Lake of the Month: Bony Lake

Bony Lake: Conserved and Restored

Drive and motivation are two key ingredients for success.  Residents around Bony Lake needed both when faced with declining water quality following years of erosion and shoreline decline.  But in 2006, lake residents decided to rehabilitate their lake and partnered with the Bayfield County Land and Water Conservation Department and the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute of Northland College.  In 2007, their efforts were rewarded when DNR awarded Bony Lake a $100,000 Lake Protection and Shoreline Restoration Grant for shoreline restoration and water quality management.

 Bony Lake, Wisconsin courtesy of the Bony Lake Association.

Bony Lake, Wisconsin courtesy of the Bony Lake Association.

The process began with a habitat survey of Bony Lake.   Critical habitat designations were assigned to 12 different sensitive areas including important beds of aquatic plants supporting fish and wildlife habitat, and a fish spawning area.  Once these areas were recognized and evaluated, protection and restoration work to improve the aquatic ecosystem began.

Many areas were amended to slow/no wake speed limits in order protect them from watercraft damage and improve water quality.  Boat props can damage rooted plants and stir up  lake sediments, which can release phosphorous, a nutrient that fuels algal blooms and reduces water quality.

Two lakefront properties were improved with plantings of native plants and no-mow grasses and one property removed seawall.  Shoreline vegetation acts as a protective buffer and captures run-off and its nutrients, including phosphorous.

Bony Lake residents worked with the department to implement Fish Sticks  projects, which create woody habitat in shallow, near shore waters.  More than 100 “fish sticks” were placed along the lake bottom to create habitats for fish and other wildlife.

Aerial view of Bony Lake showing Fish Sticks project to enhance fish habitat.  Photo courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

Aerial view of Bony Lake showing Fish Sticks to enhance fish habitat. Photo courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

Already the work has paid off for some Bony Lake residents, says Jim Johnson, former citizen water monitor for Bony Lake.  “We were able to have the cooperation of several landowners, and the restoration work that was done is extremely beneficial to the lake and the lake’s future clarity,” he says. “Another improvement to the lake that we noticed is the pan fishing is better.”  The Mans family proudly display a  small mouth bass caught off the end of their dock on the southeast shore mere months after the Fish Sticks were installed.

Mans family and their large catch courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

Mans family and their large catch courtesy of Bony Lake Association.

To ensure Bony Lake’s improvements and the health of nearby lakes, the Barnes Eau Claire Lakes Area Property Owners Association sought another smaller DNR grant for an education program.  In 2009, the association started a program with Drummond Areas School District to teach seventh graders lake ecology and management.  The program combines classroom sessions, with guest appearances by DNR staff, with two outdoor sessions on area lakes, including the fall outdoor session at Bony Lake.  Students canoe around the lake learning about shoreline restoration, reforestation, food webs, large aquatic invertebrates, and complete an educational scavenger hunt.  By fostering these youngsters, the lake community is prepping the next generation of lake stewards.

Bony Lake is a reflection of its community.  The restoration and conservation of its beauty reflects the efforts and dedication of its residents. Bony Lake’s clearing waters teach other lake residents that change is possible.

To see more photographs of the work and results at Bony Lake click here.

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, DNR program assistant.
Posted in Grants, Other | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hidden Gem: Moose Lake


Which Wisconsin lake once squeaked? Strangely enough it’s Moose Lake in Waukesha County.  Originally named Mouse Lake by Native Americans for its small size, its name changed in the early 1900s.  Local lore reports a wealthy resident paid to change the name to Moose Lake for a large, strong animal after continual ribbings he took on the golf course for living on little Mouse Lake.

old picture of bony lake  tdMoose Lake has a long history of human inhabitance beginning with the Native American Ho-Chunk tribe.  Their residency lasted uninterrupted until 1842, when the first European settlers arrived and formed the nearby town of Stone Bank.  Along with Ho-Chunk artifacts and burial sites, remnants of early Europeans include two sand bars from ice harvesting.  Ice harvesters came to Moose Lake to cut and store ice, then sell it to cool ice boxes.  Bones from unlucky horses that fell through while hauling out the ice still lurk at the bottom of the lake for scuba divers to find.

To understand historical changes in water quality, DNR’s then lake management specialist Bob Wakeman conducted a study of sediment from the deepest part of the lake.  His study found sedimentation in the lake increased between 1890 and 1950 as mechanized farming took off near the lake.  By the 1960s, agriculture around the lake was being replaced with housing and the sediment rate returned to pre-settlement levels.

Wakeman found evidence of the clear water in the 1980s when he saw the lake bottom 61 feet below during field work and reported, “That was the deepest look I ever had into any lake.”

Any look at Moose Lake must include the Hasslinger Resort and Apple Orchard, which was a fixture from 1922 to 1998.  Spanning 14 acres of land and more than 300 feet of shoreline, the resort afforded weekend relaxation for many Milwaukee families until it was sold and burned down in 1998.

Moose Lake was the party capital in the otherwise quiet Lake Country.  Every weekend, bands played on the resort’s small stage until the wee hours of the morning.

“The stories I could tell.  Every weekend we had people swimming in, boating in, and driving in from all over just to see our bands,” says Jack Grimm, a former bartender.  “There was no jitterbug dancing on Saturday nights because we were afraid it would cave in the old floor.”

Although the resort closed, Moose Lake continues as a vacation refuge.  The fun continues every summer.  There is an annual boat tie up, where residents congregate in the center and lash their boats together for a floating party.  On the Fourth of July, residents are treated to a private fireworks show by neighbor Mark Sellars.  Even in the winter, brave lake dwellers take advantage of the frozen lake for ice fishing, ice sailing and skating.

Because of its small size and high water levels, no-wake regulations prevent some activities such as water skiing and tubing.  Still, residents take advantage of the lake’s clear oligotrophic waters for swimming and fishing.  Anglers pursue largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, brown trout, and rainbow trout.  For several years in the 1970s, the lake was stocked with brown and rainbow trout.

“I remember in the winter a huge hole would be cut in the ice and the lake was “seeded” with young trout brought in by truck,” recounts former resident Heidi Levy.

These efforts have paid off for local anglers who enjoy catching these beautiful fish on Moose Lake and are thankful DNR introduced rainbow trout to the lake.

Though diminutive in size, Moose Lake holds an outsized claim on its inhabitants’ memories. Whether it’s the clear waters or the great fishing, it’s the mouse, no the Moose, that roared.

For more information on Moose Lake, feel free to contact the Moose Lake Advancement Association through their website.

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, DNR student hourly employee and lifelong resident of Moose Lake
Posted in Blue Green Algae, Grants, Lake News, Lakes Partnership, Other, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wading into the Big Muddy – Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention on the Mississippi River.

 Take me to the river and drop me in the water

Dip me in the river, drop me in the water

Washing me down, washing me down

Boy dipping into the Mississippi River.  (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Boy dipping into the Mississippi River. (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

These words from the hit song “Take Me to the River” first penned by Al Green and Mabon Hodges, remind us how easily aquatic invasive species (AIS) are introduced into rivers as well as one key step in preventing their spread – “Washing me down.” Prevention programs singing this tune, such as Clean Boats, Clean Waters, have spread across Wisconsin lakes by DNR and its lake partners.  However, similar efforts on rivers have garnered less attention, especially on the state’s “West Coast” – the Mississippi River.  In 2014, this is changing.

In addition to being a world class water resource, the river is an AIS “super spreader;”  a waterbody with many invasive species and high boat traffic that can spread the invaders elsewhere.  Further, once aquatic invasive species enter a river they can be washed down to lower reaches or swim upstream to tributaries.  DNR’s goal is to have watercraft inspections for AIS on all super-spreader waterbodies.

Partners are stepping in to help make that happen on Ol’ Man River.  DNR has awarded the River Alliance of Wisconsin an AIS Education, Planning and Prevention grant to hire an aquatic invasive species coordinator for La Crosse, Trempeleau and Buffalo counties.  The new coordinator will perform outreach, coordination and planning on Wisconsin’s Mississippi waters, as other AIS coordinators supported by DNR have done for lakes throughout Wisconsin.

Tyler Strelow, DNR Conservation Warden Supervisor, says, “This new position lines right up with DNR’s aquatic invasive species goals and will help bring people together to focus on invasive species and better care for our water resources.”

Through the grant River Alliance will work with DNR Water Guards to identify high traffic boat landings for future Clean Boats, Clean Waters boat inspections, participate in both DNR’s Bait Dealer Initiative and July 4th Landing Blitz, place AIS prevention signs at boat launches and join Sea Grant in providing additional outreach at fishing tournaments.

