This Is Magician Lake

By Charlotte Poole and Richard Judd, Jr., long-time residents of Magician Lake

Magician Lake is part of the greater Sister Lakes area and is located in Cass and Van Buren Counties, as well as Silver Creek and Keeler Townships. The mailing address is Dowagiac, MI. The lake covers approximately 524 acres, is spring fed, has three islands (two accessible only by boat) and an outlet called Silver Creek. For the most part, it is a shallow lake (10-12 feet) with deep holes up to 60 feet deep. The lake is considered to be an "all sports lake" and is in the "excellent" category when it stands up to CLMP standards.

Magician Lake has a rich history that began in the late 1800s. People settled on the north and east shores and on one of the islands, by starting up resorts known as Gregory Beach, Happyland, and Maple Island Resort Association. In even earlier days, it was inhabited by Native Americans (Pokagon Potawatomi) who gave it one version of its original name of Silver Lake. Because of its marl bottom that turned white every spring, as well as having springs which made it treacherous to cross with the winter ice, Native Americans also thought the lake to be superstitious or "magical". Thus, the name evolved into Magician Lake. As with all names, there is also another theory that a group of "magicians" (probably vaudevillians) once lived at Happyland, an old-time resort, and entertained people in the area. Since this was the lake where magicians resided, it became known as Magician Lake.

Because of the resort origins of the lake, there have been of a number of lake associations rather than one lake association. To name a few, there are Curran's Beach, Rainbow Park, Gregory Beach, Gilmore Beach and Maple Island Resort Association. In more recent history, we now have the Magician Lake Improvement Association, which was formed to create an additional association which encompasses the entire lake and has voluntary membership.

Early history of Magician Lake could not be written without the story of the businessmen from Dowagiac, MI, who were looking for nearby water recreation and a respite from summer's heat. They ventured out in horse and buggy for a days' drive (10 -15 miles), and later established homes on Magician Lake. Clubhouses were also erected for group entertainment with music, dancing, card playing, and socialization. In those days it was also the accepted way to go fishing and boating with white shirts and black trousers and white blouses and long skirts. Can you imagine paddling a canoe in a long skirt or dress, or fishing with a white shirt and black trousers while pulling in a bass, northern pike, bluegill or perch, which are still in abundance today?

As time passed, people from northern Indiana and the Chicago area began to "discover" Magician Lake. Many traveled by boat to the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area and then by Interurban to the Sister Lakes area. Families have gathered here for many decades as their summer retreat. Where once bonfires were built and baseball games were played, now water skiing, tubing, jet skiing and an occasional kayaker or paddle boarder have expanded the summer fun.

Local grocery stores and marinas now stand where speakeasies, taverns, dance halls, roller rinks, and soda fountains once stood. The "ice houses" (which once stored ice from the lake), milk trucks, the ice cream man, the temporary "hammock" summer camps on the "boat only" accessible islands, swims across the lake, turtle hunting in the bays and channels, and having all day excursions with your 2½ horsepower motor have been replaced. Now, we have power boats, jet skis, and pontoon boats with an occasional sailboat, kayak, canoe, or paddle boat. The average lake homeowner now has approximately 2.5 boats, and there are approximately 535 homes along Magician Lake's seven miles of shoreline. Outhouses, horse barns, and lakeside boathouses have been replaced by indoor plumbing, a sewer system, multicar garages, and shore lift stations.

There have been a number of disputes and disasters throughout the years over such things as road right-of-ways, road ends, invasive species, public accesses, boating accidents, and deaths. Tragically, there was even a Navy plane that crashed in the lake a long time ago when a Chicago area pilot "buzzed" his girlfriend on the north side and dipped a little too tight to the water which caught his wing. Fast moving storms and straight-line winds have created havoc over the years as well. Downed trees, overturned boats, smashed cars and homes, extended power outages, arid lack of phone service have all been experienced if one has been a resident for an extended number of years. However, through all of these difficulties, "coming to the lake" has withstood the test of time and people "cope." Some would say that cell phones, high speed Internet, electronic notebooks, cable TV, and other technical devices have brought more convenience, but a loss of something intangible, too.

Just about every three months of the year, something changes. We enjoy four seasons of recreation, quietness, and experiences with nature. After the very busy summer season comes the quietness of "after Labor Day," followed by the bright colors of autumn, the return of the October loon making its way south, the first snowfall, the first ice, the Christmas eagle glistening in the sun on a bright winter day, the icehouse fishermen, the snowmobilers, the first signs of spring with the light green buds of the willow trees, the voices of the wood duck coming from above, the mink who is looking for eggs along the shoreline, followed by the annual task of putting in all those boats, piers, and shore stations. Culminating all the heightened activity of "summer on the lake" is the celebration of the 4th of July and all that goes with it. Now, we have come full circle.

Throughout all these years, Magician Lake appears to have weathered changes in the shoreline, recreational watercraft, the environment, and our population. If our lake is to pass its long-standing legacy on to future generations, it will be through vigilant individuals and lake associations who are the mentors and advocates for continued sustainability. May Magician Lake have many more years of history to replay, as we look toward its future in southwestern Michigan.