Muskegon Lake, Michigan

NOAA GLERL Lake Michigan Field Station. August 2006.


Muskegon Lake is a 4,232 acre drowned river mouth of the Muskegon River. Located on the west shoreline of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, it is connected to Lake Michigan by an Army-Corps of Engineers-maintained deep-draft navigation channel. The lake provides important nursery habitat for Chinook salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and threatened native species such as the lake sturgeon.



Since the late 1800s, Muskegon Lake has been the center of the regional lumber industry. In the years since, several other industries located to the area including chemical and petrochemical companies, foundries, a coal-fired power plant, and a paper mill. It’s Muskegon’s historic status as an industrial center that contributes to the area’s environmental challenges today.

Water quality concerns and habitat degradation have resulted from extensive shoreline filling, loss of wetland habitat, deposition of mill debris, untreated sewage, and sediment contamination from compounds such as heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This resulted in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designating Muskegon Lake as an Area of Concern (AOC).


1. Ensure the delisting of Muskegon Lake as an Area of Concern by helping to remove the five remaining beneficial use impairments (specified in the AOC’s Remedial Action Plan):

  • loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • degradation of bottom habitat
  • excessive nutrients and undesirable algae

2. Improve the health of Muskegon Lake and its watershed following the delisting from AOC status by implementing projects in the following areas:

  • coastal resiliency
  • coastal tourism, access, and recreation
  • socio-economic research

3. Increase community support for long-term stewardship of the Muskegon Lake watershed by developing collaborative research partnerships and strengthening outreach and communication of needs and successes to local stakeholders.


The high level of stakeholder engagement in habitat restoration and conservation was one of the primary motivations behind Muskegon’s selection as a Habitat Focus Area.

Relevant partners include the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Great Lakes Commission;  West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission; USGS; Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute; Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership; Muskegon County; and the NOAA Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.


  • Completed four restoration projects that will contribute to the delisting of Muskegon Lake as an Area of Concern, including wetland restoration and the removal of excessive woody debris.
  • Began to develop a Science Collaborative to coordinate the flow of information among numerous local partners.