What the heck’s a “flowage,” and why is it called that??

Minong Flowage

All over northern Wisconsin, the term flowage has worked its way into dozens of lake names. Here in northwestern Wisconsin, we have the Minong Flowage, Gordon Flowage, Chippewa Flowage, and Tigercat Flowage—and that’s just for starters. And despite the number of flowages in northern Wisconsin, people who live on any one of them can often be heard calling their home lake simply “The Flowage.”

So what exactly is a flowage, and how did they come to be called that?

A flowage is simply a lake that’s formed upstream of a dam; it’s a regionalism that’s rarely heard outside of Wisconsin. In other parts of the country, especially in the South and the West, a flowage might be called a reservoir. A flowage, like a reservoir, can be any shape and size. Some, like the Minong Flowage and Gordon Flowage, were formed when dams flooded large, sprawling areas. Others, like the Colton Flowage in Washburn County, are smaller and have a simpler shoreline that resulted from the flooding of a long, narrow valley.

Nor is the term’s use universal; even around here, plenty of lakes upstream of dams are simply called “lakes.” Examples include Trego Lake, Hayward Lake, Nelson Lake, Moose Lake, and Lake Namekagon. And then there’s the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes that includes Lower Eau Claire Lake, Middle Eau Claire Lake, and Upper Eau Claire Lake. Each lies above a small dam. Although smaller lakes might have been there from the beginning, it’s the dams that give these lakes their present size and shape.

But why “flowage,” especially when it describes the one part of a river that’s no longer flowing? Webster’s defines flowage as a) an overflowing onto adjacent land, b) a body of water formed by overflowing or damming, c) floodwater especially of a stream. That first definition is key; it’s related to a whole body of real estate law surrounding the concept of “flowage easements,” which grant someone the right to flood land.

Flowage easements are most often granted to the state and federal government, but in the past they were often granted to utilities that built dams for generating electricity. Here in northern Wisconsin, flowage easements were also granted to logging companies so they could build dams for regulating water flow during the spring logging drives. They built dams, the water upstream of the dams rose, and then the water flowed onto the adjacent land. And that’s how we got the term “flowage.”

To learn more about any of the lakes and flowages mentioned in this post, go to the menu above and click on NW WI Lakes & Rivers. And for all your northwest Wisconsin real estate needs, whether you’re buying or selling, call Jean Hedren at (218) 590-6634. www.JeanHedren.com

Gordon Dam
Gordon Dam

SOLD 3 BR Log Home with view of St Croix Flowage. 7645 E Cty Rd Y, Wascott WI.

3 BR Log Home, 10 acres, view of St Croix Flowage. 7645 E Cty Rd Y, Wascott WI.


3 bedroom log home on 10 acres with incredible views of Gordon/St Croix Flowage. This home is perched high on a ridge overlooking the Flowage. This home is perfect as your year round home or a weekend getaway.

The property extends down the hillside and abuts county land that has been granted “special use” protection. Includes roughly 6 acres on the south side of Cty Rd Y. There, you’ll find great hunting land with stands, clearings, and trails.

Just a mile from the Gordon/St Croix Flowage boat landing and great fishing for Northern, Bass, and Panfish.

More details here: 7645 E Cty Rd Y, Gordon, WI

Gordon/St Croix Flowage area wildlife – Douglas County WI

Most of the Gordon/St Croix Flowage is relatively wild and undeveloped; if you’re stealthy enough, you’ll see abundant birds and wildlife.

Several pairs of loons, eagles, and ospreys nest here; please enjoy them from a distance. You may also see trumpeter swans, blue herons, sandhill cranes, terns, kingfishers, sandpipers and other shorebirds, and even the occasional pelican. If you’re a birder, we’re definitely worth a visit.

In the flowage, you may spot beavers, otters, and muskrats. Along the shoreline, watch for deer, bear, fisher, fox, mink, and weasels—and, of course, lots of exotic squirrels and chipmunks. (Actually, you may see some squirrels that are a little unusual. In this corner of Wisconsin, we have a small variant population of gray squirrels with black fur.)
We also have a few coyotes and wolves in the area; if you’re very lucky, you may spot one watching from the shoreline at dawn or dusk.

You’ll find very few snakes this far north; none of them are poisonous. The Flowage is, however, home to lots of frogs and turtles. In the spring, our frogs are very musical.

Just sold: well-maintained 2 BR mfg home on St Croix Flowage. 9335 E Cty Rd Y, Gordon, WI.

Sold: Well-maintained and affordable 2 BR mfg home on St Croix Flowage. 9335 E Cty Rd Y, Gordon, WI.

Details: 9335 E Cty Rd Y, Gordon, WI

Property Highlights: 

  • Well-cared for 2 BR manufactured home
  • 120’ frontage on St Croix River with boating access to 1913-acre St Croix Flowage
  • Attractive home interior and landscaped yard
  • Newer 2-car garage – insulated, finished, attic storage
  • LP gas, forced air furnace
  • Riverside patio
  • St Croix Flowage is a popular year round fishing destination for northern, bass, and panfish
  • Popular duck hunting destination
  • Located in Gordon Wisconsin fishing, hunting, ATV, snowmobile country.
  • Easy access to Hwy 53; 40-minutes to Superior/Duluth and 2.5 hours to Minneapolis/St Paul.

Download your free NW Wisconsin property search app for iPhone, iPad, and Android at www.JeanHedren.com

The Gordon/St Croix Flowage – Largest lake in Douglas County WI offers great fishing and boating!

One of the best-kept secrets in northwestern Wisconsin is the Gordon/St Croix Flowage.

This lake is large and can handle a fair number of boaters and fishing enthusiasts with plenty of room and lots of enjoyment for everyone. Even at the busiest time of year, this lake never feels crowded. I’m lucky to live on this wonderful lake.

With its 29 miles of meandering shoreline, this 1900-acre flowage is one of the most pristine, quiet lakes remaining in Northwestern Wisconsin. Most of its shoreline is public land that’s unlikely to ever be developed—partly because it’s protected, and partly because it’s low-lying ground that wouldn’t be suitable for development anyway.
Although much of the lake is quite shallow, water quality is good—and so’s the fishing. Abundant structure and aquatic vegetation make the Flowage problematic for water-skiers, but a paradise for anglers, pontooners, and paddlers.

Because the Flowage is relatively undisturbed, you’ll see abundant wildlife. Several pairs of loons, eagles, and ospreys nest here. Please enjoy them from a distance.

What’s in a name?
Our flowage is sometimes called the Gordon Flowage, and sometimes the Saint Croix Flowage—not to be confused with Upper Saint Croix Lake, which is upstream a few miles at Solon Springs. For clarity, it’s sometimes referred to as the Gordon-Saint Croix Flowage. Most days, we just call it “The Flowage.”

What the heck’s a flowage?
If you’re not from the area, this term may be a little mysterious. It’s used to describe the lake formed upstream from a dam. Our flowage was formed by the Gordon Dam. Even before the dam was built, however, a slightly smaller lake formed here naturally.

Welcome to the lake. Enjoy your stay.

Upstream From a National Park – St Croix National Scenic Riverway

“But I thought no one could build a house on the Upper St Croix River!  Isn’t that some kind of Wild and Scenic Riverway?”

Indeed it is.  But for whatever reason, the Wild and Scenic part of the St Croix River officially begins at the Gordon Dam; that’s four or five miles downstream from where I’m sitting right now.  Unofficially, however, my own front yard is pretty wild and scenic.

Yours could be, too.  The Gordon-St Croix Flowage is one of the best-kept secrets in northwestern Wisconsin.  With its 27 miles of meandering shoreline, this 1900-acre flowage is one of the most pristine, quiet lakes remaining in the entire region.  Most of its shoreline is public land that’s unlikely to ever be developed.

Prefer eagles and loons to jet skis and water skis?  This is the lake for you.

Every year, a very limited number of cabins, homes, or buildable lots becomes available on or near the Flowage (and occassionally even on the stretch of river just upstream from Gordon).

Looking for something just as scenic, but perhaps a little less wild?  Check out 855-acre Upper Saint Croix Lake.  The headwaters of the St Croix River, it contains abundant walleye, northern pike, bass, and panfish—plus the occasional brook trout, brown trout, or musky.  The village of Solon Springs lies along its western shore; this lake is a bit more developed.  It’s deeper, and better for boating and water skiing.

Even this lake, however, has quiet corners where you’ll still find privacy and tranquility.

Search for homes or cabins for sale on the St Croix Flowage, St Croix River, or Upper St Croix Lake

Is Upper St Croix Lake, Solon Springs, Wisconsin, right for you?

At 855 acres, Upper St Croix Lake is one of the Douglas County’s, Northwest Wisconsin, larger lakes.  The headwaters of the St Croix River, it contains abundant walleye, northern pike, bass, and panfish—plus the occasional brook trout, brown trout, or musky.

The village of Solon Springs is located along the lake’s west side; there are also a number of cabins and nice lake homes along the lake’s east side.  This lake has a more “urban” feel than some other lakes, and you’ll see lots of activities on weekends.  Most weekdays, however, it’s fairly quiet.

Down the lake and down the river, you’ll find great fishing and paddling in the stretch between Solon Springs and Gordon.  Next, you’ll enter the 1900-acre St Croix Flowage (also known locally as the Gordon Flowage).  A local favorite for fishing, waterfowling, paddling, and pontooning, it can also be accessed from multiple boat landings.  Downstream from the Gordon Dam, you’ll enter the St Croix National Wild and Scenic Riverway; if you like, you can follow it all the way to the Mississippi.  Leave from home, and you’ll have begun at the beginning.

From your home on Upper St Croix Lake you’ll be close to shopping in Solon Springs, and within easy commuting distance of Superior, Duluth, Spooner, or Hayward.