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The land area surrounding a lake that drains to the
lake is called its watershed or drainage basin. The
Houghton Lake watershed is 172 square miles in
area, a land area over five times greater than the
lake itself. Houghton Lake receives drainage from
Higgins Lake via the Cut River and four major
tributaries: Knappen Creek, Denton Creek, Spring
Brook, and Backus Creek. The Houghton Lake
watershed encompasses all or part of 13 townships.

Houghton Lake and Higgins Lake form the head-
waters of the Muskegon River. Water draining to the
Muskegon River from Houghton Lake travels over
200 miles downstream and drops about 560 feet in
elevation before entering Lake Michigan at

Over the long term, Houghton Lake's water quality
will be influenced by land use activities in its
watershed. Fortunately, much of the watershed is undeveloped, forested areas or
wetlands that help to preserve water quality. With the construction of a sanitary sewer system around Houghton Lake in the 1970's, a primary source of pollution input to the lake was eliminated. However, much of the land adjacent to the lake has been urbanized and pollution sources such as lawn fertilizer and stormwater runoff threaten water quality.
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