcome to KALKASKA!
Highways US-131, M-72, and M-66 intersect in a county that is small in population, but large in heart. Residents here take pride in being a hearty, self-sufficient northern people. Kalkaska county is 561 square miles of abundant natural resources with endless recreational opportunities. With over 80 inland lakes, 275 miles of streams and rivers, numerous state and county parks, 80 miles of groomed snowmobile and ORV trails, and 3 golf courses there truly is something for everyone.
COUNTY LAKE, RIVER, and TRAIL HIGHLIGHTS
- Bear Lake - a spectacular lake with clarity to 25 ft., very little weed growth and hard sand bottom. It is one of the top 5 cleanest lakes in the state of Michigan. Bear Lake is a 316 acre all sports lake with depths to 50 ft. Fish species include rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth bass, white sucker, yellow perch, rock bass and bluegill. It is conveniently located off M-72 between Grayling and Kalkaska and is an easy drive off either I-75 or US-131. Bear Lake also sits in the heart of Michigan's snowbelt providing year around recreational activity.
- Twin Lake - a 215 acre crystal clear with aqua blue water all sports lake nestled within the Pere Marquette State Forest in northeast Kalkaska County. Rolling hills characterize the surrounding shoreline with abundant sand at waters edge. The lake reaches depths of 80ft. with clarity to 16ft. and supports very little vegetation. Enjoy fishing for brown and rainbow trout, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth and rock bass, perch, and bluegill.
- Skegemog Lake - a 2,560 acre lake that is part of the Antrim County Chain of Lakes connecting on the west to Elk Lake and to the north through Torch River into Torch Lake. Skegemog Lake lies in both Kalkaska and Grand Traverse Counties and is an easy commute to Kalkaska, Traverse City, Acme, and Elk Rapids.
- Manistee Lake - an 860 acre all-sports lake located just 15 minutes northeast of the Village of Kalkaska. It has developed into a year around resort area due to its proximity to state land and trails and the abundance of snow that falls each winter. Also a popular fishing lake with walleye, rock bass, yellow perch, small mouth bass, bluegills, crappies and northern pike.
- Blue Lake - located in the Northeastern part of the county is an undiscovered jewel! This lake is among the cleanest freshwater lakes in the State of Michigan with depths up to 80 ft. Blue Lake is a 120 acre all-sports lake and is fished for blue gill, lake trout, rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rock bass, and northern pike. Blue Lake with caribbean blue water has clarity to depths of 25 ft. and is tucked into the Manistee National Forest along with numerous other lakes.
- Boardman River - The Boardman River is located in Kalkaska and Grand Traverse counties. It rises in the Mahan swamp in north central Kalkaska County and flows in a southwesterly direction for 40 miles where it empties into Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. As a trout stream, the Boardman ranks among Michigan’s top 10streams. Above Brown Bridge Dam, the Boardman River is a top quality, moderate size trout stream. It contains excellent populations of small to moderate size brook and brown trout. Scenic terrain makes the stream a pleasant one to fish. The bottom is firm sand and gravel and the stream is relatively swift. Nearly all of the numerous tributaries are top quality trout waters. The Boardman River valley and surrounding uplands contain a good variety and sizeable populations of deer, small game, fur-bearing animals, waterfowl and a great many species of non-game wildlife. Canoeing the upper Boardman River is generally undesirable due to narrow channels, shallow riffles, overhanging brush, and fallen trees.
- Manistee River - The Upper Manistee River system is a resource of national significance and is located in the northwestern portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The watershed includes parts of five counties: Antrim, Otsego, Crawford, Kalkaska and Missaukee. The river and its adjoining lands are highly valued for the abundant and diverse fishery, scenic beauty, many miles of boatable waters, excellent game and non-game wildlife populations, camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities, as well as outstanding opportunities for private residential development. The segment of the river from the headwaters to M-72 is classified as a “Blue Ribbon” trout stream with self-sustaining populations of brook and brown trout. Many public access sites are located along the river in Kalkaska County.
- Snowmobile Trails - Kalkaska County averages 126 inches of snow each winter and has over 80 miles of groomed snowmobile trails for your enjoyment. The Blue Bear and Cranberry Trail are both about 12 feet wide and stretch from Antrim County on the north to Missaukee County to the south. The Boardman Valley Trail travels westward into Grand Traverse County and the Miss Kal-Line connects the Cranberry Trail to the Lake City area. Staging areas are located on Island Lake Rd. just west of the Village and off M-72 near Sunset Trail Rd.
- ORV Trails - the Leetsville ORV Trail can be accessed just east of the Village on County Road 612. The trail winds through state land to the north. The Kalkaska ORV Trail can be accessed at Sunset Trail and M-72. The trail makes a big loop north to Starvation Lake, east to the Frederic Trail, and south to Riverview Road. The Frederic ORV Loop can be accessed off County Road 612 and Old Grade Road. Travel either north to West Cameron Bridge Road or south to Howes Lake Road. The North Missaukee ORV Trail winds back and fourth over the Kalkaska-Missaukee county line from Coster Road to Moorestown Road.
