Those who have not yet experienced the gorgeous scenery driving on route M-22 may not be aware of the two lakes that are considered the clearest and cleanest lakes in all of Michigan, Big Glen Lake and Little Glen Lake. According to the National Park Service, the lakes were once part of Lake Michigan. Thousands of years ago, huge rivers of ice covered the land leaving piles of sand and gravel called moraines. The glaciers eventually thawed and turned into great lakes of meltwater like Lake Michigan, although it was once named Lake Nipissing. Afterwards, wave currents started eroding beaches, carrying debris along the shore to form sandbars, separating Lake Michigan from the Glen Lakes. Big Glen Lake is around 130 feet deep while Little Glen Lake is 13 feet deep. The Glen Lakes are connected by a narrow channel and surrounded by pockets of forests and rolling sand dunes. Little Glen Lake lies west of Big Glen Lake and covers 1,415 surface acres.
So how do these lakes manage to remain crystal clear and blue? Lakes in forested areas are often flooded with runoff consisting of soil, leaves, and other dissolved organic matter that stains the water. In the process, the water darkens and the sunlight is absorbed by the water instead of reflected. However, Glen Lake’s clarity consists of clear groundwater instead of runoff which allows sunlight to reflect off the water. There is also the Glen Lake Association which has a guardian program dedicated to the water quality of the lakes.
Route M-22 has many more attractions to offer than just these two amazing lakes. Spanning four different counties within Michigan, M-22 has the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; Inspiration Point, which is considered a picturesque sunset spot; a public lighthouse named Point Betsie that holds both historic and aesthetic value; and Suttons Bay, a waterfront community with specialty shops and eateries just to name a few of the many attractions. There is even a whole store located in Traverse City dedicated to the route, offering apparel and accessories for any and all M-22 trip goers.