It’s ever so good to see scenes like this at Big Bass Lake as we anticipate the winter coming closer each and every day. I’m just glad that this particular diver will not end up her dive in this position. OUCH! Can you feel the refreshing water as she is about to hit the drink? I can well remember my times swimming at our beach at Big Bass Lake during the summer months. Our wooded beach front made the perfect locale. I would take an inner tube and just take it easy on the lake or swim to the pointe and back.
Now-a-days, owners of various properties around the lake have varying devices to aid their swimming activities such as the one you see here. There are diving platforms, floats, or even rope swings all around the lake making swimming more of an adventure than ever before. Add to that speedboats, jet skis, and tubing and there is just so much to do on Big Bass Lake that one can NEVER get bored.
So get ready for winter with your split decision on just how you enjoyed the lake this year!
It’s now hard to imagine but once this property you see here belonged to Camp Martin Johnson, which bordered on three lakes, those being Big and Little Bass Lake plus Bluegill Lake. All are now part of the Heritage Bay Development with only a few remnants left of camp such as the basketball and tennis courts. A huge boulder sits atop the gravesite of camp founder, Martin Johnson, however the plaque honoring his name has long since been removed. Just to the left of this camp is the now privately owned Four Winds Island which was also once a part of the camp.
The legacy that Martin Johnson envisioned for countless boys and girls has now become a high-priced zone for homes. I can almost imagine a large sigh coming from the direction of heaven in that regard.
This is the time of year when row boating is fun on Big Bass Lake because you can cross nearly any stretch of the lake leisurely without having to outsmart a speedboat. No wakes to worry about either. All this is especially true on weekdays since weekends still might have an occasional speedboat come your way.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, even summer time was not that difficult to take a rowboat excursion around the lake. But make no mistake about it, lake traffic has increased on Big Bass Lake with bigger and better boats not to mention jet skis. I have noticed a few kayaks docked on the lake now. That might rival the rowboat in popularity.
Sunny weekdays for those out on the lake can be fun now. Even those that like to take their pontoon boats out for a spin on the lake don’t have to worry about speedboats darting in and around them. One doesn’t have to be quite as aware as in the summer time of where they are situated on the lake.
During a summer when the temperature has been in the high eighties to low nineties with a heat index near one-hundred degrees, its ever so nice to get that cool water spray in your face while tubing on Big Bass Lake. These days you almost see more tubers on the lake than water skiers.
That could be because almost any age can enjoy an inner tube run around the lake and its five islands. A popular course is around either Haunted Island or Grandma’s Hat on the southwest and southeast portion of the lake.
Here we see a picture from Mike Eisner with a friend taking a trip about the lake-
On these hot summer days this just has to be the way to get some refreshment from the high humidity that has stricken the region. Of course for those in the boat they have to adjust themselves upon those hot metal seats which may have them longing for a trip around the lake on the tube themselves.
At any rate this sure looks like a great place to be on a hot summers day.
I gotta admit that I was NOT looking forward to helping Dave Norris on this camping trip to his place in Michigan. I was going along as his assistant. And even though I come from a boys club in Columbus, Ohio, that had a pool, I never learned to swim. And here I was going to a place that had a lake and boating!
I did manage to take in some wading in less than two feet of water but I always wore a life vest even then. Plus almost that entire trip it was raining. I most enjoyed hiking in the woods where I was away from water.
The trip out to the Haunted Island at midnight petrified me no so much as for the island itself but the trip there and back on the lake. I could see my life passing through my eyes if we ever tipped over. That water looked so black at night!
I did manage to get through that trip all right and the first thing I did after getting back to Columbus was to sign-up for swimming classes at our pool. That’s what I should have done BEFORE that trip. While I could play basketball with the best of them, that camping trip had me quivering as if I were a little kid. I’ll do better next time!
