Crooked Lake is an inland lake that feeds the Crooked River. Located within Emmet County. It is the southwestern most point of the recreational Inland Waterway. This watercourse uses locks to connect Crooked Lake with Lake Huron at Cheboygan. The discharge of water from Crooked Lake is controlled by the Alanson Waterway Locks located near Alanson, Michigan. The lake is a remnant of the postglacial Lake Nipissing. Its convoluted shape is the outcome of the glacier-cut topography through which its water drains, which includes lateral moraines, recessional moraines, and at least one kettle gouged by melting ice. The Inland Waterway is Michigan’s longest chain of rivers and lakes. Nearly 40 miles long, the Inland Waterway runs through Pickerel Lake and Crooked Lake, the Crooked River, Burt Lake, the Indian River, Mullett Lake, the Cheboygan River, and finally into Lake Huron.
Water from Crooked and Pickerel Lakes flows through the Crooked River into Burt Lake, and eventually into Lake Huron via the Cheboygan River. At the end of the last ice age, following the retreating glaciers, water flowed west across the Inland Waterway through Crooked and Pickerel Lakes, and emptied into Little Traverse Bay. However, 4,000 years ago, tall sand dunes rose up in the Petoskey State Park area west of Round Lake, thereby cutting off the connection and reversing the flow of the Inland Waterway northeast into Lake Huron. Crooked and Pickerel Lakes are popular recreation and tourism destinations. Common activities include fishing, boating, swimming, and paddling. Walleye, perch, and northern pike are three common sport fish found within the lakes. The Oden State Fish Hatchery and Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center to the west of Crooked Lake is a popular tourist destination.
Three small lakeside communities, Conway, Oden, and Ponshewaing, reflect the historic operations of depots of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad that once brought residents and visitors to and from the lake. Today the north shore of the lake is served by U.S. Highway 31, and a continuous strip of development joins together the road and lake. Crooked and Pickerel Lakes are located in southeast Emmet County. The County-owned park Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga is on the eastern shore of Pickerel Lake. The half-mile Black Hole channel connects the two lakes. Between the two lakes, in the Black Hole Channel, lies the Black Hole Nature Preserve of the Little Traverse Conservancy. The water level of Crooked and Pickerel Lakes is controlled by the lock on the Crooked River in Alanson.
Oden Island was once slated to be a controversial subdivision is now a unique island preserve thanks to the Little Traverse Conservancy. Oden Island, located south of the village of Oden, juts out into Crooked Lake and is the home to large old-growth trees and fragile wetlands.
This preserve is composed of large old-growth trees and fragile wetlands. Today the 50-acre preserve offers a parking area, two trailside benches, breathtaking views along its mile of lake frontage and approximately one mile of foot trails skirts the island’s eastern perimeter. Now the preserve helps maintain the water quality of Crooked Lake. Reached by a bridge, Oden Island lies in almost the center of the Crooked Lake. The 2,300-acre lake lies in the upper portion of the Inland Waterway. The waterway is now popular with recreational boaters who can head northeast to Cheboygan via a system of lakes, rivers and locks while kayakers have turned the preserve into a destination for a one-mile paddle from Oden.