How Torch Lake Got Her Name

Many years ago, only native people (Anishinaabek) lived in the Chain of Island Lakes (Mnisenhwang). They traveled the lakes and rivers in birchbark canoes.

They portaged from the lake they called Waswaaganing (Torch Lake) to the big bay called Kchi Wikwedong (Lake Michigan). The way across was called Agaming.

They followed pathways (Mikaan) around the lake. People lived in family groups. Some lived along the northeast shore in an area they thought was a paradise place called WaakWing.

Some family groups lived at the sorth end of the lake in a place named Wikwegemog. While others lived southwest in an area between two lakes called Wabegaaming.

They hunted and gathered berries in the woods and swamps. They built domed bark houses. While paddling their birchbark canoes around the lake, they noticed huge fish swimming far below them.

But they did not know how to catch the big fish that lived so deep.

One of the warriors suggested they try to lure them to the surface using the light of their birch bark torches. Then they could spear the big fish.

Every summer, the men of torches (Waswaaganewininiwag) speared a lot of fish and roasted the lake whitefish and lake trout over their campfires.

From that time on, the people called the lake by a new name, Waswaaganing, or lake of the torches. Today, we call it Torch Lake.


Image source: Betty Beebe

Native American Place Names were borrowed from a wonderful, new map:

Anishinaabek: Heritage Language Map of the Three Fires People developed by Elizabeth Lee Evans, Author/Researcher. Published by Michigan Maps, 2007. (Available for purchase at

Lake Lore

Visit the TRUE BLUE Gallery

True Blue Gallery Alden, MI

Gallery Hours
Tue-Sat. 11-5
Occasional Sundays 12-3

9046 Helena Road
Downtown Alden, MI

Don't just wish that Torch Lake will stay blue.
Choose a water-friendly lifestyle - make a difference!