Silver Lake Basin boating access site change proposed in Marquette County

A summery view of the Silver Lake Basin in Marquette County. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - In the wake of increased popularity and use, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering making the primitive boating access site at the Silver Lake Basin in Marquette County accessible as a walk-in-only facility.

The idea will be discussed at a public meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5 at the Negaunee Township Hall. Additional meetings will be held in mid-April in Ishpeming Township, Houghton and Ironwood.

The state of Michigan acquired the basin’s access site in 2015. Before that, the land surrounding the lake was almost entirely owned by corporate forest interests and a few other non-public-use entities.
In acquiring the site, the DNR announced it would maintain it as a primitive access with no infrastructure development. Since that time, the popularity of the lake has increased.

“The fishery here is receiving more activity because of the beauty of the area and the outstanding fishery for large northern pike and quality-size smallmouth bass,” said George Madison, DNR fisheries manager. “This lake is very well-suited as a quiet-sport recreational fishery for small boats such as canoes, kayaks and other carry-in watercraft.”

However, with the increased visitation, some concerns have arisen.
“There has been random camping in areas without available services such as vault toilets and refuse removal,” said Deb Gill, park supervisor at Van Riper State Park. “Consequently, there has been an increased presence of toilet paper litter and human waste left throughout the shoreline property.”

In addition, vehicle access to the boating access site has resulted in some visitors parking campers along the shoreline for the entire summer.

The DNR is proposing to gate all vehicle access to the lakeshore, except in emergencies and during fish stocking. Anglers and boaters would then need to walk or manually cart their watercraft 600 feet from the parking area to the lake’s access site.

“We think a walk-in-only access site will help us curtail these problems while helping to maintain the scenic and quiet character of the Silver Lake Basin,” Madison said.

A similar provision is in place at Craig Lake State Park in Baraga County, where boaters carry their watercraft 1,200 feet from a parking lot to the lake.

Beyond the camping and garbage concerns, invasive species pose a threat.

Native land-locked whitefish are part of the fishery at Silver Lake. Whitefish populations are in peril in the Great Lakes region due to lakes becoming warmer over the past 30 years. With whitefish being a plankton-diet foraging fish, their numbers in the Silver Lake Basin would be negatively impacted if the invasive plankton known as the spiny water flea were to be introduced into this lake.

Since the Silver Lake Basin is at the most upstream portion of the Dead River watershed, if any aquatic invasive species were transferred to this lake by larger boats, the invasive organisms could pass downstream to colonize four additional reservoirs in the Dead River watershed, threatening additional fish populations.

In addition to the Feb. 5 public meeting on this issue in Negaunee Township, spring DNR Fisheries Division meetings with the public in mid-April will include discussion of the Silver Lake Basin proposal.
Those sessions will be:

• 6-8 p.m. CDT Tuesday, April 14 at Gogebic Community College, E4946 Jackson Road in Ironwood.

• 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 15 at Ishpeming Township Hall, 1575 U.S. 41 in Ishpeming Township.

• 7-9 p.m. Thursday, April 16 at Portage District Library, 58 Huron Street in Houghton.

For more information on fishing in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Fishing.