The August Lake of the Month is Lulu Lake in Walworth County, a 95-acre kettle lake fed by the Mukwonago River and surrounded by high quality and diverse wetlands. Its clear waters are home to diverse fish, amphibians, and reptiles and neighboring bogs and prairies harbor rare and state-threatened plant and animal species. DNR designated Lulu Lake as an Outstanding Resource Water and the Wisconsin Wetland Association identified the area as a “Wetland Gem.” It’s no wonder that The Nature Conservancy and DNR made it a priority to protect this high-quality freshwater system. Together, DNR and The Nature Conservancy control about 97 percent of the lake’s shoreline and the Lulu Lake Preserve and State Natural Area cover more than 1,800 acres.
Botanical Club of Wisconsin canoe fieldtrip on Lulu Lake (Photo courtesy of Botanical Club of Wisconsin Vice President and Regional AIS Education Specialist, Paul Skawinski)
Protection efforts include a unique approach to prevent and control the spread of aquatic invasive species. TNC, DNR, and UW-Lacrosse Biology Professor Tim Gerber have spent the last few summers removing Eurasian water-milfoil by hand, an alternative to chemical and mechanical removal efforts. According to TNC’s Jerry Ziegler, “Our hand removal work on Eurasian water-milfoil was prompted by my desire to avoid using chemicals in such a high-quality body of water as Lulu Lake.” And mechanical removal can produce shoot fragments, which may contribute to the plant’s dispersal. Although hand-pulling is time consuming and expensive, it has been effective in Lulu Lake since the lake is rather small and Eurasian water-milfoil occurs in small patches. The team is receiving harvesting help from local high school interns from the Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future program, which provides students with field-based opportunities to work alongside TNC staff. Read more about the hand harvesting on Lulu Lake in Living Lake Country.
The team is now researching ways to re-establish native plants in Lulu Lake. Gerber is currently researching the effectiveness of using biodegradable coconut-fiber mats to suppress Eurasian water-milfoil. These mats also contain native plant fragments to encourage the re-colonization of native species. In April 2013, Milwaukee Public TV’s “Outdoor Wisconsin,” aired a segment on Lulu Lake Restoration. Watch it now!
Although Lulu Lake has no entry point, it does receive visitors from downstream Eagle Springs Lake, which has a public boat launch. The Eagle Spring Lake Clean Boats, Clean Waters project, a group of dedicated volunteers that perform boat and trailer checks and disseminate information about aquatic invasive species, has joined the area’s efforts to prevent the invaders’ spread. As part of a DNR grant, TNC teamed up with AmeriCorps to create and mail a Lulu Lake Brochure to all Eagle Spring Lake residents explaining the sensitive nature of Lulu Lake and asking residents to check their boats and trailers for aquatic invasive species before entering Lulu Lake. Project RED (Riverine Early Detectors) volunteers are also keeping their eyes on this cherished lake; volunteers are trained to monitor for invasive species in Lulu Lake as well as the Mukwonago River.
Interested in checking out the Lulu Lake yourself? Visitors are welcome to visit the Lulu Lake Preserve but must enter at the parking lot on Nature Road and hike in. Lulu Lake Preserve has more than three miles of hiking trails for those visitors interested in exploring the surrounding sedge meadows, fens, bogs, prairies and oak openings. Or launch your vessel at the Eagle Spring Lake boat launch and make your way up to Lulu Lake. Help keep invasive species out of this sensitive area by cleaning your boat, trailer, and equipment before you launch and after you return. And please follow the signs The Nature Conservancy has posted with their rules for visiting this pristine, sensitive area. Reverse your motor to displace plants that may be tangled in your propellers before entering Lulu Lake. Be careful where you land your vessel; landing boats or going ashore on Conservancy property is prohibited. Knowing and following visitation guidelines will help keep this natural gem glittering for your next trip!
Entry written by Heather Smith