Lake of the Month: Cedar Lake of Manitowoc County

Cedar Lake lies in the shadows of Lake Winnebago in the quiet town of Schleswig, Wisconsin. Although dwarfed by Lake Winnebago, at only 136 acres, it is the largest inland lake in Manitowoc County. Known for its clear waters and great fishing, the lake’s popularity has boomed since the early 1900s when the first European settlers arrived.

An article from "Manitowoc, the city of opportunities" pamphlet touting Cedar Lake as "the Largest and most beautiful inland lake."  Source:  Town of Schleswig.In 1900, the first log cabin was built on the south shore of the lake by a farming family. Soon afterwards, in 1905, an ice house and outdoor dance pavilion were built for the public to enjoy. As the lake’s popularity increased, starting in the 1910s and 20s, cottages sprang up around its shores.

To accommodate the growing population, in 1924 the Cedar Lake Resort was built by the resident Harmon and Livingston families and replaced the ice house and dance pavilion. According to the lake’s historian Phil Knauf, at its start, the Resort had multiple attractions: large dance hall, rental cottages, vendor stand, merry go round, high dive, log roll, and giant water wheel. The popularity of the resort attracted big name bands through the years including Guy Lombardo, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Sylvia.

On February 15, 2006 Cedar Lake Resort burned to the ground in a devastating fire. However, the remains of the Resort were bought by Ray and Debbie Brickner in 2007. By 2009, the pair had rebuilt and re-opened the renowned Cedar Lake Resort, bringing back the weekends of music and dancing. Like Cedar Lake Resort, when the lake needed rehabilitation, the residents stepped up to the job.

Residents Mitch Ashe and Erin Otterson showing off their catch of the day. Photo by Scott Otterson.

In 1950, the Cedar Lake Improvement Association was established with the purpose of weed cutting and lake management. However, by 1967 as the popularity of the lake boomed, and boating and industry increased around the lake, water quality declined. The Association needed help and so created a Sanitary District for the lake.

The Sanitary District’s duties included weed harvesting, lake monitoring, and setting boating and building regulations on the lake. One early management step was the creation of a 600 foot deep, 500 gallon per minute well, to pump water into the lake as needed and keep the lake water level constant to prevent shoreline erosion.

The Sanitary District has been successful at improving and maintaining water clarity. By the 1970s Cedar Lake had become eutrophic. But, the district’s management steps brought down phosphorous levels in the lake and nudged the lake’s trophic status to mesotrophic. Eutrophic lakes with high levels of phosphorous can experience frequent algae blooms and reduced water clarity. Today, Cedar Lake is mesotrophic, meaning it has medium levels of primary productivity, clearer water and supports a large array of aquatic life.

Although the Sanitary District and the Lake Association have been diligent at improving water quality, aquatic invasive species have spread to Cedar Lake through its public boat launch.

“We have a public boat landing and, as with most lakes that have one, this is where we notice our invasives first,” says lake resident Dick Jens. “In the recent past, we have had zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil and the banded mystery snail introduced into Cedar Lake. The Sanitary District is in charge of attempting to control these and prevent other invasives that aren’t here yet.”

In 2004 the Town of Schleswig received a lake planning grant from DNR to help combat the spread of purple loosestrife, curly leaf pondweed, and other invasives in the lake,. With this grant, the Town outlined steps to combat the spread of invasive species. These steps included watercraft inspections, ongoing weed harvests, and outreach to lake residents and visitors.

Cedar Lake has long been a sanctuary for residents and visitors alike and will continue to be so into the future. With the Cedar Lake Improvement Association and the Sanitary District monitoring its waters, the quality of the lake will remain in good hands.

For more information on the efforts of the Sanitary District and Lake Association, contact Scott Otterson at Scottsotter@aol.com. For more history of Cedar Lake, contact the lake historian Phil Knauf at pfknauf100@gmail.com.

 

 Entry written by Alyson Douglas, DNR aquatic invasive species outreach assistant.
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