Living on the Lake: Springtime in the Northwoods
Opportunity to plan for healthy lakes and shorelines
By Eileen Persike
It’s spring in the Northwoods. The days are getting longer, the snow has finally melted, and lakes were free of ice in time for the fishing opener. As water enthusiasts and lake home owners anticipate another glorious summer boating, swimming, fishing and just enjoying area lakes, spring is a good time to get reacquainted with some of the resources, practices and programs available to keep those sparkling waters healthy for generations to come.
Healthy Shoreline Checklist
» Plant a buffer zone of native vegetation close to shore: Filters runoff and slows soil erosion
» Do not use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers
» Opt for a floating or pipe dock: Less disturbing to the lakebed
» Place the floating raft further off shore, out of the weeds: Weeds benefit birds and fish
» Use pea gravel or wood chips on walkways and driveways: Better to soak up runoff than asphalt
» Preserve mature trees: Deep roots stabilize the slope down to the water
» Leave fallen trees and branches in the shallows
» Keep oil and gas away from the water’s edge: Even a small spill has big consequences
» Use untreated wood for shoreline structures like docks
» Kick the cottage lawn habit: Turf allows up to 55% of rainfall wash away
» Replace crumbling concrete breakwalls
» Share your waterfront wisdom with your neighbors
Native plants suitable for wetlands
Wildflowers botanical and common names
Acorus Amerianius (Sweet Flag)
Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
Aster- Doellingeria Umbellata (Flat-Topped Aster)
Aster-Symphytrichum Puniceus (Swamp Aster)
Caltha Palustris (Marsh Marigold)
Chelone Glabra (White Turtlehead)
Eutrochium Maculatum (Joe Pye Weed)
Geum Rivale (Water Avens)
Helianthus giganteus (Giant Sunflower)
Helenium Autumnale (Sneezeweed)
Hypericum Pyrimdatum (Great St. John’s Wort)
Lobelia Siphilitica (Great Blue)
Lysimachia Quadrifolia (Prairie/Whorled Loosestrife)
Lythrum Alatum (Winged Loosestrife)
Mimulus Ringes (Monkey Flower)
Menyanthes Trifoliata (Bog Bean)
Packera (Senecio) Aureus (Golden Groundsel)
Polygonum Amphibium (Water Smartweed)
Scutellaria Lateriflora (Mad Dog Skullcap)
Goldenrod-Solidago Uliginosa (Bog Goldenrod)
Thalictrum Dasycarpum (Tall Meadow Rue)
Verbena Hastata (Blue Vervain)
Grasses, sedges and rushes
Calamagrostis Canadensis (Bluejoint Grass)
Carex Comosa (Bottlebrush Sedge)
Carex Crinita (Sickle Sedge)
Carex Hystericina (Porcupine Sedge)
Carex Lacustris (Lake Sedge)
Carex Lasiocarpa (Woolly Fruit Sedge)
Muehlenbergii (Sand Bracted Sedge
Carex Pensylvanica (Pennsylvania Sedge
Carex Retrorsa (Deflexed Bottlebrush Sedge)
Carex Scoparia (Pointed Broom Sedge)
Carex Stipata (Awl Fruited Sedge)
Carex Stricta (Tussock Sedge)
Carex Vulpinoidea (Fox Sedge)
Grasses and sedges may look similar, but they are very different. Grasses have joints; sedges do not. Sedge leaves are triangular and are covered in a sac-like structure called perigynium.
• Benefits of planting sedges
• Nesting sites for waterfowl and sandhill cranes
• Nesting material for waterfowl and other birds
• Spawning habitat for fish
• Essential food source for waterfowl and other birds and seed-eating and vegetation-eating mammals
• Erosion control on shorelines
• Good for lakeshore restorations
• Useful in rain gardens: some can tolerate both drought and flooding
Local and statewide lakes organizations
Formerly called the Wisconsin Association of Lakes, Wisconsin Lakes is a statewide non-profit organization that works to “protect and enhance the quality of Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes,” according to its website, wisconsinlakes.org. Much like a lake association for the entire state, it represents citizens in the three arms of the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership.
The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership includes government, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; academics, University of Wisconsin-Extension; and citizens, the Wisconsin Lakes organization.
The website features news on lake policy and laws coming out of Madison, lake events, and how to become a member.
Wisconsin Healthy Lakes and Rivers
This organization is a statewide initiative with the purpose of protecting and restoring the health of lakes and rivers by increasing property owner participation in habitat restoration and runoff and erosion control projects.
Through collaboration between private and public shoreland property owners, businesses and the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, the Healthy Lakes action plan works to promote low-cost, easy-to-install best practices that benefit habitat and water quality. The organization offers grants of up to $1,000 to improve shoreland property.
The website helps property owners determine the best practices that are right for their situation by asking a series of questions. Depending on the answers, one of five best practices could be considered.
Best practices for clean water and wildlife habitat, by UW-Extension Lakes specialist Patrick Goggin:
1. Create fish and wildlife habitat. Use “fish sticks,” which are feeding, breeding and nesting areas for all kinds of wildlife and also prevent erosion
2. Improve wildlife habitat, natural beauty and privacy with native plantings. Healthy Lakes can provide template planting plans designed for 350 square feet of space.
3. Prevent runoff from getting into the waterbody with diversion. Diversion moves water to areas where it will soak into the ground and not flow into lakes or rivers.
4. Capture and clean runoff by using rock infiltration practices along roof drip lines and driveways.
5. Create wildlife habitat and natural beauty while capturing and cleaning runoff. Rain gardens do all of that.
Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Association
This non-profit organization has been in existence for 25 years and works to “sustainably preserve, protect and enhance our lakes and river for the benefit of all.” VCLRA accomplishes that mission through advocacy, education and conservation.
Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association
OCLRA’s mission is to “protect and preserve the quality and riparian habitat of the inland waters of Oneida County by serving as an advocate and an information source for and a communication link among lake and river associations and districts, county and local government and the public.” Like Vilas County, this lakes and rivers association achieves its mission through education, collaboration and advocacy.
County Land and Water Conservation Department
The Oneida County Land and Water Conservation Department website [www.oclw.org] offers information on topics such as land and water invasive species, gardening to attract birds and bees, and the latest land and water news that affects the county’s citizens. There are also recorded workshops and webinars that can be viewed on YouTube.