2017-10-19 / Outdoors

No official list for top 5 lakes, but none above Glen Lake

By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff


LOCAL LORE says Glen Lake made National Geographic’s list of the world’s five most beautiful lakes. 
– Photo by Jay Bushen LOCAL LORE says Glen Lake made National Geographic’s list of the world’s five most beautiful lakes. – Photo by Jay Bushen There’s no doubt that Glen Lake, embraced by Sleeping Bear Dunes to the west and Miller Hill to the east, is beautiful.

And there’s no lack of locals who consider it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

But finding evidence that a past issue of National Geographic Magazine is in concurrence proves more demanding.

Two stories appear to form the basis for often-spoken Leelanau lore that Glen Lake was placed on a “top five” list in National Geographic Magazine of the world’s most beautiful lakes. One is a story published in a 1934 edition of the magazine, and the other is found in an article quoting one “Professor Laphan” of Columbia University published in the July 31, 1926, edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

“Over the various articles I found, I found it was the third-most beautiful or fifth-most beautiful,” said M. Christine Byron, who with husband Thomas R. Wilson has written five books that include coverage of periods in Leelanau County history. “But in tracking it down, I couldn’t find anything on Laphan. I don’t know if his name was misspelled,” she added.


HERE’S THE cover of National Geographic with the article, “Around the Inland Seas 
— Photo courtesy of M. Christine Byron HERE’S THE cover of National Geographic with the article, “Around the Inland Seas — Photo courtesy of M. Christine Byron The Enterprise raised the question in a story published in our Diversions section in July, asking readers to weigh in on if they knew of or had a copy of the National Geographic article. We received many responses, mostly from riparians.

Kip Pope of Glen Lake and Homewood, Ill., was kind enough to email a copy of the 1934 story published in National Geographic. He wrote:

“Your published version has Glen Lake being one of the five most beautiful lakes in the country; I’ve even heard it was one of the five most beautiful in the world! But lovely as Glen Lake may be, I’ve never been able to confirm either story.

“However, I do have in my possession a copy of the April 1934 National Geographic issue in which Glen Lake is referenced in the manner you reported.”

The lengthy story, called “By Car and Steamer Around the Inland Seas” by Maynard Owen Williams, conjures up more questions than answers. The author chronicles visits throughout the Great Lakes, saying that the “whole region is a paradise for the Nature Lover.” He specifically mentions several towns and cities in Michigan, including Newberry, Munising and Menominee in the Upper Peninsula.

Special attention, however, is given to Glen Lake:

“In the Lower Peninsula, lake life bulks large. Glen Lake seems to be a favorite among 5,000, and my advisers invariably added that a National Geographic Magazine writer placed it ‘among the five most beautiful lakes in the world.’

“I cannot find the statement, and to me the beauty of a lake depends as much upon the fleeting cloudscape above it as in its shape, size or shores. My own choice must remain unnamed, but never have I seen a lake more beautiful.”

So there you have it. National Geographic itself can’t find such a list.

But judging by its author Williams, Glen Lake could do no worse in the “most beautiful lake” category than tied for ... first.

We also heard from William P. Hampton.

“Shortly after I purchased my cottage at Glen Lake in 1974, I wrote a letter to the National Geographic in order to verify the rumor that the magazine had declared Glen Lake among the five most beautiful lakes in the world. I received a letter ... in which (the editor) indicated that although that is untrue there never was such an article. He did volunteer that someone from the magazine had visited the area and had ‘never seen a lake more beautiful.’”

Heather Stack of Glen Arbor also has proof positive of the article, and emailed a copy. She wrote, “Here is a photo, from National Geographic. I have the original magazine, but I have it in storage right now.”

Byron the historian researched the Record-Eagle article, but found few clues as to its basis. It cites Professor Laphan as placing Glen Lake among the top five lakes along with Lake Louise in Canada, and three lakes in Europe.

“I have done a search for the Record- Eagle previously before 1926 to see if there was another story, and I couldn’t find anything else. It could be as much as he gave a speech somewhere or someone heard him say that, but I couldn’t find anything more other than the stories in 1934 and 1926,” Bryan said.

Another historian, Empire’s own Dave Taghon, has looked into the legend.

“I’ve got a copy of the National Geographic, and it’s worded a little differently. It says that a staff member from National Geographic rates Glen Lake among the most beautiful in the world. I don’t think there was a rating put out,” he said.

Taghon, however, has seen some of the lakes alluded to in that 1926 Record-Eagle article, and says Glen Lake can more than hold its own. He’s visited Lake Louise in Canada, and while on a month-long trip to Europe with his wife and another couple visited Lake Como in Italy and Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

“Glen Lake is certainly among them, and so is Crystal Lake. (Glen Lake) is a beautiful lake. Every time I go over the bridge I’m reminded so,” Taghon said.

But, Taghon admits, his taste in lakes may be affected by his ... taste.

“I caught a nice mess of perch (on Glen Lake) last week, Most were 8-9 inches, good eating size,” he said.

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I may have a copy of the

I may have a copy of the National Geograpic Article. It’s at our Glen Lake home and will look for it. I recall a 1952 or 1952 date