This is one side of the lake I rarely visited even when I had our motorboat. The farthest east I got was the Big Bass Lake store. Even then I went under the bridge to the Big Island and directly to the store. The east side was about a hundred yards away and not much was over there to be concerned with. I think I only went around the Big Island once as that lengthened the trip back home. Going under the bridge was a shortcut. On the east side of the lake was Lakeview Cemetery and Faith Fellowship Church was nearby. Also in the area was the Sauble Township Hall. Maybe someday I’ll take my time and go up that Coast. Maybe?
I think that on all my camping trips to our property my favorite times were at night. During the day we would swim a lot or take side trips to Ludington or the Lake Michigan Recreational Area, or even to Wellston and the Pine River. But after supper the real great times began. One time each trip was reserved for a voyage to the Haunted Island but largely our hiking times began at dusk until about one o’clock in the morning hiking both on our property and down the Bloody Antler Trail by and near Bear Swamp.
On our property we would travel down the old loggging trails that led to two large swamps and then to a creek. We would play hound and the hare or scouting games or just enjoy the night air. Once we went over to the blackberry patch but there were too many mosquitoes also enjoying that fruit.
Some nights we would just stay by our camping site and roast marshmellows or hot dogs while telling stories or singing songs. Some of the boys enjoyed sitting on the soft moss while taking in the night time beauty of Big Bass Lake. At times we took a rowboat excursion onto Big Bass Lake to take in all the stars of the heavens.
Talks about God were also not uncommon on those trips as many boys prayed before heading back to the tents for sleep. The kids just seemed to open up more in the evenings as the night air was more refreshing and stimulating to their thoughts. Campfires were real special at those times. Some deep theological issues were discussed right there in God’s creation.
After a full day of activities and campfire times sleep was welcome and appreciated at all times. After all another day of activities was about to come forth.
Our cottage pier was almost directly across from this bridge on the southwest side of the lake. To get there I had to pass both the Big Island and Haunted Island. But going east, as in this photograph, I would be soon seeing Grandma’s Hat Island just past this bridge to the left and the Big Bass Lake store on the southeast shore.
I loved to maneuver under this bridge slowly checking out the bottom and also the sides of the bridge. I don’t think a car ever went over that bridge as I went under it but I have seen cars go by as I approached that bridge from either direction. The bridge was put up in 1956 and, like the five islands and the channel between Big and Little Bass Lake, it is another unique feature of this lake.
By the way, Otto Bartlett was the owner of the Big Bass Lake store in the 1950’s and before and he even owned the Loon Lake Roller Rink. He always had a warm smile for his customers and was every bit of a gentleman. But, this bridge will be forever etched in my memory.
Under this boulder are the remains of a man of faith known as Martin Johnson who gave his life to build a camp for youngsters to enjoy into perpetuity. Yet in the late 1970’s the YMCA of Chicago betrayed that man’s trust by selling his dream to the Heritage Bay Development which turned his vision into a housing complex. Even the boulder which marks Johnson’s gravesite has lost its plague that marks this location as his final resting place.
His house has moved to Irons, Michigan, and is now a museum honoring his life. Very little remains of the former camp with the lone exception of Four Winds Island whose present owner has retained all the former camp buildings as they once were up to and including the graffiti.
One of our readers, after reading our Martin Johnson History page (found at the top of our website) noted that she was surprised to learn of the faith of this man as a believer in Jesus Christ. His faith carried him through the hard years that built up his property that would later be transformed into a summer camp for boys and girls.
One has to wonder why the YMCA of Chicago did not first do everything possible to seek out new owners of another YMCA in Michigan or a Michigan Boys Clubs of America organization that could benefit by owning Camp Martin Johnson. The Chicago TMCA had complained that Michigan property taxes were too high and that it became too expensive to renovate camp buildings.
Then why not use tent platforms instead of cabins to save money? The only real camp facilities necessary were restrooms and a dining hall. I know by personal experience that across the lake from Camp Mishawaka in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, was a girls survival camp that needed no fancy accommodations. What could have been saved through building renovations could have been used for property taxes to retain Johnson’s vision. Another idea was to have sold off some of the camp property around Bluegill Lake while retaining the main camp land on Big and Little Bass Lakes. There were many possible ways to save the vision of Martin Johnson that were largely ignored and because of that the memory of the camp fades with each passing generation.
Yet here at Big Bass Lake and Beyond that vision will be maintained through articles about the camp where countless generations will know what went on there and also about the man whose shaped that property.
Maybe one of those homeowners will again take the courage to place a plague on that boulder which marks Martin Johnson’s final resting place to honor the man and his dream. Maybe?
Some say bass this big can’t be caught in Big Bass Lake anymore and others have a difficult time finding any bass in the lake at all. Young Keifer here isn’t saying but word has it that his aquarium provides him great fishing pleasure.
Maybe some of our readers, or those that live around Big Bass Lake, can enlighten us? How big are the fish you’re catching on the lake? Share with us your victories as well as about those big one’s that got away! Maybe all you’re catching are mosquito bites?
And what is the best location to fish around Big Bass Lake? What kind of fish most attaches itself to your line? If you’re having trouble thinking of answers perhaps you might want to visit Keifer’s aquarium? Or you might even want to tell us to kiss your “bass”?
If you can make out the red “X” in the middle of the island, that is where my boys club kids and I always docked at a very rickety pier and always at midnight. On a trip with my Hoffman Estates Boys Club, one kid in particular was not looking very forward to this trip. His name was Alan.
That evening Big Bass Lake was rather choppy and the boat ride over to the island was spooky enough for him so when we docked at the pier he asked if that was all there was to it. One of the other boys noted that this was just the beginning.
We climbed the little hill before us and then took the winding path that led to the haunted house. As we arrived at the clearing where the haunted house stood I could find no takers that wanted to actually go into the house on the first floor to explore. In fact, Alan felt very comfortable just to stay at the pathway by the forest.
Several of the boys encircled the house looking into the empty window panes. They noticed the staircase leading to the upper floor. I told them the story of how all this came to be which can be found elsewhere on BBL and Beyond (Category of Haunted House).
On the way back to our wooded beach front, the lake was somewhat calmer and once we were back on land, Alan kissed the ground. I think he was happy to be back at our camp.
Does anyone remember the ski jump fairly close to the tiny island known as Grandma’s Hat? ? It was in full view of the Big Bass Lake Store. I remember it up in the 1950’s.
And does anyone know why it was removed? Many lakes today do have ski jumps as it offers skiers another change to hone their craft. Now about the only time one can have even something similar to that experience is if another boat’s wake hits the skier at just the right time.
It is dangerous because of the possibility of catching a toe in front of the ramp. The catastrophic nature of these falls weren’t worth the benefit of the event overall. I heard of a guy who is a quadriplegic from breaking his neck falling on a ramp and learned of two others. Seeing guys catch a toe and slam headfirst on the ramp then lay unconscious in the water was probably a reason why the Big Bass Lake ramp was removed.
Maybe now the north side of the lake would be more appropriate for a ski jump? Comments anyone?
How about getting your feet wet and Big Bass Lake? It’s the perfect way to cool off your hot feet. Or if you want to go all the way in take a leap off the pier but I would recommend at the end of it. This is a nice Sand Beach. More and more people are putting sand under their beaches by ordering it in. At one time there were very few sand beaches on the lake. There is a great Sandy Beach off of Grandma’s Hat Island but ever since it became a nesting place for loons and I believe the island is now off limits. It’s great to have a Sandy Beach as we once did at our wooded beach front. Happy wading!
Here’s a question that I’ve never asked before. How fast do speed boats go when towing a skier? What about when towing a child on a tube? Or how fast do jet skis go? What is the top speed for a snowmobile on Big Bass Lake? I once saw a speed boat towing a paraglider so I wonder what speed they have to maintain to keep them flying?
What kind of speed is used in towing those on a board? I won’t used the term water boarding because the last Presidential administration got in a lot of trouble with that term. Also what might be the top speed ever used on any boat using Big Bass Lake? The floor is open!