In recent years, massive avian die-offs from Clostridium botulinum type E infection have occurred in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SLBE) area of Lake Michigan. These outbreaks have been coincidental with massive blooms of the green algae Cladophora, mostly Cladophora glomerata. We tested the hypothesis that Clostridium botulinum type E can grow under suitable conditions in these algal mats. In a lab mesocosm study, Cladophora from four outbreak-impacted beaches from SLBE were compared with four unimpacted beaches in the Milwaukee–Racine area for bontE gene of Clostridium botulinum. Frequency of the bontE gene was higher after incubation (25 °C for up to 6 weeks) of Cladophora from impacted vs. the unimpacted area. Since no type E gene was detected initially in Cladophora from any of the eight locations, we infer that the increased occurrence of type E gene arose from spore germination or vegetative Clostridium growth within the existing algal mats of SLBE. Moreover, we found that the congener Clostridium perfringens readily grows in mesocosms containing Cladophora.