Category: BBL Island- Four Winds

I’ve always wondered what it might be like to live on Four Winds Island in the winter? Of course you’d have to lay in a lot of supplies. Then again are wires strung out to the island for electricity or do they have their own generator? I think it would be great to own your own island.

And whereas the mainland Camp Martin Johnson is almost all but lost the same can’t be held true on Four Winds Island where history is still present. Several of the cabins, with graffiti, are still there for the looking. I can almost imagine former campers going out there with memories rolling in high gear. At least some of CMJ is still preserved on Four Winds Island.

Big Bass Lake in November

It’s time to put away the rowboats and get ready for ice fishing. Fall at Big Bass Lake means wonderous scenery and hunting season. How many full time home owners call Big Bass Lake home for the entire year?

I haven’t posted for awhile but autumn was always the best time at the lake because of all the leaves turning colors. What are some of your memories of autumn at Big Bass Lake?

By the way, those are the twin islands on the north side of the lake.

Currently, Four Winds Island is privately owned but could you imagine a resident camp on that island now? Of course it would have to be a primitive camp, and a small one to boot, but wouldn’t that be great? Can you imagine the old camp buildings being used again for kids? As I understand it none of the facilities on Four Winds Island are winterized but it could be used for summer.

Yes, a camp with limited facilities wouldn’t attract the number of kids that Camp Martin Johnson once did. Still an island summer camp does have possibilities. A swimming area could easily be put into place and the old ceremony campsite could be reopened.

Even a limited usage of the island would make for a great camp. Or even a two week wilderness camp with tents erected on the island. As I’ve said before, Big Bass Lake deserves a resident camp of some sort. I had always envisioned one on our old property before it, like Camp Martin Johnson, was sold. Maybe some day Four Winds Island will again be available for kids?

Ladies Island

During the era of Camp Martin Johnson on Big Bass Lake, the ladies in effect had their own island known as Four Winds Island. There were several structures on that island for living such as cottages and even a fancy outhouse. They still had to take meals at the Dining Hall on the mainland.

But what a paradise away from the mainland camp on their very own island. Aside from sleeping quarters I would be interested in knowing what those cottages were like? Was there a general room for meetings or a small kitchenette? I would think sleeping on the island would be better than at the regular camp as they caught all the breezes off of Big Bass Lake.

If you were one of the ladies that stayed on the island let us know what each cottage there was like. How many girls per cottage? And did boys ever use the island for their quarters? There was a tribal council ring quite close to the lake as that is pictured elsewhere under the category Camp Martin Johnson or at the tag “Four Winds Island”.

Perhaps even Dan Schultz could enlighten us as to what each cottage was like as to how many rooms they had and what they were used for. Comments are more than welcome.

Basically the mainline area known as Camp Martin Johnson is no more however that is not exactly the case on 4-Winds Island where many remnants of Camp Martin Johnson still exist. Pictured here are two cottages that remain even to this day that just shout out about times past.

This is one island that I have never visited on Big Bass Lake. I am saddened by this as it would have been extremely interesting to visit. Perhaps some members of Camp Martin Johnson would care to comment about their experiences on 4-Winds Island and even that islands twin. For one, how large was 4-Winds Island and how many structures were on that island. How often did campers visit that island?

Those of us interested in Big Bass Lake and its history would like to know.

It would be fun to take a leisurely boat ride around Four Winds Island in the summer by rowboat in the early morning to determine just how much of that island could be seen through he forest green. How many of its current buildings, from the days of Camp Martin Johnson, can be clearly seen from the lake. Or would a better time for that row be in the early spring or late fall?

Can you imagine landing on that island to take in the view? What would exploring those old buildings be like? If you were a former camper, what memories would come to flood your mind from the days long gone? I understand there is still some graffiti on the walls of those cottages yet to this day. What thoughts would come rushing into your mind as you viewed the thoughts of former campers? Perhaps you either knew them or you were the one posting that on the walls yourself?

