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A watershed is the land area that drains to a lake. The Ryerson Lake watershed is approximately 3,800 acres, a land area about 15 times larger than the lake itself. Successful management of the lake over the long term will require that pollution inputs to the lake from the watershed be reduced to the extent practical. Lakeside residents typically influence a lake’s water quality the most because of their proximity to the lake. A major source of pollution to the lake was eliminated with the construction of the sewer system in the late 1980s.


As part of the lake improvement program approved at public hearings in 2023, the Ryerson Lake Improvement Board is pursuing projects to improve the Ryerson Lake watershed. At this time, the board may be looking at incentivizing local farmers to implement best management practices along the edges of waterways leading to Ryerson Lake.

10 Ways to Protect Ryerson Lake
  1. Don’t use lawn fertilizer that contains phosphorus—it's the law!

  2. Use the minimum amount of fertilizer recommended on the label — more is not necessarily better!

  3. Water the lawn sparingly to avoid washing nutrients and sediments into the lake.

  4. Don’t feed ducks and geese near the lake. Waterfowl droppings are high in nutrients and may cause swimmer’s itch.

  5. Don’t burn leaves and grass clippings near the shoreline.  Nutrients concentrate in the ash and can easily wash into the lake.

  6. Don’t mow to the water’s edge. Instead, allow a strip of natural vegetation (i.e., a greenbelt) to become established along your waterfront. A greenbelt will trap pollutants and discourage nuisance geese from frequenting your property.

  7. Where possible, promote infiltration of stormwater into the ground. Build a rain garden to capture runoff from driveways and downspouts.

  8. Don’t dump anything in area wetlands. Wetlands are natural purifiers.

  9. If you have a septic system, have your septic tank pumped every 2 to 3 years.

  10. Don’t be complacent — your collective actions will make or break the lake!

Click here for a PDF version of the information found on this webpage.

Ryerson Lake Watershed on Topographic Map.png

Ryerson Lake Watershed Boundary Map

Caring for Your Shoreland

The take-home message here is straightforward: Maintain or restore as much natural shoreland as possible. That is not to say that you can’t—or shouldn’t—have an area to swim, moor boats, fish or lounge by the shore. However, manicured lawn to the water’s edge and boundless seawalls are not conducive to a healthy lake. Natural shorelines are easier to maintain and provide many ecological benefits.


For more information regarding seawall permitting, contact John Delehanty at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy at 1(800) 662-9278.

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