Lake of the Month: Deer Lake in Polk County

Enjoying Deer Lake (photo by Tom McBride)

Before Lake Appreciation Month comes to an end, we are rolling out our new, re-occurring blog series titled Lake of the Month. This series is intended to highlight lakes with interesting and unique stories and introduce viewers to the Department’s Lakes Pages – a resource for all individuals interested in learning more about a particular Wisconsin Lake.  The Lakes Pages contain information on lake size, depth, health, management, and recreation. The site allows users to search for their favorite lake by name, county, region, public access type, fish species, or water clarity.

Our inaugural featured lake is Deer Lake in Polk County; a lake approximately 800 acres in size that lies five miles east of St. Croix Falls.  Deer Lake experienced tremendous success with watershed improvement projects in the last two decades.  After more than 15 years of state, county, and especially local volunteer efforts to control phosphorus runoff into the lake, phosphorus loading was reduced by more than 50 %! With nearly 25 years of Secchi depth data, recent conservation and restoration projects are believed to be responsible for a 5 foot increase in water clarity.

So who is behind this extraordinary achievement? The DNR, Polk County, interested citizens, and the two lake associations – the Deer Lake Conservancy (DLC) and the Deer Lake Improvement Association (DLIA) – have joined forces to restore and protect the lake. Organized efforts to improve the quality of life on Deer Lake began in 1939, when the DLIA was formed to mitigate falling water levels. DLIA has expanded its mission in the last 74 years; their current efforts include preservation of Deer Lake through social interaction, education, recreation, and the implementation of environmental goals and practices.  In 1995, the Deer Lake Conservancy was formed with the purpose of preserving the surrounding land that contributes to the natural, scenic, recreational, and productive value of the lake. These two groups have worked together to design and implement many of the projects within and around Deer Lake that have led to improvements in water quality.

Past improvement projects include wetland and prairie restoration, conservation easement obtainment, rain garden installation, storm water pond construction, and invasive species removal – just to name a few. An iron-enhanced sand filtration system – an idea borrowed from the University of Minnesota labs– is in the works to treat agricultural runoff. Infiltration basins are being utilized to reduce the amount of runoff from impervious surfaces around the lake. Visit their shared website,, to learn more about current and past projects and exciting social events (Music on the Lake includes a band performance from a pontoon!). 

The Conservancy has over 3 miles of walking trails open to the public for those interested in exploring restored prairies and wetlands.  Don’t forget your scuba gear, a navy helicopter once crashed into Deer Lake – rumor is that it dipped too low trying to catch a glimpse of local sunbathing beauties!

Deer Lake sunset (photo by Tom McBride)


Entry written by Heather Smith
This entry was posted in Lake News, Water Quality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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