You might be glad to know that with the exception of some new repairs, the island remains virtually untouched frrom the days of the camp. I would think former campers would have a field day fully exploring Four Winds. How about it?

Marion YMCA rowboats had just emerged from the channel between Little and Big Bass Lake and this is the view they took in from the channel outlet. It is an eastern view of Four Winds Island.

If you were just exiting the channel from Little Bass Lake to Big Bass Lake this is the view that would await you. In the distance are the twin islands otherwise known as Four Winds and Turtle Island. The former was once the home of Camp Martin Johnson and it still has the original buildings on it although somewhat modernized.

Both islands are now privately owned as Turtle Island was once owned by the Manistee National Forest. En route to those two islands one would also find Sunken Island which is usually surrounded in summer time by an armada of pontoon boats so that their children can frolic in the two to three-foot water in the middle of that section of the lake.

And to the left side of the lake was once the property of Camp Martin Johnson.  Now the Heritage Bay Association owns that land and has built many modern mansions where the former camp once proudly stood.  But, what a spectacular view of the twin islands!

Among the several cottages on Four Winds Island one in particular was vital and that was the “outhouse”. There had to be one, you know, or else kids would have to paddle to the mainland camp to “go”. But, as to “where” it was located on the island, I’m not sure so maybe some of those that used this very “In House” can let us know where it was placed on that island.

I still have to believe that the current owner of the island uses that facility as well. I doubt if any of the regular cabins had indoor facilities. Also, where did kids wash up? Was it in the lake or were there some sort of sinks set up outdoors where kids could wash up and brush their teeth?

I can almost imagine the beautiful scene at Four Winds Island during the council fire of Camp Martin Johnson. You could see the moon shimmer off the current of Big Bass Lake just behind the fire. The cool night air made you huddle fast around the fire. Ghost stories, songs, and laughter filled the air as campers and counselors sat around the fire and engaged with each other.

The island’s four buildings housed the campers that were fortunate enough to be part of the CMJ experience. Imagine! Living on your own island. Today that island is still inhabited by the current owners of that island and they utilize all of the island’s buildings in one way or another.

The buildings are still as rustic as they were in CMJ’s heyday although a little more worn for wear. None are insulated which would make them fit for winter. Thus the island stands deserted when the snow flies. Yet memory after memory must resound off the waters of Big Bass Lake for the times that were held there by campers and counselors alike. One would almost think you could hear ghostly echoes there from time to time.

This is the road that leads to the old CMJ infirmary. It is now called Homestead Circle Road but I’d wager the road looks just about the same when CMJ was operational. But aside from the tennis and basketball courts, little else is recognizable about the former camp that ceased operations in the late 1970’s.

That is unless permission is granted to tour the now privately owned Four Winds Island which largely remains the same as in the days of the camp.  Graffiti is still found on the walls of the cottages of that island from campers and staff alike. 

The dirt road also has appeal especially since the full course around Big Bass Lake has been paved for years now.  For a time the section around Lakeview Cemetery and the camp was unpaved.  Sadly even the nameplate on the burial site of camp founder, Martin Johnson, as been removed and only a boulder marks his grave. 

For the man who wanted his land to remain a camp forever, he was betrayed by the Hyde Park YMCA for many youth organizations in Michigan could have made use of that land for a summer camp.  Johnson’s house is now a Heritage Museum in nearby Irons, Michigan, at the entrance to Skinner Park. 

If you want to locate traces of Camp Martin Johnson they are strewn all about with the exception of this dirt road leading into camp.  Yes, some things DO remain the same!

An interesting thing about Four Winds Island on Big Bass Lake was as a part of Camp Martin Johnson, everything was at the ready for campers that lived there. A canoe sided each cottage and since the island was not all that large it afforded campers the ability to step out of their cottage, grab their canoe, walk not over thirty yards, and put their craft into Big Bass Lake. It was that simple.

The island itself was a couple of hundred away from the mainland camp but it came complete with cottages and its own council ring. It had an area to swim from and perfeft sleeping accomodations. Meals had be taken back at camp unless a cookout was in oider that day. I suppose going back and forth for meals was a sort of headache but one well worth it to be separated from camp like they were.

