Waterfront Life: The Varied Heartbeats of River and Lake Living

Though many are familiar with the seductiveness of water, some are drawn to the communal spirit that comes with living on a lake while others savor the solitude of living on a river. Both environments have an appeal that often feeds the soul.
Waterfront Life: The Varied Heartbeats of River and Lake Living
Photography courtesy of David Kenyon

Casting off

Kevin Akey, co-owner of AZD Associates in Bloomfield Hills and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, sold his home on Union Lake in Commerce Township, but he’s never far from the water for long. The award-winning architect, known for his extraordinary waterfront structures, spends seasonal weekends with his family on their powerboat in Grand Haven.

Residing on Union Lake taught him that lakefront living provides more than the obvious long-term value and spectacular views. It can provide a sense of community, too.

“All the activities are directly in your own backyard, from Jet-Skiing and water-skiing to ice biking in the winter,”

Akey says. ‘And (then) there’s the social aspect. People are stopping by on boats, and you can hop on yours to go visit your friends.” 

Living aboard a boat provides a different set of perks — allowing him and his family to be mobile and on the water.  

“Now we go to different towns and beaches,” he said. “I’m still very much a water person, and my family and I stay on the boat. The sky’s the limit. We can go anywhere, to Chicago, Mackinac and Traverse City.” 

Akey’s current projects include luxurious homes on Lake Michigan, Torch Lake, Walloon Lake, Traverse Bay and Lake St. Clair, among others, proving the lakefront lifestyle has yet to lose its lure.  

Waterfront Life: The Varied Heartbeats of River and Lake Living
Photography courtesy of David Kenyon

Twice as nice 

Raised on Bass Lake north of Greenville in the summers, Michael Delp has spent most of his adult life living on the water. Nowadays he’s a bit of a hybrid, with a house on Green Lake in Interlochen and a fishing cabin along the Boardman River near Traverse City where he spends much of his time during the summer months.

As the seasoned writer and retired director of creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy explains, his fishing cabin is more secluded, and that’s just fine by him. 

“With a river comes a desire to disappear, but it’s pretty hard to disappear on a lake,”

says Delp, author of “Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman Poems and the Mad Angler Poems,” published in 2016 by Wayne State University Press. “I see lakes as bowls of water, but rivers are constantly in motion. They’re like a living entity.” 

Delp may write about the river, but not while he’s out fishing. “It’s not a social experience; it’s not a water park. It’s a body of water with a meditative experience,” Delp says. “You can give something away on a lake, and it’s not going anywhere; on the river it will wash downstream. There’s a huge spiritual quality to it.” 


Leslie Ann Pilling, CEO of Presence II Productions, a Detroit-based design and manufacturing firm, enjoys the urban waterfront living perspective. From the comfort of her Garden Court condo, different angles of the Detroit River are visible, and the historic building boasts a rooftop deck.  

“To see another country and watch the freighters go by is a pleasure. I enjoy watching the barges, too,” Pilling says. There is always something interesting to see — from the international fireworks display to a variety of watercraft. 

“It’s relaxing, on one hand, but it’s action-packed,” says Pilling, who spotted seven boats on a recent day, including a yacht and tugboat.

“There’s so much diversity on the waterway.” 

At night, she says, the views are stunning, full of colorful reflections from the Motor City’s lights, along with those from her Canadian neighbors.

— Jeanine Matlow, Michigan BLUE Magazine 

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