Explore the Shores
—Manistee County, Michigan: Where Life Meets Water —
As early as 10,000 years ago, nomadic people were following the bountiful harvests of fish and game the Manistee River provided. By 500 B.C., natives began settling this land, setting up camps and farming.
The lands were controlled by the Algonquin Nation, which utilized the Manistee River as a commercial highway along which fishing, trapping and trading thrived. When European explorers arrived, the Native American tribes here were the stewards of these rich resources.
When the pioneers moved to the Midwest, a reservation was established by the U.S. government, but it was dismantled by the late-1840s and the land was sold off to settlers. In the mid-1990s, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians was recognized as a sovereign nation and the tribe was able to restore portions of their reservation land.
The same natural resources that had been utilized for thousands of years became a draw for developing industry in the mid-19th century. In 1841, the first lumber mill was constructed on the shores of Manistee Lake. Within 45 years, there were 40 sawmills in operation and the City of Manistee boasted more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States.
As industry in the area diversified (beginning in 1881 when salt was discovered beneath Manistee), access to a deep water port and railroads became instrumental
in the building of a mini-metropolis. The presence of Morton Salt, Packaging Corporation of America, and Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialties—all visible on the shores of Manistee Lake—are tributes to the industrial history of Manistee. Remnants of this era also remain in the city's Victorian architecture. In fact, Manistee boasts so many historical gems that the entire central business district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Interspersed among the wetlands that line the shore of Manistee Lake, industry lives. And so do people. Because of its history, Manistee Lake is in the unique position of trying to balance industry, residential use and wetlands so the amazingly diverse biological communities that call these waters home can continue to thrive.
[Top right image caption reads] Manistee Lumber Company