Four Winds Island is the real only link to Camp Martin Johnson history yet today since the camp closed in 1978 and most of the mainland camp is near unrecognizable to even the most ardent one time camper. But the camp remains nearly intact at Four Winds Island with only some slight remodeling by the new owners. Graffiti remains on many of the cottages there.

The island is like a glance, or glimpse, if you will, into what CMJ stood for.

Four Winds Island Tribal Area

It must have been great for the campers of Martin Johnson to be lodged on Four Winds Island. It must have given them that elite feeling. After all this island was separated from the mainland camp and offered them great vistas of Big Bass Lake. I can almost imagine the great campfires that took place in this location.  Think of all the stories that were told and how the kids must have been in awe on this island. 

It would be interesting to go to this island and explore some of the only history that remains from Camp Martin Johnson as the mainland camp has now been turned over to a housing complex with very few things remaining of the original camp. Not so on Four Winds Island. There the CMJ atmosphere still exists.

Say, maybe someone will get the idea that Four Winds Island itself could house a small camping experience for kids?

My new blog friend, Joan, from “My Quality Day (Blogroll)” recently featured the northern two most islands (Turtle and Four Winds) on Big Bass Lake which she mistakenly thought were the two largest islands. She snapped the picture from Natahki Drive or Road on the land that used to be owned by Camp Martin Johnson. The area she outlined in yellow bears that out. In fact, Four Winds Island was owned by the camp.

From Joan’s satellite view you can observe the two islands in question just off the shoreline of what used to be Camp Martin Johnson.  However the two largest islands are south of there and can be photographed by either the Public Landing or by taking the bridge to the Big Island and gaining view of that island as well as Haunted Island to its west. 

I personally believe Haunted Island to be the most fantastic of all the islands on the lake.  Natahki is what Big Bass Lake used to be called in its early days.  There was even a girls camp under that name once on the lake. 

Here now are Joan’s two islands on the north side of the lake.

All of the islands on Big Bass Lake can be found in our Categories on the sidebar. And that even includes Sunken Island which is just east of the two islands pictured here. That underwater island is between the two islands here and the channel between Big and Little Bass Lake. Last December I did a multi-part series on Turtle Island featuring pictures around and on that island.

Its twin, Four Winds Island, can also be found in Categories and features many pictures of the remains of Camp Martin Johnson.  Also check out Grandma’s Hat Island, Haunted Island, The Big Island, and Sunken Island.  Of the latter one in a few days I will have a great shot of that submerged isle.  You also might want to check out the Category about The Big Bass Lake Channel for some excellent photographs. 

By way of a reference point, the island names on Big Bass Lake were given to me by my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, who homesteaded the land in the 1020’s. She provided me the island names in the 1970’s when I was taking camping trips with Boys Clubs of America to our property. By the way, you had better keep a scorecard handy.

1.  Sunken Island:  North central part of the lake near the channel between Big and Little Bass Lake.  I call it that because of the three-foot depth there in the middle of the lake making it ideal for swimming and it is usually surrounded by pontoon boats doing just that.

2.  Turtle Island which is also sometimes known as Pirates Island.  I kind of like that latter name and it is the twin of Four Winds Island.  It was once owned by the Manistee National Forest but is now privately owned.  It is located just past the narrows of Big Bass Lake to the north.

3.  Four Winds Island is now privately owned but was at one time the property of Camp Martin Johnson.  To my knowledge it has always been known as Four Winds and it also is just past the narrows to the north.

4.  Grandma’s Hat Island is also known as Tiny Tim and Loon Island.  It is the smallest island on the lake and is in the southeast portion of the lake.

5.  The Big Island was formerly known as Waite Island.  Clyde Waite put up the bridge in the 1950’s.  It is now known as Isle of the Wilds.  It is located in the south central part of the lake.

6.  Haunted Island is a term I gave Matson’s Island because of the old house in the middle of the island which made midnight visits to the island ideal with various boys clubs.  It is located in the southwest part of the lake.

