when I was growing up this island was known as Turtle Island. It seems on Big Bass Lake each generation comes up with a new name for the five Islands on the lake. Now this island is referred to as Pirate Island which I have to admit I like. I’m not sure if it’s still owned by the Manistee National Forest or not? Elsewhere on Big Bass Lake & Beyond I have a full tour of the island which does have a pathway system. The island is uninhabited.
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.
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!
Turtle island is kind of shaped like a turtle. It sticks out on the north and south ends and is wider in the center. It also sticks up in the center quite high, like a snapper turtles shell. People enter the island from a rather steep opening on the west side of the island. As you climb up, the island has a clearing on top that kind of flattens out some what. This is where campers pitch their tents and have a small fire pit. In the past few years there have been some campers that have decided they would cut some trees down to use as firewood. I believe this is what prompted the Department of Natural Resources to place the sign telling people the island is truly part of the Manistee National Forest and littering and cutting of any trees or wood is prohibited.
On the south end of the island there is a really amazing display of lily pads and wild irise’s that grow at the shores edge. The fall colors mixed with the birch and pines are stunning!!
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.
Turtle Island lies slightly north of Four Winds Island and some today know it as Pirates Island. It has several trees on it and is today privately owned. As you can see the ice is beginning to form on Big Bass Lake as this has been a rather warm winter by most standards. In fact, only 16% of the United States has a snow cover.
Today some people use Turtle Island for tent camping and that’s about all. It is the second smallest island on BigBass Lake and one that we covered in early December displaying a multitude of pictures both on and around the island. It was once owned by the Manistee National Forest.
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.
Apparently, the center portion of Turtle Island has a camping area under the trees with a defined pathway that runs the length of the island. A warning sign is posted just off that trail by the Manistee National Forest stating that no trees are to be cut down for fire wood.
On the island’s western edge is another more open camping location just down a short hill where wild grasses are found. Even though the island is the second smallest on Big Bass Lake, it does seem to have its own trail system albeit a short one.
Under the canopy of trees would seem to make for an excellent campsite. I wonder if Turtle Island has any mythology to it that would make for great ghost stories? Maybe our readers can clue us in on that point? And, why do some now call this island Pirates Island? There must be a tale or two revolving around that name? Let us know by way of a comment.
Well, we’ve reached the beach on Turtle Island and look at all the spoils of war before us. All those downed branches will make for some excellent fire wood given the fact that cutting down trees on the island is prohibited by the Manistee National Forest Service. And, birch bark to boot which makes for an excellent fire starter!
And, now that we’ve made it to the beach what awaits us on Turtle Island? Where will we be pitching our tent for our overnight visit to the island. More importantly, what will we be fixing for dinner or will that depends what we catch in Big Bass Lake later today?
I wonder what this island will look like once the sun goes down? And, what kind of view can we expect of Big Bass Lake once on the island? Well, here goes! It’s about time to get onto the real meat of this island but that will have to wait until next time. Wait! Did I hear something just up that hill?
In that first photograph, by Big Buck, did you notice that sliver of a white pier? Well, who put it in to begin with? Was this part of the service to the island by the Manistee National Forest? And, for the first time at Big Bass Lake and Beyond you can also make out that same pier from the interior of the island.
Yes, Turtle Island is full of trees and bushes and wild grasses. Yet people are not to cut down any trees on the island. The Manistee National Forest has a posted sign to that regard on the island. Even so, I would think that the western tip of the island would be best suited for tent camping as there is a type of openness at that point.
I also wonder how often the National Forest Service comes to Turtle Island to maintain it? Does anyone know that? But now that Big Buck has whetted your appetite for the interior of this island, in our next part I shall further enlighten you what is on this island.
Also, does anyone know how this island came to be made known as Pirate Island at a later date? Buried treasure perhaps?