Glacial activity left Michigan with over 11,000 inland lakes, and Houghton Lake is the largest. Houghton Lake is named after Dr. Douglas Houghton, Michigan's first state geologist. Dr. Houghton also had the distinction of having a city and a county named after him.
Lumbering had a profound impact on the early development of Houghton Lake. In the mid-1800's, lumber camps in the area were abundant, and roads, towns, and railways were established to support the lumber trade. Logs were floated from Houghton Lake down the Muskegon River to sawmills and shipping facilities in Muskegon. It has been estimated that in 1860 alone, mills on the Muskegon River produced 75,000,000 board-feet of lumber.
With the decline of the lumbering industry in the early 1900's, railways that had been used to transport lumber were transformed to passenger lines to bring outdoorsmen to fish, hunt, and experience the beauty of the "north country." The Houghton Lake fishery became legendary and attracted visitors from far and wide.
By the mid-1900's Houghton Lake had become known as a prime resort area. Today, thousands of seasonal cottages, year-round homes, and businesses border the lake. Houghton Lake remains one of Michigan's top resort and vacation destinations and attracts thousands of visitors to its shores each year.