Lake History

A brief history of Muskellunge Lake as we know it.

At a hearing on September 18,1945 between the Public service commission of Wisconsin and the residents of Muskellunge lake to determine the normal water level of the lake. The following was excerpted from the testimony given. “Muskellunge Creek is a meandering (approximately 3 miles from the Lake to Little St. Germain Lake), narrow, and of low gradient. It was subject to the accumulation of logs, brush and debris. It seems to have been the habitat of the beaver for many years. The beavers would build their dams in the stream and maintain the same until the timber in the vicinity used for food became exhausted and then they would move to a different location. As far as the record shows, Beavers had dams on the creek as far back as 31 years ago. From time to time until about 1935, some of the dams were abandoned by the beavers and rebuilt in different locations, whereas man destroyed some of the dams. From 1932 – 1935 the beavers “finally got out of control” and their dams were blasted from time to time because they caused high water, which inundated the town road. Thus the activities of the beavers resulted in undesirable fluctuations of the water level of the lake. Their dams were finally removed about 1935 -1937. It appears that a crew from the CCC camps cleared Muskellunge Creek of brush and other obstructions, including beaver dams.”

At this hearing various testimonies were given regarding the water level of the lake. This hearing established the normal water level is 91.84 feet elevation with reference to specific benchmarks described at this hearing. A recommendation was given at this hearing that the residents of Muskellunge Lake, the town of Cloverland, or Vilas county residents construct, maintain and operate a dam in the outlet steam for the purpose of maintaining the lake at a normal level.

Historically the Railroad Commission of the State of Wisconsin had jurisdiction over the property where the dam now exists. At some time this was turned over to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin who approved the original construction of the dam as described below.

In the Fall of 1948, the Muskellunge Lake Property Owners Association was granted permission to construct, maintain and operate said dam to maintain water/lake levels (as decided in 1945 by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin) for conservation of the lake. Not all residents of the lake agreed with the normal level of 91.84 as set by the Public Service Commission. Some believed the lake level should be higher , so they attempted to build up the dam with old bead springs, sheet metal, logs, etc. Others believed the water needed to be lowered and would “blow” up the dam. This ongoing dispute occurred at least between 1956 and into the mid 1980’s.

The Muskellunge Lake boat landing has been evolving since its inception. It has always belonged to one department or another in Vilas County. In spite of some reports, the DNR has never had jurisdiction over it. The Vilas County Forestry Department controls and maintains the boat landing at least since 1973. The first “public” boat landing is noted around 1966. Boats could be cragged into the lake in the area of the culvert on Musky Road. Because the landing was so close to the public road, Vilas County had the right of way to the property. In 1973 when a subdivision was approved for the area, the boat landing was moved to its present location after an easement was granted to the Vilas County Forestry Department from the nearby property owner. Pictures from that era show a rudimentary approach with a small pier. It consisted of a concrete plank landing, parking for 6 cars with trailers, and a gravel road. The Forestry Department has upgraded the landing through the years with contributions from Muskies Inc. the last upgrade occurred in 2003-2004 making it handicapped accessible and for boat launching improvements.

Aerial photos from the Forestry Department show a significant increase in shoreline structures from 1950 – 2000. In 1950 there were approximately 16 structures including 2 resorts. In 2000 there were indications of at least 85 structures/piers.

October 20, 1990 an organizational meeting was held with 47 (37 property owners) in attendance to establish a Lake association. Guest speakers from the DNR and the Wisconsin Federation of lakes Inc. spoke on who and why to establish a lake association. By-laws were approved.

Muskellunge Lake Association Achievements

Spring 1991 – Water sample testing began using sampling kits purchased through and tested by UW – Stevens Point.

1992 – The DNR provided water sampling kits at no cost

Winter of 1992 – A freeze out on the lake killed much of the fish population. (over the years, the lake experienced several freeze-outs). As a result, the Lake Association decided to install a aerator to supply adequate oxygen levels to prevent future fish kills. A 1/10 acre of land on Musky Road which includes 176 feet of lake frontage was deeded to the association by Milo Schandlemeir for $1.00. the DNR and Sport Fishing Restoration Club provided the funding for the aerator system, the small building that houses the aerator, fencing, and other miscellaneous equipment.

1993 – Dam repair work was completed.

Winter of 1994 – The aerator was is in place and operating. Maintenance of the aerator is the responsibility of the lake association. It is now put into operation every year when the ice reaches a thickness of 12 inches.

1994 – A general plant survey was conducted by the DNR Rhinelander, Wisconsin office.

July 1994 – A petition was circulated to all property owners to rezone privately owned land around and adjacent to Muskellunge Lake form All Purpose – General Business to R1 Single Family residential. County owned forestry land was exempted.

January 1995 – The Vilas County Board approved the resolution.

1995 – The Lake Association purchased their own testing equipment allowing for water sampleing and testing time to be reduced from 2 ½ to 3 hours to 20 minutes. The unit can be used to take water samples in freezing temperatures.

1996 – A macro –invertebrate study was completed as a part of a research project sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy of Science.

2002 – Completion of a 3 year USGS study for lake hydrology, water quality, and phosphorus loading.

2005 – Completion of a one year study to provide a comprehensive plan for treatment and management of the lake for the future.

Contributions for the history;
Lake residents, Vilas County Forestry Department, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, Wisconsin DNR, Vilas County Survey Department, Town of Cloverland, and eagle River Historical Society Museum.

Written by Justine White – Created by Holly Spieker

A Brief History
Harvesting and Chemicals
History of Muskellunge Lake

90% of the shoreline is privately owned with the balance being Vilas county forest lands.

There are currently 109 private land owners on the lake. The entire lake area is zoned single family residential.

There are no commercial businesses on the lake.

A public boat landing is located on county forest lands at N45, 57.501 – W89, 22.663 Access to the landing is off a gravel road ¼ mi south of CTH G off Balsam Lane.

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