With a surface area of 20,044 acres, Houghton Lake is Michigan’s largest inland lake. It covers about one-quarter of Lake Township and sizable portions of Denton, Markey, and Roscommon Townships as well. However, despite its vast size, the lake is relatively shallow. Houghton Lake has a maximum depth of 21 feet and an average depth of less than nine feet. Thus, Houghton Lake contains extensive shallow water areas suitable for rooted plant growth.
The shoreline of Houghton Lake is over 35 miles long and the shoreline development factor is 1.8. The shoreline development factor indicates the degree of irregularity in the shoreline. That is, the shoreline of Houghton Lake is 1.8 times longer than if the lake were perfectly round.
Houghton Lake contains about 172,000 acre-feet of water, a volume that would cover about 270 square miles to a depth of one foot. The water residence time of a lake is the time it takes for the entire volume of water in the lake to be replaced by incoming waters. The estimated water residence time for Houghton Lake is about 1.2 years.
Houghton Lake is over five miles wide and eight miles long. Strong winds can produce large waves on Houghton Lake and ice sheer along the shoreline can be significant.