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.
Moose 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.