Tahoe came out on top in our recent reader poll on America's best lake, and I'll be exploring the popular alpine outpost later this week for a travel story running Aug. 10. But as its many fans made clear, the second-place finisher has plenty to offer, as well.
Though I grew up in southern Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Mendota (a sentimental favorite, but not on our shortlist), I wasn't familiar with runner up Lake Charlevoix, Michigan - or another nearby lake north of Traverse City that earned several write-in votes, Torch Lake.
Now, I'm "smitten with the mitten" (a reference to Michigan's hand-shaped geography).
A few arguments in its favor from our readers:
Nancy M. Dammann: "To be fair, all these lakes are amazing. But here are a couple of other Lake Charlevoix facts worth mentioning--from any point on Lake Charlevoix, you can sail to any ocean in the world and many other lakes. Near the mouth of the lake, there is a natural safe harbor that often shelters international sailors and boaters who have left the oceans in the fall, under the false assumption that the Great Lakes will be safer than the oceans. Charlevoix's harbors have often hosted storm fleeing sailboats and provided them a home throughout entire winters. Lake Charlevoix has also been a seasonal destination since pre-Columbian times, providing an important summer place to Native Americans in the area. In addition, residents are also trying to raise funds to buy a significant chunk of lake shore (a former summer camp) and turn it into a permanent public park. The lake is 18 miles long, 3.5 miles wide at its widest, and has two arms (the South arm is 11 or 12 miles long and often much calmer than the Northern arm). It is home to loons, and ducks, and fish, the occasional otter, gorgeous boats, and amazing people and communities."
Karen Kent Guzniczak: "We've owned a retail store in Boyne City for 22 years and talk to thousands of people every year from all over the world. The comments we hear are always about how blessed we are. People are amazed at how clean and clear Lake Charlevoix is. A young child from our area went on vacation with his parents to the Caribbean and when they they flew over the water he said 'Look Lake Charlevoix.'"
Stephanie Balch: "Sandy beaches, access to restaurants, great fishing, gorgeous harbors in quaint Northern Michigan towns...and a short boat ride through Round Lake and the Pine River Channel puts you on Lake Michigan! Not a more beautiful lake to view the fall foliage."
Laurie Szabo-Dill: "Got married overlooking Lake Charlevoix, and still have people tell me it was the most beautiful wedding they've ever been to!"
Chase Petroelje: "With several small, tourist-adored towns surrounding it, Lake Charlevoix boasts some of the world's finest sunsets, beaches, boating and gastronomy...a shallow ledge outlines the entire lake, making it ideal for families, and anchoring for a day of relaxation. If that's not enough, it was the location for the wedding of world-famous author Ernest Hemingway and his wife. You know you've found an extraordinary lake when much of it is bordered by multi-million dollar houses, private water planes, and some of the largest yachts you'll ever see!"
G.T. Long: "Lake Charlevoix is where the Gods swim....other lakes may be pretty, but Lake Charlevoix is spiritual in its beauty, clear, clean, deep, and big, situated on hills and a hundred shades of green."
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