Petenwell and Castle Rock Lakes: the Power of Teamwork

Petenwell and Castle Rock Lakes are impoundments (man-made lakes) created by damming the Wisconsin River. The lakes are well known for their size and recreational activities. Petenwell Lake spans three different counties and covers 23,173 acres while Castle Rock covers 12,981 acres and touches two counties. In 2008, Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards or PACRS applied for a DNR to grant to strengthen their organization in order to improve water quality and better protect their lakes from invasive species. Stewards are concerned citizens who love lakes and work to protect their lakes from threats.

Sunset on the lake.  Photo courtesy of Petenwell and Castle  Rock Stewards.

Sunset on the lake. Photo courtesy of Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards.

With the grant PACRS:

1) reached out to organizations and businesses to garner support for improving lake conditions;

2) produced articles and bylaws by which to run the PACRS organization; and

3) applied for non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service.

Since receiving their grant, PACRS worked with conservation groups, property associations, area legislators and DNR to address algal blooms, monitor water quality and establish baseline water quality requirements for the lake. For example, in 2009 and 2010, PACRS hosted sessions of Pontoon and Politics where area politicians took pontoon rides to see firsthand the water quality issues and algal blooms impeding enjoyment of the lakes. Also in 2010 PACRS led tours of farms and manufacturers to learn about water quality problems and share their concern and willingness to address them.

A result of PACRS team building is the start of a study with DNR to measure of Petenwell and Castle Rock’s total maximum daily load, known as TMDL. TMDL is the maximum amount of organic and inorganic pollutants a body of water can safely receive and still meet water quality standards. A TMDL incorporates the pollution sources– point or nonpoint – and a margin of safety reflecting the level of uncertainty in the analysis in setting the standard. For Petenwell and Castle Rock Lakes, the TMDL incorporate upstream pollutants deposited into the Wisconsin River and its tributaries. The scale of the effort can be appreciated by watching a video “Flyover of the Wisconsin River” on the PACRS website.

Although the TMDL study is not slated to finish until 2017, PACRS has already worked, with DNR and a paper plant, to implement stricter limits on phosphorus discharge. Phosphorus promotes algal blooms and can impede water quality. Similarly PACRS has reached out to local farmers in collaboration with watershed and river groups to lower the amount of farmland runoff.

The non-profit status obtained by PACRS helped them win a DNR River Planning Grant to help their organization to continue to grow and improve. The grant also allowed PACRS to install a mechanical “profiler” which automatically collects water quality data and sends them to DNR.

More recently, PACRS joined the Clean Boats Clean Waters effort and began boat inspections on both lakes to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The PACRS team.  Courtesy of the Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards.

The PACRS team. Courtesy of the Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards.

PACRS have been successful in taking control of their lakes’ water issues. So successful that the Wisconsin River Alliance awarded PACRS their River Champion Award in 2011. With the support of legislators and DNR, these Stewards will continue to protect their lakes and work for a positive change through collaboration and cooperation and a common cause to protect the natural resource they value dearly.

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Assistant.
Posted in Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Grants, Invasive Species, Lake News, Other, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gifts of DNR’s Lake Pages

December is that time of year when people scurry to find the perfect gift for family and friends. If your loved ones are lake enthusiasts, DNR has the perfect gift for them. DNR’s lake pages are a treasure drove of useful information on almost any lake in Wisconsin. Whether a boater, angler, swimmer or lake front property owner, everyone can learn something interesting about lakes in the state. The lake pages are free and available anytime. No checkout lines, credit cards or discount codes needed.

"Santa, I want a nice lake where I can swim and fish."

“Santa, I want a nice lake where I can swim and fish.”

On the lake pages you will find:

A list of boat launches along with maps at each lake: Each launch has a detailed description of the landing ramp, parking spaces, and amenities like potable water and restrooms.

Local boating ordinances: Following these can help you stay off of Santa’s naughty list.

A list of nearby public lands and parks. Many of the listings include links to maps and some have links to current conditions for those looking for a place to picnic, hike or snowshoe.

A list of beaches on each lake: Perfect for the sand castle builders and swimmers you know or for your own polar plunge.

A list of the common game fish in the lake and a description of their abundance: Some lakes have available detailed fish surveys and stocking reports, as in fish stocking.

A list of fishing regulations for each lake: Knowing the season, size and bag limits will keep you of friendly terms with Santa.

Contour or bathymetric maps of lakes: Inspecting these maps can aid boaters in avoiding hazards and anglers in finding which depths to fish.

Interactive maps with zoom controls allowing lake enthusiasts to see roads, cities, waterways, boat access and allows the lake and its watershed to be viewed as air photos. This map will help Santa find those spending the holidays on a Wisconsin lake.

