Discovering the Chain of Lakes

Mar 17, 2016

This article is from 2016, but still has great information about lakes near Ann Arbor!

If you'd like to learn more about the Huron River Water Trail, click HERE

For more information about outdoor recreation in the Ann Arbor area, click HERE

To see some awesome photos from our fans, exploring the outdoors in the Ann Arbor area, click HERE


The Portage Lake 'Chain of Lakes' located in Washtenaw and Livingston Counties is comprised of seven lakes connected by the Huron River. Each lake has its own beauty and is an excellent destination for boaters and anglers.

First in the chain – located in Washtenaw County within the Waterloo Recreation Area are Little Portage Lake and Big Portage Lake — home to a public boat launch. To start your day, check out the Portage Yacht Club (PYC) for brunch overlooking Big Portage Lake. If you need a watercraft, PYC has sailboats, kayaks, and pontoons rentals available — reservations recommended.

Now it's time to journey north through the rest of the lakes in the chain — but don’t forget to make a stop at the Trading Post or Riverside Pizza to stock up for the rest of the tour. Boat docking is available!

Base Line Lake has a couple of sandbars, one on the south side and the other on the east side of the lake, that are popular swimming stops. This lake also hosts the University of Michigan’s Sailing Club.

Whitewood Lakes are next. Considered by locals as one lake; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officially recognizes it as two.

Next in line: Gallagher Lakes. This is also classified by the DNR as multiple lakes, though commonly considered one – it is almost an adventure to travel through!

Strawberry Lake is next up. This sprawling lake, longer than it is wide, has many inlets and coves perfect to set an anchor in when needing a break from the journey.

Last, but not least, is Zukey Lake. Be cautious here!  This is the most challenging lake to navigate through due to the numerous sand bars. However, your patience will be rewarded as you arrive at Zukey Lake Tavern — a very popular local watering hole, and typically the destination for the day’s trip through the chain. Dock here and go inside or check out the roof deck. You can also call ahead and have a renowned Zukey pizza ready for pick up.

Up the chain and back is the perfect day trip for sun, with fun, along the way. Each of these lakes are all-sports so enjoy whatever mode of water transportation you wish.

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