Lake of the Falls is 339 acres of clean water and verdant shoreline that is home to an incredible variety of plant and animal life. We enjoy unpolluted water, clear skies and beauty everywhere we look. The mission statement of the Lake of the Falls Association is “Dedicated to the Preservation of Nature.” Here are some steps we can ALL take to keep our lake as healthy and beautiful as it is now, for coming generations.
Keeping the lake healthy begins on land
Plants on your shoreline protect our lake. A “shoreland buffer” is an area of native plants along your waterfront that extends from the waterline inland at least 35 feet. This planted area holds the soil in place to prevent erosion and absorb and clean runoff water before it flows into the lake. Buffers provide natural beauty and more habitat for an amazing variety of wildlife. And fallen trees left in the water can provide spawing areas for fish and shading for shallow-water plants and animals.
How we maintain our lakefront properties has a tremendous impact on the health of our lake. To create the best habitat for fish and other wildlife, we can take simple steps like maintaining buffer strips on our shoreline and limiting the nitrogen input from fertilizer. Less nitrogen from your lawn fertilizer will help reduce the amount of vegetation growing in the lake, and is one more line of defense against excess algae growth and the dreaded Curly Leaf Pondweed. And better habitat for fish = more fish for you to catch!
The Iron County Land and Water Conservation Department’s Shoreline Restoration Program offers advice and cost sharing for people who want to improve their shorelines. Call Heather Palmquist at 715-561-2234 for all the information you need to get started. And visit healthylakeswi.com for more ideas on using your shoreline to protect our lake.
Clean boats, clean waters
Don’t give aquatic invasive species a free ride into Lake of the Falls! With the growing concern over the spread of AIS up and down the Turtle River chain, we all need to be aware of what’s in our boats when we transport them between water bodies.Whether you are a boater, angler, paddler, or a seaplane pilot, you have an important role to play in keeping our lake free of aquatic invasive species. Make sure your boats, trailers and gear, as well as your guest’s equipment, are free of any clinging vegetation. If clinging debris of any sort is present, get it removed and disposed properly. Your live well should be transported empty and preferably be dried between trips. Even a little water transported in a kayak could harbor spiny water fleas, or our most hated aquatic plant, the curly leaf pondweed.
Curly Leaf Pondweed and Lake of the Falls
The single biggest threat to the health of Lake of the Falls right now is the presence of Curly Leaf Pondweed upriver in Rice Lake and the Turtle River. This non-native plant spreads quickly and forms heavy mats that prevent the growth of other species, severely altering the habitat for fish and other wildlife, and makes the water difficult for boating and swimming. It can only be controlled by hand-pulling, and the best time to do this is in early summer. Unfortunately, this aggressive weed has spread downriver to Pike Lake and a small amount was found in October, 2022, in the river between Pike Lake and Lake of the Falls. Click here to learn more about CLP and how to identify it.
Volunteers are needed every year in June to help the Rice Lake Association with “The Great Weed Pull” in their fight to control this nasty invasive. Watch this video to see what the potential impact of CLP in the Turtle River Chain might be, and visit the RLA’s website to read about ways you can help control the spread!
The Lake of the Falls Association is partnering with Pike Lake Neighbors and the Iron County Department of Land and Water Conservation to coordinate the monitoring and removal of CLP as it moves down the Turtle River toward our lake. VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED to help with the effort! We’re looking for folks to paddle up the river occasionally to look for CLP and, when they find it, pull it out of the riverbed carefully by hand. Training and materials will be supplied. Need an excuse to go for a paddle on a warm summer day? This could be your ticket. Send an email to TurtleRiverVolunteers@gmail.com if you want to help out. With everyone working together, we can keep CLP under control!
More invasives to watch for
Be on the lookout for Yellow Flag Iris, a harmful invasive species! It is a native of Eurasia and can be an invasive garden escapee in Wisconsin’s natural environments. While it is pretty to look at, this plant has some serious negative impacts. All parts of it are poisonous, which results in lowered wildlife food sources. Left unchecked, large mats can form from the rhizomes and affect water flow. And it can spread by seed, allowing it to travel to new sites and out-compete our lovely native Blue Flag Iris. We have one medium size population on Lake of the Falls near the Muskie Point Road bridge.
If you find this growing on your property, please remove it so it can’t spread! The easiest way is to cut the stems below the water line when the flowers are just starting to bloom. This should prevent the spread of the seeds, and it may drown the plants. Better yet, dig them up by the roots. In either case, take the plants to the brush pit on Hadley Road, so they have less chance of coming back next year.
Fortunately we haven’t seen Eurasian Watermilfoil in Lake of the Falls, but it is present in a few other lakes in Iron and Vilas Counties, so we should all be aware of what it looks like! Click here for photos and details. And, if you go up to the Gile Flowage or Lake Superior, please be careful not to bring back any Spiny Water Fleas. They’re the worst! They have tiny, transparent bodies and can attach themselves to fishing lines and downrigger cables, they reproduce asexually, once they arrive they never leave, and they can wreak havoc with a lake’s food chain. Here’s a talk by conservationist Zach Stewart that goes into all the uncomfortable details.
If you see anything you think might be an invasive threat to our lake, talk to a LOFA board member or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see if we can identify it, or get help from someone who can.
And one more thing. . .
People who live in brightly-lit urban areas never have a chance to see what many of us take for granted: a night sky full of stars, the brightness of the full moon, and, occasionally the northern lights. Sadly, our experience of the night sky is sometimes diminished by artificial dusk-to-dawn lighting that impacts our appreciation of our surroundings and can have serious consequences for nocturnal wildlife. Artificial light can interrupt natural body rhythms in both humans and animals. An increased amount of light at night can lower melatonin production resulting in sleep deprivation, fatigue, headaches, stress, anxiety and other problems. Studies also show that light pollution can influence animal behaviors like migration patterns, wake-sleep habits, and habitat formation. Birds guided by moonllight can become confused, lose their way and die. And light pollution is just one of the many reasons our insects are on the decline.
Please consider reducing night glare (and save on your electric bill ) by installing “Dark Sky Friendly” lighting or motion sensors instead of old-fashioned floodlights. Use energy-efficient bulbs in warm colors of amber, orange and red that do not confuse insects, frogs, toads, migrating birds, and nocturnal wildlife. Direct any outdoor lighting downward where it is truly needed. Read here and here for more information.