A list of the aquatic invasive species found in each lake: In addition, it shows the many lakes that have few or none. This gift presents a helpful reminder to inspect watercraft and gear; remove any plants, animals or mud from boats, trailers and gear; drain all water from boats and gear; and never move plants, live fish or water from a waterbody.

Information on water quality such as the lake’s trophic state: In addition, die-hards can unwrap the details of water quality found in the reports and data provided for each lake.

A list of DNR grants that have been presented to each lake: These grants help lake communities better manage their lakes, fend off aquatic invasive species, improve water quality and acquire protective buffers. For the studious, many grants have links to the reports produced by these grants including lake management plans.

Links to any lake organizations active on a lake: By contacting these organizations you can learn more about the lake or give your talents to help their efforts to protect Wisconsin’s lakes.

Santa and his helpers have been using the DNR lake pages.

Santa and his helpers have been using the DNR lake pages.

So, whether the people on your list are long-time lake dwellers, looking for lake front property or a place to recreate, DNR’s lake pages have the right gift for them.


Happy Holidays from the Lakes and Rivers section.

Entry written by Michael Putnam, water resources management specialist.

Photo credits:

Jolly old St. Nicholas lean your ear this way by Gary Willmore.

Santa fishing by mj laflaca

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Lake of the Month: Bone Lake of Polk County

Bone Lake, or Onondogacona as it was named by its Native American inhabitants in 900 AD, is a 1,667 acre lake located in Polk County. It received its unorthodox name after early European inhabitants found the remnants, and bones, of Native Americans on an island in the lake. Originally named Lake of the Small Pines in the Ojibwe language, this scenic lake supported a trading post at its south end during the early 1700s.

Bone Lake of Polk County.  Photo by Karen Engelbretson.

Bone Lake of Polk County. Photo by Karen Engelbretson.

Today, the large lake supports more than 500 residential lots along its 12 mile shoreline. Over the years, the large lake population has weighed on the lake’s water quality along with changes in the lake’s watershed. Since 1995, DNR has provided 18 grants to the Bone Lake Management District that address water quality, aquatic plant management and aquatic invasive species prevention and control. For example, a 2008 Lake Management Planning grant helped develop five goals the District is working to accomplish. These included:

  1. Improving Bone Lake’s water quality by 20 percent in 10 years;
  2. Maintaining and enhancing Bone Lake’s natural beauty;
  3. Protecting and enhancing the wildlife habitat;
  4. Protecting and improving Bone Lake’s fishery; and
  5. Maintaining safe, effective navigation on Bone Lake.

Since then, the lake has received additional grants from the DNR to implement the lake management plan, create a comprehensive aquatic invasive species detection and response plan and develop an aquatic plant management plan.

Outreach efforts supported by DNR included the production on an educational map of Bone Lake that was mailed to all property owners. One long time, permanent resident remarked, “I had no idea there was so much wildlife here.”

Bone Lake Wildlife Habitat Map. Courtesy of Bone Lake Management District.

Bone Lake Wildlife Habitat Map. Courtesy of Bone Lake Management District.

More than 45 percent of runoff into Bone Lake comes from residential areas around the lake and contributes to water quality problems. The runoff contains phosphorus which fertilizes algal growth. As a result, the Bone Lake Management District has offered its residents free environmental consultation visits, native plant reimbursement plans and help with replacing septic systems. The native plantings stabilize soil and capture runoff while new septic systems replace old ones that leaked phosphorus and other nutrients.

In 2006, the average water clarity reading on a secchi disk reading was only five feet. In 2014, six years after implementing their lake management plan, the secchi disk reading increased by 70 percent to 8 ½ feet, which is the average secchi disk depth of nearby lakes.

Though the District’s efforts seem to have improved water clarity, Bone Lake continues to fluctuate between mesotrophic and eutrophic on the trophic state index. The trophic state index is a composite measure of phosphorous, chlorophyll and secchi disk readings and indicates lake water quality during the summer months.

One result of low oxygen levels in the deepest parts of the lake is internal loading. Internal loading occurs when phosphorus bound to iron in lake sediments is liberated into the water column. With adequate oxygen levels phosphorus remains bound to iron. When oxygen becomes scarce iron changes chemically and releases the phosphorus it previously held. Back in the water column, phosphorus can again stimulate algal growth. A DNR funded study of Bone Lake showed that internal loading was a significant contributor to the lake’s phosphorous load (23 percent).

Bone Lake is working to encourage Common Loons to again nest there.

Bone Lake is working to encourage Common Loons to again nest there.

While the hard work of DNR and the Bone Lake Management District have shown improvements in water clarity, opportunities for additional advances remain. Current studies funded by DNR grants are working to determine the best steps to implement the Bone Lake’s management plant. With continued efforts, the water quality of Bone Lake will get even better. The decades of effort by residents of Bone Lake demonstrate the important role they play in the lake’s health and well-being.