The River Alliance also will use this pilot project’s results to evaluate how well such AIS prevention practices work on a large river and incorporate them into a strategic plan for the Mississippi as an important output of the grant.  Laura McFarland, River Alliance’s AIS program director, says, “A La Crosse Area AIS partnership, including DNR, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. Geological Survey, and non-governmental organizations, formed to assist in crafting the plan locally and assure future efforts won’t involve trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”

The Mighty Mississippi River (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

The Mighty Mississippi River (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Controlling AIS on the mighty Mississippi is an important challenge requiring cooperation from recreationists using key sections of the river such as the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, one-third of which lies in the area covered by this grant.  This refuge alone is used by one million anglers and numerous waterfowl hunters and hosts 19 bass fishing tournaments.  What will future life on the Mississippi be for these users?  With added attention to AIS outreach, education and planning in the Wisconsin portion, and similar efforts in Minnesota, the prospects for the upper Mississippi River look less muddy.

 Written by Michael S. Putnam, Water Resources Management Specialist and Natural Resources Program Specialist
Posted in Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Contain and Control Invasive Species, Education and Outreach, Grants, Invasive Species, Other | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mississippi River water hyacinth, water lettuce and parrot feather, oh my!

In recent years, three invasive species of aquatic plants have been found in Pool 5 of
the Mississippi River near Buffalo City, WI.  These three species – water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), and parrot feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) – are plants often found in the water garden and aquaculture
trade. They can be very invasive when introduced into natural waterbodies.  Water hyacinth and water lettuce were first found in 2011 in Pool 5; in 2012 parrot feather was found in an isolated bay of Pool 5. Nearly one thousand water lettuce and water hyacinth plants were found in Pool 5 in 2011 and by 2012 the populations exploded into the tens of thousands. These species had not been found to this extent in Wisconsin before so immediate action was taken to prevent the spread of these invasive species to other areas of the Mississippi River and possibly to inland lakes.  Multi-agency rapid response control efforts included a team of experts from the Wisconsin DNR, Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and county aquatic invasive species (AIS) coordinators as well as interested citizens and university scientists.

Water Lettuce (front and rear) and Parrot Feather (center) in Pool 5 (Photo by Paul Skawinski)

Water Lettuce (front and rear) and Parrot Feather (center) in Pool 5 (Photo by Paul Skawinski)

Parrot feather is currently a prohibited invasive species in Wisconsin regulated by Chapter NR 40 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code (commonly known as NR 40 or the invasive species rule).  Water hyacinth and water lettuce are not yet included on the state’s regulated list, but have been proposed for inclusion as prohibited invasive species.  It is illegal to possess, transport, transfer or introduce a prohibited species, with certain exceptions. On Oct. 28, 2013 DNR released proposed revisions to NR 40, along with the draft economic impact analysis documents. The current proposal calls for adding 51 new species for listing as prohibited including the plants water lettuce and water hyacinth.  DNR is accepting public comments on the economic impacts of the proposed revisions through Dec. 31, 2013. Read the full press release to learn more.

DNR's John Sullivan collecting water hyacinth from Pool 5.  (Photo by Paul Skawinski)

DNR’s John Sullivan collecting water hyacinth from Pool 5. (Photo by Paul Skawinski)

In September 2013, staff from Wisconsin DNR as well as other government agencies and non- profit groups concluded that the intensive efforts of the multi-agency rapid response team were successful in controlling the invasive water hyacinth, water lettuce and parrot feather from areas mapped with original infestations.  Learn more about the discovery of these Pool 5 invaders and the multi- agency team’s efforts in containing these species in DNR 2013 Water Success Stories.

In addition to sharing your opinion on NR 40 revisions, there are ways you can help prevent the spread of plants commonly used in aquaculture:

  • Build your aquascapes away from natural waterways and flood zones.
  • Learn to recognize invasive species.
  • Purchase and plant non-invasive and native plants.
  • Check plant orders for unwanted invasive hitchhikers.
  • Do not use invasive plants, fish, crayfish or snails in your garden.
  • Do not release any plants, fish or invertebrates into natural waters.
  • Learn more on how you can “Protect Your Water Garden” at
 Entry written by Heather Smith, DNR Water Management Specialist


Posted in Contain and Control Invasive Species, Invasive Species, Monitoring, Other | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments