When the name Brooks Lake is raised in a conversation on many of the Discovery Boat Cruises, most people do not know about it much less know that it is a lake within our watershed.
It is located next to the east shore of Big Glen and it is connected to Big Glen by two canals – one at each end of the elongated lake. Brooks is about 10 acres and is 25 feet deep. It is spring fed so the two canals serve as an outlet into Big Glen. Of all our lakes in the watershed, Brooks is the only one without any public access and the roadway (which has a bridge over the lake) and land around the lake is all private. The residents ask that the No Trespassing Sign be honored.
The small strip of land on the west shore of Brooks Lake is owned by the Harbor Island riparians. In addition, there are five small riparian homes on the lake. On the east shore of Brooks Lake there is a privately owned conservation easement that was created together with Leelanau Conservancy to protect the natural shoreline.
The water quality of this lake is very good despite the lake being in the last stages (eutrophic) of its aging life cycle. In the summer, there is no other lake in our watershed that ranks higher than Brooks lake when it comes to showing super saturated dissolved oxygen levels. The tannic acid colors the water and the soft organic bottom is difficult to see in the middle of the lake.
There are four small creeks that seep into the lake on the south end and there is an abundance of beautiful shoreline plants growing there. It is the part of Brooks Lake that provide the best protection for waterfowl. In fact, in the spring, just before the ice is out on Big Glen, several hundred Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, and Pie-billed Grebes can be found there.
For several years, plankton (free floating microorganisms) were gathered there during the spring, summer, and fall for analysis. The species diversity of Brooks Lake in the plankton samples were second to none in our watershed which indicates the water quality is very good. It is also one of nine water quality monitoring sites in our watershed and water has been tested there every two weeks year round for the past 15 years.
Finally, one of the most important facts about Brooks Lake is that about 15 nearby residents recently combined their septic holding tanks into a common sewer line that runs under the lake and eastward across County Road 675. This project now gives all the residents a common drain field far from Brooks and Big Glen thereby eliminating any negative septic influences on both Brooks Lake and Big Glen.
GLA is continuing its mission—75 years and running—to preserve and protect the quality of water in the Glen Lake/Crystal River Watershed. One of the association’s newest initiatives is Glen Lake Guardians, which educates and advocates protecting our watershed by engaging in best practices. Guardians voluntarily pledge to protect, and share their advocacy with others.
Guardian Ambassador, Tricia Denton, below, is sharing information to help lakeshore property owners create and maintain sediment and pollution “traps” along the shoreline.
Vibrant strips of native vegetation along the shore are important contributors to water quality, helping to slow stormwater runoff and remove unwanted sediments. Native vegetation also provide long and deep root systems that help prevent erosion from shoreline ice build-up in winter. While these vegetative filter strips protect water quality, they are also important in improving habitat without blocking access to docks and the water.
Currently, the Glen Lake Association is working with the Leelanau Conservancy and others to re-write and improve its Watershed Management Plan for review and approval by the Michigan Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Department. Watershed management plans organize and encourage efforts by watershed groups, local governments, and others to reduce and prevent pollution from entering lakes and streams throughout Michigan.
The conservancy’s program manager, Yarrow Brown, says the Leelanau Conservancy has a big stake in watershed planning and management and is happy to facilitate the development of plans with lake associations. After all, the conservancy is a leader in protecting land from degradation and preserving healthy ecosystems, including streams, lakes and wetlands.
The 7-acre, 3-foot deep Day Mill Pond lies west of the west end of Little Glen Lake and is easily observed from M109 highway. Hydrologically, it is connected most of the time by a 3-foot diameter culvert and a small, slow-flowing creek that empties into Little Glen. Beaver have been known to plug up the culvert in an attempt to flood the pond and raise the water level.
During the summer, the entire surface of the pond is choked off by the ever increasing number of pond lilies that have expanded over the past decade. Also, the shoreline is surrounded by an ever expanding population of cattails, which can be thought of as shoreline building plants. In time, the progressive growth of the cattails toward the center of the pond—building land behind them—will be complete and the pond will become a cattail swamp. Maybe in the next 40 to 50 years, if nature has her way, this pond will cease to exist!
Historically, the pond was better connected to Little Glen prior to the building of M109. The national park has in its long-range plans to replace the culvert with a box culvert and bridge that would go under the highway. An environmental assessment has been completed and the timetable for construction has yet to be set. Public hearings and financial backing would need to happen before any construction.
Because the pond is surrounded by National Park Service boundaries, there are no riparians on the pond and it is a haven for spring and fall migrants. Ring-necked Duck, Wood Duck, Ruddy Duck, scaup, mallards, geese, swans, grebes, American Coot, Green Herons, Sandhill Cranes, and even a common egret can be observed. The pond is also the home of the less common Blandings turtle. In the spring, there are lots of migrating song birds— mostly warblers of all kinds that make this a special place in our watershed. Muskrats, raccoon, deer, mink, and beaver can be seen during the non-winter months.
Now you can visit area lakes and ponds with a greater appreciation for their character and at the same time, be rewarded for what nature may have in store for your viewing pleasure.