Torenta Canal and Coves

How the Torenta Canal and the Coves have changed
Dave Foley
Recently I came across a map of Lake Mitchell as it appeared in 1933. As you might expect,there weren't many cottages along the shoreline. The most settled area, running from Franke Cove to the Canal, had marks indicating about 35 dwellings. Another ten were near the Sunset Point area and a dozen were spread along East Lake Mitchell Drive. Beyond the area where the Roller Rink now sits, going north and west toward the coves, there were only seven with six being in a cluster. Today there are over 600 residences on the shore or with access to the lake.

1933 Map

 What was surprising were the changes I observed in the shape of the lake. Dredging and fill operations in the 1960s created the canal located near Camp Torenta and greatly altered the shape of the Franke Coves and Little Cove.

On the map, Franke Cove appears as a slightly indented cove, not the two significant indentations separated by a peninsula, that we see today. I have been told that originally this was marshland before it was dredged and became part of the lake. A developer added fill to make the peninsula that separates the coves. As you go out on the peninsula, you'll notice that the third cottage on the north side of the peninsula instead of facing toward the lake, is angled to so that it faces the cottage to the east as well as the cove. Bob Miller, a resident of Franke Cove, told me that that cottage was originally located at the tip of the land before the filling extended the peninsula on beyond the building. Miller remembers when a large chunk of of marshland broke loose from the shore and became beached at the mouth of North Franke Cove creating Lake Mitchell's only island.

Little Cove, on the 1933 Map of Lake Mitchell, was surrounded by marshland and had two creeks flowing into it. Friends of mine, who used to fish the cove in the early 1960s, had to park at the base of the peninsula and walk the rest of the way because the land was so swampy. The peninsula then, was shaped like a thumb; the extension to the west that we see today was created by filling in the late 1960s. Extensive dredging was done along the east side of Little Cove and the sand was deposited on the peninsula. Dredging and filling was also done along the north and east side of this land, which created high ground along both sides of what is now Brandy Brook Drive and the land north of Little Cove. In the 1970s when this section of West Lake Mitchell Drive was paved, the culvert which carried the southern feeder creek to Lake Mitchell, was removed effectively cutting off this outlet.

The Torenta Canal, which does not appear at all on the 1933 map, was another project of the 1960s. Although originally planned to be dug from Big Cove to the main lake at Lake Mitchell, the project was not completed and the waterway dead ends near Elm Blvd. At completion I have been told the canal was eight to ten feet deep.

These waters, where dredging occurred, tend to grow more vegetation and collect more algae than the main lake. This happens for two reasons. In the first, lake bottom that has been dredged creates unnatural creases that, in time, will collect more sediment. This soft organic matter combines with the more fertile sediment on the bottom enabling more vegetation to grow in these unnaturally deeper areas. Over the years, the annual death of plants in these dredged areas will create more soft matter which in turn is conducive to plant growth. This is part of the reason why there is more plant growth in dredged areas.

The other cause of heavy plant and algae growth is stagnation. The openings of the coves because of peninsulas(Little and Franke Coves), marsh extensions (South Franke) and an island (North Franke Cove) receive less wave action and water circulation which enhances plant and algae growth. The Torenta Canal, with no outlet and very little water movement, provides an excellent environment for algae and plant growth.

While these waterways being shallow, could expect some plant growth, the activities done by man fifty years ago to alter them has added to the problem. As a result the Lake Mitchell Improvement Board has had to spend more per acre in the coves and canal than it does in the main lake to try and make it so residents and visitors to these areas can navigate boats through these waters.