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Betsie River
Betsie River Delta.jpg
Betsie River Wetland Delta near Elberta, Michigan
Physical characteristics
Main source Green Lake near Interlochen
River mouth Lake Michigan at Frankfort
Length 54 mi (87 km)

The Betsie River is a 54.0-mile-long (86.9 km) stream in the northwest part of the U.S. state of Michigan. The name is derived from the French la rivière aux Bec-scies, meaning river of sawbill ducks (bec-scie). Other alternate names include Aug-sig-o-sebe, Aux Buscies, Betsey's River, Black Robe, Gay-she-say-ing, Riviere du Pere Marquette, Sawbill Ducks, and Shelldrake Ducks. The river is mostly within Benzie County (which takes its name from a variant pronunciation of the river), although the river rises in southwest Grand Traverse County and flows briefly through northern Manistee County, Michigan.

The river widens to form Betsie Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan at 44°37′45″N 86°14′45″W / 44.62917°N 86.24583°W / 44.62917; -86.24583 between Frankfort and Elberta. The Betsie River is a part of Michigan's Natural Rivers Program.


Betsie River off of Bike Trail
Betsie River along bike trail east of Elberta

While most sources indicate the river rises as the outflow of Green Lake at 44°35′31″N 85°47′40″W / 44.59194°N 85.79444°W / 44.59194; -85.79444 in southwestern Grand Traverse County, some consider it navigable immediately south of US-31 from Tuller's Lake into Green Lake. Another tributary of the river flows directly out of northern Duck Lake and into northern Green Lake, connecting with the aforementioned Tuller's Lake Outlet. Although not considered part of the Betsie River today, older maps of the area do say so. Green Lake straddles the boundary between Grant Township on the south and Green Lake Township on the north between Karlin and Interlochen. Several nearby lakes, including Duck Lake and its tributaries, drain into Green Lake.

The river winds southwesterly from Green Lake into eastern Benzie County, and then briefly into northern Manistee County before turning northerly back into Benzie County. A dam on the river forms Homestead Pond, after which is flows mostly west and slightly north to Lake Michigan.

Betsie River emptying into Betsie Lake
Betsie River emptying into Lake Betsie, Elberta, MI (bridge shown is M-22 crossing the river outlet)

Drainage basin

The Betsie River drains an area of approximately 155,026 acres (627.37 km2) in three counties. The drainage basin include about 93 miles (150 km) of linear stream, 52 miles (84 km) of which is part of the mainstream.


  • Homestead Dam 44°35′48″N 86°04′48″W / 44.59667°N 86.08000°W / 44.59667; -86.08000 was mostly removed in 1974 and currently acts as a lamprey barrier. It impounds little water and does not impede salmon migrations. The remains of the dam are now sometimes called "Homestead Falls". The dam was a power generating facility formerly owned by Consumers Energy.
  • Grass Lake Dam, approximately 4 miles (6 km) downstream from Green Lake, forms an approximately 90-acre (36 ha) impoundment. The dam was constructed in 1951 to improve waterfowl habitat and northern pike fishing. The dam was installed by the state Wildlife Division and created a 482 acres (195 ha) waterfowl flooding.
  • Thompsonville Dam was an old power dam that failed in the spring of 1989 and was subsequently removed. Prior to its removal, the dam posed a barrier to salmon migration. Salmon and trout have access to the entire mainstream of the river, even above the Grass Lake Dam.


  • Betsie Lake 44°37′42″N 86°13′47″W / 44.62833°N 86.22972°W / 44.62833; -86.22972
  • Crystal Lake Outlet 44°37′32″N 86°08′18″W / 44.62556°N 86.13833°W / 44.62556; -86.13833
Betsie River East of Elberta
Betsie River east of Elberta, MI
    • Crystal Lake
      • Cold Creek 44°37′47″N 86°05′46″W / 44.62972°N 86.09611°W / 44.62972; -86.09611 in Beulah
  • Rice Creek 44°36′19″N 86°06′51″W / 44.60528°N 86.11417°W / 44.60528; -86.11417
  • Dair Creek 44°33′05″N 86°03′15″W / 44.55139°N 86.05417°W / 44.55139; -86.05417
  • Little Betsie River 44°32′01″N 85°56′44″W / 44.53361°N 85.94556°W / 44.53361; -85.94556
  • Pickerel Creek 44°35′29″N 85°50′25″W / 44.59139°N 85.84028°W / 44.59139; -85.84028
    • Twin Lake 44°34′19″N 85°49′46″W / 44.57194°N 85.82944°W / 44.57194; -85.82944
    • Upper Twin Lake 44°34′19″N 85°49′17″W / 44.57194°N 85.82139°W / 44.57194; -85.82139
  • Grass Lake 44°36′30″N 85°51′03″W / 44.60833°N 85.85083°W / 44.60833; -85.85083
  • Mud Lake 44°34′31″N 85°47′55″W / 44.57528°N 85.79861°W / 44.57528; -85.79861
  • Green Lake 44°36′41″N 85°47′03″W / 44.61139°N 85.78417°W / 44.61139; -85.78417
Betise River Wetland near Elberta
Betsie River wetland near Elberta, MI
    • Bridge Lake 44°38′21″N 85°47′07″W / 44.63917°N 85.78528°W / 44.63917; -85.78528
    • Tullers Lake 44°39′15″N 85°46′43″W / 44.65417°N 85.77861°W / 44.65417; -85.77861
    • Cedar Hedge Lake 44°40′12″N 85°47′04″W / 44.67000°N 85.78444°W / 44.67000; -85.78444
    • Mud Lake 44°38′36″N 85°45′28″W / 44.64333°N 85.75778°W / 44.64333; -85.75778
    • Duck Lake 44°37′53″N 85°44′42″W / 44.63139°N 85.74500°W / 44.63139; -85.74500
      • Horton Creek
      • Brigham Creek 44°37′18″N 85°43′42″W / 44.62167°N 85.72833°W / 44.62167; -85.72833
      • Mason Creek 44°37′51″N 85°43′26″W / 44.63083°N 85.72389°W / 44.63083; -85.72389
        • Weidenhamer Swamp 44°37′35″N 85°36′10″W / 44.62639°N 85.60278°W / 44.62639; -85.60278
      • Tonawanda Lake 44°39′03″N 85°45′07″W / 44.65083°N 85.75194°W / 44.65083; -85.75194
        • Ellis Lake 44°39′47″N 85°44′54″W / 44.66306°N 85.74833°W / 44.66306; -85.74833
          • Saunders Lake 44°40′17″N 85°43′56″W / 44.67139°N 85.73222°W / 44.67139; -85.73222
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