Self-Guided Wall Lake History Tour
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A Historic Tour Around Wall Lake – Sue Trudeau
Wall Lake was formed by glacial migration over 10 million years ago. The major water source for the lake is precipitation along with the seepage of water from a 1000 acre acid swamp to the south of the lake near Delton, MI. The land at the south of the lake is the dividing line between the Kalamazoo River watershed to the south and the Thornapple River watershed to the north, of which Wall Lake is a part. Water flowing into Wall Lake from the acid swamp gets cleansed by the large wetland marsh on the SW shoreline of Wall Lake. This literally saves the lake since the acid water in the source swamp would kill the vegetation and fish if it were not filtered before entering Wall Lake. It takes about 3 years for the lake water to refresh itself, making Wall Lake very fragile and easily subject to the ravages of pollution.
The Greater Wall Lake Association was successful in having a sewer system installed in the early 1990’s. Also, the GWLA helped create a weed district in which Riparian properties are taxed for the cost of water quality and invasive aquatic species testing and management via Professional Lake Management Co. of Caledonia, MI. Non-resident boat traffic is restricted on Wall Lake because there is no DNR boat ramp, and therefore Wall Lake is fortunate to have only two aquatic invasive species - Eurasian Milfoil and Purple Loosestrife. Algae sometimes form in very hot weather and is spot treated as needed.
A. The area at the juncture of Harrington and Lakeview is always swampy. The shoreline is raised and the water lilies and rushes populate the marsh in this area. The surrounding land had been a large peach farm historically, and gypsies camped along the shore. Mute swans nest in this area annually. This is a non-native, invasive species that has devastated the native duck population in Michigan. Mute swans have been culled and managed in recent years by the Michigan DNR. Only in the last several decades have cottages been built in this area since the whole bay had been marsh and a great place for turtles and other wildlife.
B. Vreeland's Plat was named after Mr. Vreedland years ago. Decades ago a "swimming shelter" existed along this shoreline where swimmers would change clothes before swimming in Wall Lake. Lakeview Road was built behind this Vreeland Plat subdivision, and the woods across from the lake have been a home for eagles and other wildlife. The lakeshore is relatively mucky due to the rushes, cattails, and other vegetation that has grown in this area.
C. The Cordes Plat runs from the East end of Reynolds Road up the hill and along Cordes Road. There is a channel that is the drain for Wall Lake that flows out of the lake toward a dam, which maintains the high water mark of 927' above sea level as set by court order. The marsh between the ends of Lakeview and Reynolds Road is the entrance of the Wall Lake drain, which flows from Wall Lake into a swamp, under Kingsbury Road into Shallow Lake, and eventually into the Thornapple River. The bay marked by two rock buoys in the summer used to be full of lily pads and was a great place to see turtles, frogs and waterfowl. With all of the housing built in the area the lake vegetation has been decimated and the bay is now open water. When the water is high in the spring, one can canoe or kayak along the Wall Lake Drain to a plank bridge above the dam and see the spawning area for many fish.
D. Waldorff Resort and Waldorff Resort First Addition: The Waldorff Family built the first cottage on Wall Lake during the horse and buggy era. Farms surrounded the lake and the Waldorff family built a small cabin, which still stands close to the water below the intersection of Cordes and Kingsbury Roads. Loon Drive runs directly behind the little red cottage for a short distance and is all that remains of the original dirt road that ran behind all of the cottages in the Waldorff Resort plat. The north shore of Wall Lake has the only naturally sandy beach area on the lake due to prevailing winds causing wave activity along the shoreline. As one proceeds from the bay near the Wall Lake drain and rounds the shore into a small bay with about 6 cottages on it, you can visualize the former location of a stone wall that had begun at the base of the property with grey siding SE to the white cottage at the "corner" rounding back toward the bay.
Pottawatomi Indians used the wall that may have been partly formed by a rock ledge during the glacial dump and then enhanced by the natives using highly formed tongue and groove rock carving methods to build up the rock wall, thus closing off the small bay. When the water level was high, fish would get trapped the behind the wall after getting pushed over in the waves, making it easy to catch the fish. Many arrowheads have been found along the rocky shoreline attesting to the presence of the Pottawatomi along this area. The wall was removed in 1962 after the lake level had receded enough to cause homeowners to have trouble getting boats into the lake.
Many of the homes along the Waldorff Resort shoreline were originally built as cottages by owners of surrounding farms and by residents of Hastings who came for vacations at Wall Lake. The area had been called "Hastings Point" near where the original Waldorff cottage sits and people could travel via the old C.K. & S. Railway beginning in the late 1800s to a stop south of Cloverdale, and then carry their luggage and picnic baskets over the hill near where the Moose Lodge is now located, and down to the shoreline where they would have row boats waiting in order to get to their cottages.