- Horseback Riding Trails- trails, two tracks, and forest roads have been connected by the Michigan DNR and volunteers to form the Shore-to-Shore trail across Michigan from Oscoda to Empire. Going through Kalkaska County, the trail traverses the Sand Lakes Quiet Area. There is a southern spur leading to Cadillac and a northern spur traveling northeast to Indian River. Campgrounds, complete with privies and wells are at 18 to 25 mile intervals. Most of the camps overlook lakes or rivers. Those who enjoy horseback riding or hiking will especially appreciate the natural beauty of the Shore-to-Shore trail. A very active equestrian community resides in Kalkaska County featuring horse shows weekly throughout the summer months at the Rocking Horse Arena just west of the fairgrounds.
COMMUNITY EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
- For 75 years now Kalkaska has proudly hosted the National Trout Festival held annually the last weekend in April. Come see how dedicated this woodsy little town is to welcoming thousands of sportsmen and women to the abundance of outdoor activity available in Kalkaska county. In addition to fabulous trout streams the festival's schedule offers something for everyone including; a children's trout fishing contest, classic car show, flea market, two parades, trout run, and carnival. Please visit the National Trout Festival's official website for a full list of events.
- Drawing thousands to downtown Kalkaska the Iceman Cometh Challenge is a 27 mile point-to-point mountain bike race across rolling, frost covered hills from Kalkaska to Traverse City. Becoming notorious in the world of mountain biking and 21 years strong, this race is traditionally held on the first Saturday in November. "It's awesome to come to a place like this where they're behind the sport. As long as the town is backing it, I'll always appreciate being here." - Sam Schultz of Missoula, Montana
- Since 1965, Kalkaska Winterfest has hosted the Midwest International Dog Sled Race held the third weekend in January. The race is the second longest running race in the country, outside of Alaska, and draws nearly a hundred teams from across the U.S. and Canada. Other featured events at Winterfest include an IWPA dog weight pull, dog sled rides, craft show, silent auction, and chili cook-off. "When you drive such a long way, you wonder if it is something you will do again. Without question the answer is yes. The trails were great! The organization of managing all those mushers was awesome. Everyone was friendly and helpful. The dogs and I are pretty tired from the long drive but it is a satisfied tired from a great weekend." - Laurel Turansky
- Kaliseum Recreation Complex - A Fitness center offering two indoor swimming pools with waterslide,fountains and aquatic classes; an ice arena featuring family skates and both youth and adult hockey leagues; a weight room with a variety of free weights, nautilus and cardio equipment; and bicycle rentals adjacent to the paved KART trail.
- Kalkaska Memorial Health Center - Part of the Munson Healthcare system, offering the best of both worlds - quality local care for primary and urgent medical needs, and access to some of the most widely respected medical specialists in the country. The laboratory, cardiology, rehabilitation, and radiology services are networked with Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, ensuring prompt and convenient diagnosis and treatment. More than 5,000 health care professionals work within the system, assuring you and your family the highest quality medical care possible.
- Kalkaska Village Airport - the paved airport is owned and operated by the Village of Kalkaska and is located on Island Lake Rd. There is a 3,500 by 75 foot runway that leads to hangars and a tie-down area which is available to the public for a fee. The adjacent Kalkaska Public Transit Authority has a pilot lounge.
- Kalkaska Public Schools and Forest Area Community Schools - All students receive a full complement of academic courses. Career and Technical Training opportunities are provided to students as they reach their junior and senior year through the Career Tech Center in Traverse City. Extra curricular offerings include a variety of athletic opportunities and clubs for academic and non-academic activities. Sports offered for students include: football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, golf, track, baseball, softball, volleyball, cross-country, and equestrian. Average class sizes continue to be lower than surrounding districts.
HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT
The first settlers arrived in 1855. In 1871 Kalkaska County was finally organized. When Native Americans inhabited the county, the land was covered with tall white pine trees. Eventually, lumberman cleared the land and moved north in search of more forest. The lumbermen left behind small communities that evolved into farming based towns. When the Great Depression hit the country, much of the privately owned land in the county reverted to the State. Oil and gas were discovered in the county in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Major drilling began in the 1970’s, and more than 100 producing wells were established. The main economic enterprises in the county today include: oil and gas exploration, manufacturing, forest products, farming, recreation and tourism. Kalkaska Memorial Health Center is the county’s largest employer.
As of the census of 2000, there were 16,571 people, 6,428 households, and 4,634 families residing in the county. The population density was 30 people per square mile. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.95. In the county the population was spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 7.60% from 18 to 24, 28.60% from 25 to 44, 24.50% from 45 to 64, and 13.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. The median income for a household in the county was $36,072, and the median income for a family was $39,932.