Torch Lake at long is Michigan's longest inland lake and at approximately 18,770 acres (76 km²) is Michigan's second largest inland lake. Portions lay within several townships in Antrim County, including Torch Lake Township, Central Lake Township, Forest Home Township, Helena Township, and Milton Township. Several villages and hamlets lie along its shore, including Alden, Eastport, Clam River, and Torch Lake. The lake is about 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Traverse City and is separated by narrow strips of land from both Grand Traverse Bay on the northwest and Elk Lake at the southwest end . The lake is about two miles (3.2 km) wide and is centered at . It has a maximum depth of and an average depth of , making it Michigan's deepest inland lake. It is a popular lake for fishing, featuring lake trout, rock bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, ciscoes, brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish.
The name of the lake is not due to its shape, rather, is derived from translation from the Ojibwa name Was-wa-gon-ong meaning "Place of the Torches", referring to the practice of the local native American population who once used torches at night to attract fish for harvesting with spears and nets. For a time it was referred to by local European settlers as "Torch Light Lake", which eventually was shortened to its current name.
Torch Lake is part of a watershed that begins in northern Antrim County with Intermediate Lake, which is connected by the Intermediate River with Lake Bellaire. The Grass River flows from Lake Bellaire into Clam Lake, which in turn drains into Torch Lake via the short Clam River. Torch Lake itself is drained by the Torch River, which flows into Lake Skegemog, which opens into Elk Lake. Elk Lake flows into the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay at Elk Rapids. This watershed is popularly known as the Chain of Lakes.
According to local legend, Torch Lake was recognized as the third most beautiful lake in the world by National Geographic Magazine, though National Geographic flatly denies ever publishing such a ranking (similar legends persist among property owners and locals around other nearby lakes, most notably Glen Lake in Leelanau County, which claims to have been ranked first). The lake is noted for its exceptional beauty; its waters are unusually clear and exhibit a bright turquoise hue. This quality has made the lake a popular spot for the development of resorts and second homes. Notable property owners along the shore have included filmmaker Michael Moore, intellectual property law professor David Berry, former Detroit Tiger Kirk Gibson, attorney Geoffrey Fieger, actress Christine Lahti and husband/director Thomas Schlamme, actress Julie Kavner, rapper Eminem, musician Kid Rock and world renowned ski racer Evan Berry.