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Watershed Facts View Watershed Map

watershed facts

The land area surrounding a lake that drains to the lake is called its watershed or drainage basin. The Houghton Lake watershed is 172 square miles in area, a land area over five times greater than the lake itself. Houghton Lake receives drainage from Higgins Lake via the Cut River and four major tributaries: Knappen Creek, Denton Creek, Spring Brook, and Backus Creek. The Houghton Lake watershed encompasses all or part of 13 townships.

Houghton Lake and Higgins Lake form the headwaters of the Muskegon River. Water draining to the Muskegon River from Houghton Lake travels over 200 miles downstream and drops about 560 feet in elevation before entering Lake Michigan at Muskegon.

Over the long term, Houghton Lake's water quality will be influenced by land use activities in its watershed. Fortunately, much of the watershed is undeveloped, forested areas or wetlands that help to preserve water quality. With the construction of a sanitary sewer system around Houghton Lake in the 1970's, a primary source of pollution input to the lake was eliminated. However, much of the land adjacent to the lake has been urbanized and pollution sources such as lawn fertilizer and stormwater runoff threaten water quality.