Tucked among the trees at Pigeon River Country State Forest near Gaylord, you’ll find a handful of tiny turquoise gems. These sinkhole lakes make the perfect Northern Michigan adventure for a day trip and a fun place to fish, swim or float. Read on for how to find these lakes and some photo + video to see how stunning they are for yourself!

This is a web original article from the team at MyNorth Media and Traverse Northern Michigan. Want to read recent print stories? View our print subscription and digital subscription options and have Traverse delivered to your door or inbox each month.

A few weeks ago, Allison Jarrell, the managing editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, and I took off for Gaylord. Our mission: Get Lost. (Seriously!) We were heading to Lost Lake, one of seven sinkhole lakes in Northern Michigan’s Pigeon River Country State Forest that are open to the public. These small lakes are a beautiful spot to take a swim or float in a tube, but there are a few things you need to know before visiting.

Gaylords Lost Lakes

Photo by Dave Weidner

Hiking to Gaylords Lost Lakes

Photo by Dave Weidner

Gaylords Lost Lakes

Photo by Dave Weidner

Related Read: Red Hot Best 2022: The Best of Kalkaska, Gaylord & Grayling.

Rudi Edel at the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center answers a few common questions:

What are Gaylord’s Sinkhole Lakes?

“A retired DNR geologist, Ty Black from the Roscommon area, told me those lakes were formed due to dissolving salts about 900 feet below the surface around 10,000 years ago. Because the lakes are not stream fed but water fills them from deep within the Earth, the water has a bluish green tint when viewed near noon (high sun).

“The first time I saw them, memories of the Caribbean flashed before my eyes. They average about 68 feet deep. Fishing is allowed, but you can only take one fish. From approximately 1948 to 1972, these lakes were restricted to the public because the DNR was conducting trout studies using them. They were ideal laboratories for the research project because the lakes are not fed fresh water from a stream or creek.”

Gaylords Lost Lakes

Photo by Dave Weidner

How Do You Get to the Sinkhole Lakes?

“Every lake is accessible by vehicle [and a short hike]. To my surprise, each lake also has several geocaches by them. I was with three of my grandchildren when I learned this point!”

Find a map online at the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center website. The Gaylord Michigan Tourism Bureau website also has helpful information.

Keep scrolling for a video of Lost Lake!

Directions to Lost Lake 

Lost Lake: Twin Lakes Road, Corwith Township
Head north out of Gaylord toward Vanderbilt, then swing right and you’ll find yourself in the 109,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest, the largest block of contiguous undeveloped land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. You should expect to lose cell service out here in Michigan’s “Big Wild,” so pack a map and your sense of adventure. We visited Lost Lake (also called East Lost Lake; West Lost Lake is across the road). See a video from our trip below!

Recreational Guidelines
The unique features of these sinkhole lakes require special protection. Please respect these guidelines: Section 4, Ford, Hemlock, and all four of the Lost and Twin Lakes are stocked annually with trout and operate under Type D regulations. Camping within 600 feet of the sinkhole lakes is prohibited. Both of the Twin Lakes, Section 4 and (East) Lost Lake don’t allow boats of any kind, although swimming and personal flotation tubes are permitted. On Hemlock Lake, Ford Lake and West Lost Lake, visitors can use non-motorized watercraft or boats with an electric motor.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner