The dictionary states a kettle is a vessel for holding liquids, and that is true. So what do kettle lakes have to do with Indiana? Well for one thing, that is what many small lakes in northern Hoosierland are called. In both the past and present times, these bodies of water have been christened with this rather appropriate name.
While soil, rock, etc., may not sound like something to put in the bottom of a vessel to make it hold a liquid, which is part of the mixture that comprises the bottom of most Indiana lakes. There are 450 lakes in our state that are classed as kettle lakes. All are in the northern one third of Indiana.
What action of nature helped form the lakes, you may well want to ask. One word — glacier —is the answer. The massive mile thick layer of ice that once moved across Indiana in what we now call the Ice Age did the work. There have been several of these massive ice sheets that have crossed Indiana over the ages, but it was the one known as the Wisconsin that helped form these kettle lakes.
It was also the work of glacial activity that formed our largest lake — Lake Michigan — and the other four great lakes which are the largest body of fresh water in the world. Glaciers scooped out the Great Lakes, but it was melted ice that formed our kettle lakes. Scientists say these bodies of water were created when a large mass of ice melted and formed a depression that was then filled with meltwater from the glacier. This sounds very simple, but I’m sure there were other factors involved but scooped out dirt filled with ice water does sound rather cool.
When these kettle lakes were formed there were often a series of holes scooped out. These are now what are known as chain lakes and there are several of these in Indiana. One is Chain O’Lakes State Park in Noble County. This 2,718-acre park features a chain on nine kettle lakes that are connected and provide some great opportunities to boat or canoe from one of these lakes into the others. A number of other chain lakes are also found in several other sections of Hoosierland. Among these are the Barbee chain in Kosciusko County, Indiana Lake in la Grange County, and West Lakes in Noble County.
Our kettle lakes were, and in a few locations are still, some of the loveliest lakes anywhere. Before the first settlers even knew they existed our Native Americans used these then pristine lakes to camp around, fish in, and hunt in the landscape around these lakes. While some of the first whites to settle in northern Indiana did fish and hunt in and near these lakes, they did little to change the nature surrounding the lakes. It was the later whites who once they got a look at clear, blue water and an unspoiled shoreline could not wait to change it to a near urban landscape. Houses, cabins, lodges, boat docks, and stores just had to extend along the shoreline to give it that lived in look. Today only one kettle lake, Olin Lake at 103 acres, is left with an undeveloped shoreline. All the rest of our large natural lakes are now what humans really want — blue water and lots of people to make them feel at home. As for me, give me the blue, clear water and let the people live somewhere else.