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Assistant.

Photo of common loon pair

Updated December 3, 2014
Posted in Contain and Control Invasive Species, Education and Outreach, Grants, Lake News, Other, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Haunted Lakes of Wisconsin

Many words are used to describe Wisconsin, idyllic, charming, quaint … but spooky? Lakes are popular destinations, to both the living and the dead. Read below and encounter some peculiar stories of beloved Wisconsin lakes.

Fowler Lake, Oconomowoc

This idyllic lake in Southeastern Wisconsin lies in the middle of Oconomowoc. Its shores line the downtown streets next to its neighbor Lac La Belle. But Oconomowoc natives know there is more to this small lake than nice fishing. Fowler Lake’s shores are home to the living, and dead. La Belle Cemetery lines its eastern shoreline, and odd things have been occurring there since the cemetery began in the 1800s.

The mourning woman at the Nathusius monument.

The mourning woman at the Nathusius monument.

La Belle Cemetery is infamous for its inhabitants so much so that many professional ghost hunting groups visit the cemetery in attempts to unravel its secrets. It is said the statue of a mourning woman in front of the Nathusius monument cries tears of blood and will cause blindness if you steal the pennies others leave in her hand. Others have reported seeing a young woman drag a chain into Fowler’s waters and drowning herself.

All residents of Fowler lake enjoy its nice fishing, alive or not.

Lakes Monona and Mendota, Madison

Lake Monona is one of the five lakes forming the Yahara chain in Dane County. Although many visit this area for the culture and a visit the State Capital, Lake Monona offers ghost tourists a variety of attractions. Past Native Americans created many burial mounds around Lake Monona which were left undisturbed until the 1800s when Europeans began to make their homes, sometimes building on these mounds. Subsequently, many residents have reported signs of a haunting in their homes, such as furniture shaking, visible orbs, and odd noises.

The unlucky residents of Lake Monona are also the caretakers of a large serpent said to live in its deepest depths. In 1897, a father and his two sons were the first to report spotting a large serpent with “a shape like the bottom of a boat, but twice as long.” However, even if this beast, were caught it could not feed a city-wide Friday Fish Fry.

Those traumatized by their fear might end up at the local hospital, Central Wisconsin Center. An abandoned building across the way, the Mendota Mental Health Institute on the shore of Lake Mendota, has lain empty since 1994, but has been a beacon for supernatural activity since its creation in 1860. Those who have visited the Mendota Mental Hospital report an eerie feeling, like someone or something is watching. Shadows and orbs have also appeared to people. The hospital is infamous for treating murderer and body snatcher Edward Gein (who has inspired many thrillers such as Psycho, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Silence of the Lamb, to name a few.)

The Native American burial mounds around the former Mendota Mental Health Institute.

The Native American burial mounds around the former Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Next time you visit our state capital treat yourself to an adventure by walking the shores of Lakes Monona and Mendota… alone… if you dare.

West Bay Lake, Vilas County

West Bay Lake lies on the border between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, except for residents of Summerwind Mansion, who believed it existed between the living and the afterlife. Summerwind Mansion, once a luxurious residence on the western shore of West Bay Lake, has been haunted since built in the early 1900s. The house was bought by Robert Patterson Lamont in 1916 and remodeled into a mansion. Lamont first heard of the paranormal activity from his maids and workmen. In the mid-1930s, after Lamont and his wife encountered a spectral apparition so vivid Lamont shot at it, the Lamont family evacuated the premise. The house was bought by the Keefer family in the 1940s, but they never moved into their new residence.

In the 1970s, Summerwind Mansion was bought by Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw, who moved into the haunted mansion with their four children. The Hinshaws reported multiple signs of supernatural activity, ranging from orbs and spectral visions, to problems with the house’s doors, windows, and electricity for no plausible reason. Arnold Hinshaw had a mental breakdown just six months after moving into Summerwind, and Ginger Hinshaw moved in with her parents soon afterward. The Hinshaws were the last permanent residents and Summerwind has lain empty since despite efforts by Ginger’s father, Raymond Bober, to renovate the mansion and turn it into a restaurant.
In the 1988, Summerwind was mostly destroyed in a fire caused by lightning. The ruins of this once beautiful mansion lurk the shores to this day, but being on private land, are closed to visitors. Perhaps for the better…

Happy Halloween from Wisconsin Lakes Blog.

Happy Halloween from Wisconsin Lakes Blog.

This Halloween, instead of watching a scary movie at home, try your paranormal luck and explore a nearby lake. You never know what might be lurking beneath the water…

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Assistant.

Illustration credits

Figure 1.  The mourning woman at the Nathusius monument.

Figure 2.  The Native American burial mounds around Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Figure 3. Woman with pumpkin


Posted in Education and Outreach, Lake News, Lake Questions, Other | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments