Enjoying Tubing at Big Bass Lake

Parents of kids at Big Bass Lake love to “tie one on“.  No, not at the local bar and grill but instead behind their speed boat with any sze of tubing they can find.  I like the ones shown here that come equipped with seats although I don’t know why as these kids don’t seem to be using them.  Maybe those seats are for the older folks that like a less terrifying ride.  I’m glad to see the kids in life jackets just in case.

Again, what makes Big Bass Lake unique is that there are five islands to go around at various locations on the lake.  Be it Haunted Island, Big Island, Grandma’s Hat, Four Winds, or Turtle Island, they are all fun to go around.  Along the main ourse of Big Bass Lake all can be found but Haunted Island is one that can completely be encircled.  I recall our boys club kids using inner tubes to float on at our wooded beachfront but who knew what they would later be used for?  It looks like fantastic fun!


Aerial Turtle Island

e This is Turtle Island. The island right next to it is called Four Winds Island. It is said that Turtle Island was once part of the Manistee National Forest. That is no longer so as the island is privately owned. There is a trail around the midsection on the island. There is also a treeless area where some people camp. In the photograph where you can observe two islands, the smaller Island is Turtle Island.

Ways to Have Fun on Big Bass Lake


How do you have fun on Big Bass Lake? Have you tried water skiing, or tubing, or even just rowing across the lake to put your pier together? What about something that looks akin to skateboarding on water? I’ve even once seen water walkers used on the lake on a calm day. Those things look like giant storks feet and one can actually run on water, if skilled, and if the lake is calm.

How about fishing? You can do that in all seasons, that is, if you can cut through the ice in the winter? Have you been snowmobiling on the lake? Has anyone tried parasailing? Or while we’re on that one, what about just pure sailing?

How about a lesiurely ride around the lake on a pontoon boat as you take in the sights? Any snorklers or deep sea divers exploring the depths of Big Bass Lake? I know swimming remains a big activity on the lake.

Does anyone barbeque just off their pier? How about painting the reflections off the lake on canvas? Anyone hiking the shoreline of the lake? Any island explorers, for after all there are five of them on the lake, you know? Yes, I believe there are lots of ways to have fun on Big Bass Lake including the Fourth of July Boat Parade and fireworks. Try some out!

Stormy Weather at Big Bass Lake


One of our trips with the Columbus Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio, was a wet one as it rained nearly every day. Thank goodness for our mesh dining tent. On those hard rains we spent a lot of time in there. I used to laugh at our clothes lines which were supposed to dry out our wet clothing not wash them.

As my memory recalls, I don’t think there was ever another trip that was so wet. Sure there was a day or so of rain on nearly every trip but never one where it rained every day but one. Fortunately there was not much lightning on that trip so most of our activities could be carried out. One of our regular tents turned out to be a sauna with the flaps closed so that our clothes could dry out.

Now it didn’t rain every hour of every day but more than we would have liked it to. Swimming in the rain can be fun but as one kid said, “Today we haven’t needed to go into the lake to get wet” and he was sure right. The good thing is that our wooded beachfront kept out most of the rain.

The day before we left the sun came out and the kids thought that was the best day ever. Storm clouds finally left and that was good news.

Swimming and Rowing at Big Bass Lake

Here we have a family having fun in the water at Big Bass Lake with the haunted island in the background. So, why did the swimmer cross the lake? Why, to get to the other slide (which you can see in the distance on haunted island).

The kids here seem to be having a great time in the refreshing waters of Big Bass Lake. Not unlike the kids I brought up to that area with my boys club trips but our camping spot was in the distance to the left of haunted island.

In the 1970’s the majority of our drinking water was taken from the lake along with a few helazone tablets (water purification). I’m not sure that could be done today with the number of speedboats in the lake.

At any rate, Big Bass Lake is an excellent place to swim as these people could well attest.

Many times on our boys club trips we took out the rowboat and gave the kids turns rowing. They enjoyed early morning and late evening rows around the southwest portion of the lake and sometimes even into the southeast area, for that is when they wanted to visit the Big Bass Lake Store. On those times they would enjoy manuvering under the bridge that led to the Big Island.

Other times a couple of the Hoffman Estates boys would take the boat out to fish near our wooded beachfront. Using cheeseballs for bait they would usually land a few and then fish would be on the menu that day. After cleaning the fish and then putting them into a frypan they always tasted sweet to the boys for they did it all themselves.

Any meal that they earned and prepared made them feel more like real pioneers. About a third of their meal preparation for each trip was based on what they caught or picked.

Rowing around Big Bass Lake was also special for them as they enjoyed the peaceful nature of the lake in the early morning or late day. Sometimes they even went out in late evening before going to bed.

The View Behind the Big Bass Lake Store


Otto Barlett used to have some chairs kind of dug into the grass that you could sit in taking in this view. Both as a child and as an adult I used to enjoy taking in this view while partaking in a bottle of Squirt which I learned to enjoy as a boy as my favorite beverage of taste.

I could take in Grandma’s Hat (Tiny Tim to some) and almost a full view of the lake. I could see (out of picture) the bridge to the island that had many houses on it. Oftentimes after that bottle of Squirt I would get in our rowboat and take it under that very bridge on the way back to our property, past the haunted house island and then straight ahead to our dock. In those days the lake was not so crowded with high speed boats. Now about the only time that you can take that journey safetly is before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

But I’ll never forget that view behind the Big Bass Lake store. Isn’t it breaktaking? By the way, in this picture you can observe a gasoline pump. That is a luxury that no longer exists on the lake as all gasoline must now be carried in to the boats.

Aerial Four Winds Island

This is Four Winds Island from the air. Blocked out of sight is Turtle Island directly behind this one. Four Winds Island used to be home to Camp Martin Johnson and many buildings still exist on the island from the camp. If this photograph had been taken in the winter you’d probably see some of the buildings. This photo allows you to see the shallow areas around the island. There are five or six structures still on the island today along with a campfire area. The island is now privately owned. It is the third biggest island on the lake. Here is another angle of the island. The lake in question is Big Bass Lake. This is one of the cabins from Camp Martin Johnson on the island.

Turtle or Pirate Island

Were you surprised to learn that the Manistee National Forest is actually found ON Big Bass Lake? Now, you know that the forest surrounds the lake but ON the lake? How is that possible?Here you see both Turtle Island and Four Winds Island and how close they are in proximity to each other.

Well, the second smallest island on the lake I know as Turtle Island which some today call Pirate Island and it is found on the North side of Big Bass Lake. It is all forested and was actually owned by the Manistee National Forest. I understand that there are no camping signs on the island even though that many do choose to camp on that island. How habitable is this island? This marvelous photo came our way by Mike Elsner but perhaps there are those in the area that can tell us a little more about this island.

Could a house be placed on the island? The island next to it has about four structures on it so could Turtle Island be capable of housing one structure? How many locals have taken the time to camp on that island overnight? By way of an update, Turtle Island is no longer owned by the Manistee National Forest. It’s now privately owned. Let us know by way of a comment if you have further information about the island.

The Night Sky Over Big Bass Lake

Night Sky over Big Bass Lake

Most kids that come from various cities are usually robbed of the experience of viewing the night sky as it really is due to lighting systems that each community utilizes. But in a rowboat on Big Bass Lake the night sky was ablaze with stars. On a boys club trip that very first night one of the kids noted that. “Look at all them stars!”

At times I took the kids on a short row near our beach just to marvel at the night sky. Even at our campsite on the beach the light of the fire does the same thing city lights does, it robs one of their night vision. For a moment reflect back to staring at a camp fire intently while listening to either stories or songs. Then as you glance behind you that light robs you of your night vision and everything is pitch black.

Even I had to marvel at the beauty of the night sky over Big Bass Lake on many of our rowing excursions. For the night sky to capture the full attention of those youngsters was truly amazing. Some had never seen a sky full of stars before and the wonder of their eyes taking that all in made each trip to Michigan well worth it.

Wakeboarding: Shoes or Barefoot?

The question is shoes or no shoes in regard to wakebording?  I would not recommend leather tennis shoes as they would be ruined over the course of the ride.  Canvas tennis shoes, on the other hand, or should I say foot, would not only maintain a great grip on the board but also get a good washing at the same time.  It would save Mom having to wash those kinds of shoes peiodically.

Barefeet might be the best option and least expensive one over the course of time.  The youngster in question seems to prefer his tennis shoes over that of going barefoot.  If he hits the water, would not tennis shoes be harder to swim in over that of being barefoot?  Bare feet can also get a good grip on a board.  I wonder what the preference might be for the majority of  kids out there?  A good argument could be made that canvas shoes would protect the feet more should an obstruction be hit but what are the chances of that in most cases?

Shoes or no shoes in regard to wakeboarding?  Hmm?

Evening Pontoon Boat Excursion

A friend of mine by the name of John had a pontoon boat and one evening he and another friend by the name of Jack, not to mention myself, took a midnight spin around Big Bass Lake under the stars. The trip started around dusk and ended just past midnight. The evening was cool enough to be wearing light jackets.

The quiet lake has an altogether different feel at night. Of course, there were no waves from high speed boats sailing about us. In all we passed only a solitary fisherman just past ten o’clock and he was heading in to shore.

We munched on chips and cokes and told stories and just had a great time while taking in the many sites of the lake, even at night. I’d advise that if you own a pontoon boat take that same kind of trip on the dark waters of Big Bass Lake for a great nighttime excursion. If you’re real careful and quiet enough, listen for the loons as you head around the haunted island.

I have a friend on Big Bass Lake that is dearly in love with his pontoon boat. Why is that unusual? Because my friend is going blind yet he is still able to move his boat around Big Bass Lake with nary a thought or objection of any that ride with him. His uncanny skill at taking that boat wherever he wants is fantastic. He once helped me drag a water logged rowboat over to the public landing where we could take it to the dump.

But all that was back in the 1980’s and I often wonder if my friend went totally blind? I lost contact with him about ten years ago. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met. He always had a joke to tell and they were funny. He would have had a difficult time coping if not being able to use his beloved pontoon boat. To be honest, I believe that was my first time ever aboard that type of craft and I enjoyed every minute of it. There is no better way to relax on Big Bass Lake than on a pontoon boat.

The then owner of the Big Bass Lake Store, Jack Knysz, introduced me to John and the three of us spent many excursions on Big Bass Lake together. I hope John is still alive and well today.