The Inland Waterway or Inland Water Route is a series of streams and lakes in the U.S. state of Michigan. With only a short portage, it forms a navigable route for small craft connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan across the Northern Michigan region.
The route is in Emmet and Cheboygan counties and consists of Round Lake, Iduna Creek, Crooked Lake, Crooked River, Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullett Lake, and the Cheboygan River.
The route passes through or near the communities of Conway, Oden, Ponshewaing, Alanson, Indian River, Topinabee, and Cheboygan.
It was originally used by Native Americans in the days before settlers arrived in the area as a bypass of Waugoshance Point
on Lake Michigan
. It was thus a highly desired route because of this. 50 Indian encampments have been discovered along the shores of the Inland Water Route. One such encampment, located in Ponshewaing
, has artifacts dating back over 3,000 years.
Discovery by settlers
The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad
in 1873. This opened up the surrounding area to tourism, settlers, and lumbermen. This eventually led to to various people proposing different ideas for the water way. One such plan was the transportation of mail along the waterway. This involved the dredging of Crooked Creek
. Freight was eventually transported along the route. With the advent of the railroad as a cheaper means with which to move goods, the Inland Waterway fell into decline. Yet the railroad brought new life to the waterway as tourists discovered its charm. Eventually it became one of the busiest inland water routes in the country with 32 steamers running the route at its peak. Tours typically lasted from two to three hours a day. From 1876 until 1920, nearly 100 commercial water craft were in business on the Inland Waterway. These included types of boats such as the steam tugboats, side-wheel steamers, stern paddlewheel steamers, propeller driven steamers, naphtha steamers, and gas-powered water craft.
The Inland Waterway today
Today the region surrounding the route is still is a tourist destination. The historical society for the region was founded in 2004 and is known as The Inland Water Route Historical Society. It also is home to a museum in Alanson