Your Lake — Elk Rapids, Michigan

The Gate to Chain of Lakes

Published in the April 2018 Issue February 2019 Feature Charlie Sans

Every aspect of Elk Rapids, Mich., reflects the quintessential can-do attitude of Northerners, from its establishment as a sawmill, the move into pig iron processing and the post-Depression transition into a lakeside haven for locals and tourists alike. Even construction of the harbor itself was a project taken on by Elk Rapids’ Rotary Club and stands as the pride of the community spirit to this day.

Fundraising Done Right

Upon the completion of the Edward C. Grace Memorial Harbor — the story of which is already legend — the Rotarians looked around and realized the truth: if you have a harbor, you need a harbor house! Joe W. Yuchasz, one of the original driving forces behind harbor construction, had his company draftsman draw plans for a simple but attractive harbor house.

“The cost to build the harbor house $10,000.00,” writes local Rotarian Gordon Converse. “The price was right, and the value was there, but a large problem evolved. There was no money!”

The spring of 1965 rolled around, and the township of Elk Rapids held their annual budget meeting. Five Rotarians, knowing the Township board operated by home rule statute (all voters have a vote), showed up for the meeting.

“During the normal course of business,” Converse continues, “one of the Rotarians introduced a motion that the township incorporate into next year’s budget the sum of $2,500 to act as seed money for the construction of a harbor house. Guess what? The motion passed!”

The following Tuesday, the same group of Rotarians attended the regular monthly Village Council meeting. They graciously informed the council that the township had donated $2,500 toward the construction of this project and thought the council should match the donation.

“They did,” laughs Converse, “and we left the council meeting that night all feeling smug in the fact that we had raised a total of $5,000. And with absolutely no coercion!”

Converse continues: “So now we’re five grand short. At the next rotary meeting on Tuesday night, we asked for a show of hands of those willing to sign a note, in the name of the Elk Rapids Rotary Club, in the amount of $500 each. We acknowledged the generosity of the first ten hands raised in the air, and, subsequently, those ten went to see Leo Spencer, a fellow Rotarian at the State Bank of Elk Rapids. Leo lent the club the $5,000. Each Rotarian co-signed for $500, which was paid back in full in just a couple of years. How? Through donations, steak fries and the efforts of club members running different booths at the next few Harbor Days events. In six weeks, we raised the needed $10,000. Democracy and charity at work!”

Elk Rapids Today

If you love the water, this is the place to be. The water is Elk Rapids’ biggest asset.

Knowledgeable and helpful staff members welcome you to the 213-slip marina and boat launch located on East Grand Traverse Bay. The marina is nestled between two sandy beaches in the quaint port-side village of Elk Rapids, Mich. Slips are also available in Elk Lake along with a boat launch for exploring the Antrim County Chain of Lakes. The downtown district of Elk Rapids is just a few steps away. Enjoy fine and casual dining, extensive shopping, antique shops, art galleries, community events, farmers markets, festivals and outstanding recreational opportunities.

Elk Rapids is a bustling marina, so much so that, currently, seasonal dockage is operating from waiting lists. Waiting list applications are available at Village Office, Harbor Office and for download from their website.

Transient dockage in one of 50 designated slips is available May to October. Reservations may be made beginning on May 15 each year via, phone or in person at the Harbor Office, and there is a 14-day stay limit during peak season. In addition to recently being certified a Michigan Clean Marina, Elk Rapids is a State of Michigan sponsored Harbor of Refuge, meaning staff will not turn anyone away in emergency situations.

For those just popping in for the day, shopping dockage is available at Hail the Harbor on channel 73 for availability. Staff will assign the best slip available so you can enjoy shopping, dining or any of the amenities of Elk Rapids Township.

Gateway To The Chain Of Lakes

Not up for braving the crowds? Head inland. Antrim County’s famous Chain of Lakes kicks off at Elk Rapids and connects Elk Lake, Lake Skegemog, Torch Lake, Clam Lake, Lake Bellaire and Intermediate Lake to the more intimate Upper Chain of Lakes. Detailed Michigan interactive maps are available for each of these lakes, complete with notes on ramp access, submergent and emergent vegetation, dead heads, rocks and gravel, floating vegetation and marsh or swamp land.

Be sure to stop in Lake Bellaire and play nine (or all 18. You won’t regret it) at The Chief Golf Course. Long known as The Spirit of The North, the clubhouse is five minutes from the boat dock on the Eastern shore of Lake Bellaire and well-worth an afternoon on dry land. Kick your feet up at The Pelican’s Nest restaurant and pro shop. Between the hospitable staff and a summer’s worth of tournaments and events, there’s no need to ever head home.

For the more adventurous, the Paddle Antrim Festival happens each September, the weekend after Labor Day. The Festival’s aim is to celebrate and bring awareness to the waterways of Northern Michigan. It includes a two-day kayak paddle, covering over 40 miles of Northern Michigan’s Chain of Lakes as well as a variety of events hosted by local communities. With no pressure to complete the entire course, festival organizers encourage participants to treat it as a choose your own adventure. There are dropout points strategically placed along the route so paddlers can go anywhere from just a couple to all 42 miles.

For More Information:

Harbor Days Festival

Michigan Interactive Maps

Paddle Antrim

Rapids Chamber of Commerce

The Chief Golf Course

Village of Elk Rapids 

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