The level of the water in Crystal Lake varies naturally according to seasonal and annual patterns of precipitation. Since extreme fluctuations can have adverse effects on erosion, flooding, and recreational activities in the surrounding shoreland, a dam at the lake outlet on the southeast shore, west of Railroad Point is designed to control the lake levels. A series of five removable “gates” (boards) in the dam serves to regulate the levels by allowing more or less water to flow out of the lake into the outlet.
A 1980 court order set two seasonal levels for Crystal Lake: 600.25 feet above sea level (May 1 – October 31) and 599.75 feet (November 1 – April 30). This ruling allows higher water for recreation in the summer, and lower water to minimize shoreline erosion in the winter. The Benzie Country Drain Commissioner is responsible for overseeing the dam and maintaining the required water level by adjusting the dam gates as needed.
Over the years, close monitoring of the lake levels has proven difficult to accomplish by manual methods, and the lake has frequently not complied with the statutory requirements.
In order to provide better oversight of lake level fluctuation and enable more timely action to control extreme changes, CLWA installed an automated lake level monitoring station at the outlet in June of 2014. The station provides a lake level reading every 15 minutes and assists in improved management of lake levels.