Often local farmers would transport these vacationers with their horse carts. The Pottawatomi developed a relationship with the Wall Lake residents; showing them how to find the various berries, make baskets with the rushes from cattails and other marsh vegetation, dye from walnuts, and teas from the various floras. There were (and still are) many wild cherry trees and lots of raspberries along this shoreline. Wood ducks, woodpeckers, and kingfishers can be seen on a regular basis in the larger trees. Poplar, Black Gum and Oak trees are most prominent. Today, the shoreline would easily be filled with various vegetation if left to naturalize, including species such as Joe Pye weed, various grasses and rushes, wild spearmint, Michigan Iris, and many other varieties. This type of vegetation would help the turtles that regularly lay their eggs along this shoreline, as well as provide a cleansing buffer for runoff from the high ground in the farmland behind this shore. Insects such as dragonflies, fireflies and cicadas, butterflies, and moths provide part of the food chain for fish, birds and bats. Mrs. Potter, whose family built the first permanent cottage on the lake in 1931, also along the north shore, was remarkable for being the first person recorded to swim from "Oakwood", the W. Hayes cottage, to Beechwood Point, a distance of 2,600 feet.
E. Waldorf Road from M-43 to the intersection of Cordes and Kingsbury was the site of the original Waldorff Farm across the street from the lake. In a low spot the carriages would be driven into the lake so their wooden wheels could swell back up, and the horses could be watered after bringing vacationers to the NW shore of Wall Lake. Because of the overhanging willows and oak trees, and the lack of wave action, this shoreline was a good spot for fishing and bathing. Swimming lessons were given in years past to vacationers and farm family members. And the site was also used as a car wash! The rowboats of cottage owners were pulled ashore along this area so that they would be handy when people arrived from the train. The farmland was eventually sold off in smaller parcels over the past decades, although some legacy families such as the Waldorffs still own portions.
F. The road called Delton Road, also known now as M-43, was an old Pottawatomie trail along the west side of Wall Lake. Farms and some woodland have been maintained in this area, as the land have never been platted. Reeds and water lilies increase in density as you travel southward toward the "Big Marsh" at the SW shoreline. This is the area that has the wetland vegetation required to cleanse the water entering Wall Lake, and is full of many types of native aquatic plants. Farm land surrounds the area to the west of the lake and smaller rental cottages and fishing shacks populated this shoreline until recently when owners improved their cottages and incorporated additional lots in order to construct larger homes.
G. In this area during the 1980's, a property owner attempted to create a 200' channel through the wetlands into the lake. However, the GWLA and its members funded a scientific study of the lake to determine the ecological consequences of building a channel through the wetlands. The research proved that the important wetlands would be severely damaged by a channel and the acid from the swamp south of Wall Lake would flow freely into Wall Lake. This would cause death to wildlife and vegetation, and a permanent destruction to the ecology of Wall Lake. The DNR had to negate their canal-dredging permit by court order, thus protecting Wall Lake as we know it today. This is the most important area biologically for Wall Lake.
H. Beechwood Point is the privately platted area at the end of the peninsula jutting out into the lake. There is a protected area at the end, full of beech trees, and with a sand bar in the water. The property owners in the Beechwood Point area have had picnics since 1916, and a lodge was built on "The Point" where resorters from Hickory Corners, Richland and Kalamazoo arrived via horse and carriage for vacations. A large journal was maintained, logging visitor names since 1890. The Coleman family built the first cottage on the point in 1907, and the Coleman family owns that property to this day. They had the old cottages replaced with new structures during this decade and they stand facing NE on Beechwood Point.
Further south on The Point, Beechwood Drive and Wall Lake Drive were built up with cottages after the Eddy family had the property platted into the Eddy's Beach Plat in 1903, an area running from Beechwood Point south and then east along the shore to Harrington Road. A shallow bay in the area is called Pottawatomie Point. It is currently a 2-acre plot that had been a main camping spot for Native Americans over the years. A rock wall crosses the entrance to this small bay, and boaters in the area know to stay clear of the shoals. The original Eddy family farmhouse stood at the top of the hill on the east side of the bay near the end of Beechwood Drive.
J. Additions to Eddy's Beach Plat are located along Harrington Road. These properties are narrower lots with a higher elevation looking over the lake. This shoreline always had more underwater weed growth due to the lack of wave action. Many rocks are seen in the landscaping and along the shoreline, again as a result of the glacial action. There are two ice houses near the shoreline, one of which was made of stone years ago. Ice was cut from the frozen lake and stored in the ice houses. Since there were no stores along the lake until years later, the original cottage owners would buy their dairy and food items from a grocer in Delton who would deliver goods in horse cart to the residents. Later, a store was built along Beechwood Drive and residents would row boats over to the dock near Pottawatomie Park, climb the hill to the store, and buy their groceries. Willows, oaks and beech trees grew along this shoreline and eagles can often be seen in a tall tree during the year.