Have any of these islands also known other names over the years?  Let us know by way of a comment.

From late Spring to early Autumn, Four Winds Island is so naturally camouflaged that you can’t make out the buildings on it from a few hundred yards out into Big Bass Lake. What buildings are there were largely present during the days of Camp Martin Johnson when the island was an extension of their camp.

Of late, I have paid a lot of attention to its twin, Turtle Island, but Four Winds Island has its own mystique to it as well.  I am sure its name was derived from the winds circulating through its trees and coming from all four directions.  It’s at the far side of the narrows and that passageway often gets fairly good wind speeds especially out of the north.

Though I’ve never set foot on our Winds Island myself, because it is privately owned, the camp had taken many photographs of it.  Also having lived on the southwestern side of the lake, the island I was more interested in during the 1970’s and 80’s was the Haunted Island. 

The people who now own Four Winds Island have an interesting heritage to that isle as it holds so much of the history of the former camp.  Perhaps its just as well that the island is so well camouflaged the majority of the year to offer some measure of privacy to those that now own it?  The rest of us can just appreciate it as we pass it by. 

One of my favorite past times at Big Bass Lake was to go “Island Hopping” and since there were five to choose from, it was a great deal of fun.  I would take our motor boat and first encircle Haunted Island before turning slightly northeast and travel the shoreline of the Big Island.  As I finished that course, I circled Grandma’s Hat which took all of 30 seconds to do since it was the smallest island on the lake.

Then I turned northward and traveled through the narrows of Big Bass Lake to get to the two islands on the north side of the lake.  Four Winds Island was once home to Camp Martin Johnson and still has all the buildings that were used at camp yet today.  Then I took a turn around Turtle Island which is the only island on the lake owned by the Manistee National Forest. 

Then it was back through the narrows again to Haunted Island on the southwest side and back to our dock.  Private homes are today found on the Big Island, formerly Waite Island, and on both Haunted Island and Four Winds Island.  I’ve always loved going around the next island at Big Bass Lake and would recommend that journey to anyone.

I believe that I have solved the “Gap Theory” or at least the one between Turtle and Four Winds Islands.   I wonder what the depth of water is between these two northern most islands on Big Bass Lake?  Have any efforts ever been made to purchase Turtle Island from the Manistee National Forest?  It appears big enough to maintain one house. 

What is the actual distance between these two islands?  And, did Camp Martin Johnson ever utilize Turtle Island when they owned Four Winds?  How about for a primitive camping site?

Is there a good swimming area off of Turtle Island?  Again, my thanks to Big Buck for supplying the pictures and now how about someone else supplying some of the answers found on this post?  The comment box awaits you!

When young ladies were added to the rolls of campers at Camp Martin Johnson how did this change the complexion of camp?  I know for a time the ladies were housed on the facilities at Four Winds Island possibly as a means of segregation.  How did the mixing of the sexes go initially at the camp?  Were activities co-educational? 

Leave us a few comments as to your takes on this issue.  How closely were the staff trained in regard to handling the issues of older teens during this transformational process?  And, what year did girls first begin attending the camp?  Were dances part of the camp program at that time?  All good questions and now I am ready for some answers.  The floor is open!

Four Winds Island on Big Bass Lake largely retains the charm of what Camp Martin Johnson used to be as all its former buildings are to this day intact albeit privately owned.  The mainland camp is nearly all but forgotten except for the tennis and basketball courts that you see here.  It causes me to wonder if they are maintained by some sort of homeowner’s association?

And how often are they used by the Heritage Bay residents?  If those homeowner’s have children then the faint sounds of children’s laughter can still be found at the forme camp site.  Another thing remaining at camp is the now unmarked grave of Martin Johnson. 

When former campers and staff return to their former camp, I wonder what thoughts fill their heads?  Can they make out what used to be there?  Or have the waterfront, dining hall, campfire circles, and the like drifted away through the years?  Let us know what remains of camp in your memories.

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