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

Spring has arrived on the Gordon St Croix Flowage. Time to hit the deck!

Spring has arrived on the Gordon Croix Flowage. Time to hit the deck!

Spring is here, and it’s time to hit the deck and relax by the lake. Here’s another in a continuing series of “hit the deck” posts—this time from a lake home I’m currently listing on the Gordon-Saint Croix Flowage in Gordon, WI. Although it’s a relatively modest, affordable cabin, it just happens to have a million-dollar view. (To learn more, please visit my Edina Realty website.)

3 BR home for sale on St Croix Flowage

3 BR home for sale on St Croix Flowage 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the Gordon St Croix Flowage, can I circumnavigate Wilcox Island?

On the Gordon Flowage, can I circumnavigate Wilcox Island?

Wilcox Island - St Croix Flowage

Wilcox Island – St Croix Flowage

This post is in honor of the cabin I recently listed on the north shore of the Saint Croix Flowage, also known as the Gordon Flowage. At 1,913 acres, and with 29 miles of meandering shoreline, the Gordon Flowage is one of the largest, least developed lakes anywhere in northwestern Wisconsin. The Flowage located near near Gordon, Wascott, and Solon Springs, and it’s just west of U.S. Highway 53.

On the east side of the Gordon Flowage, one of the lake’s most prominent features is Wilcox Island. Depending on which map or aerial image you’re viewing, its status as an actual island might be called into question. First-time visitors often wonder… Can I actually make it all the way around Wilcox Island?

The short answer: Maybe, sometimes.

You’ll need a canoe or kayak, preferably a narrow one. And you’ll want to go in the early spring or late fall, when the water is higher and the vegetation lower. Even then, it may not be worth the trouble. The worst time would be in July or August, when the water is low and the reeds are tall. At that time of year it’s too wet to walk and too dry to paddle. And if you follow this route in the winter on skis or snowshoes, watch for areas where the ice may be thin.

Encore Post: The Fish Story of Gordon-St Croix Flowage — Gordon, Wisconsin

Encore Post: The Fish Story of Gordon-St Croix Flowage — Gordon, Wisconsin

This encore post is in honor of this cabin I’ve just listed on the north shore of the St Croix Flowage, also known as the Gordon Flowage. At 1,913 acres, and with 29 miles of meandering shoreline, the Gordon Flowage is one of the largest, least developed lakes anywhere in northwestern Wisconsin. The Flowage is located near near Gordon, Wascott, and Solon Springs, and is just west of U.S. Highway 53. For your enjoyment, I’ve ended this post with some fresh photos taken at various points around the lake.

Here’s the fish story:

Mainly Panfish, Northerns, and Bass
You’re most likely to catch sunfish, crappies, northern pike, and largemouth bass. The Flowage also contains smaller numbers of muskies, smallmouth bass, bullheads, carp, and dogfish.

Stocking History
From 1937 to 1963, the Flowage was stocked regularly with a variety of species—everything from catfish to walleyes. No stocking occurred from 1963 to 2000. Since then, the Flowage has been stocked roughly every other year with both sturgeon and muskies. Despite these various stocking efforts, the Flowage has proven most suited for panfish, northern pike, and largemouth bass.

Preserve the Resource
On days when the fishing is almost too good, please use restraint. Here on the Flowage, the DNR especially encourages voluntary catch-and-release of bluegills and crappies. And, while you may encounter some large largemouths in the Flowage, at this latitude they take many years to reach that size. Please preserve the resource.

Preserve Your Lower Unit
Here on the Flowage, you’ll encounter a few stumps, plus plenty of shallow, rocky reefs. That sort of structure makes for great fishing. It can, however, be rough on boat motors.
In the interest of boating safety, our lake association has marked many of these hazards—but not all. If you’re unfamiliar with the Flowage, you may want to keep your speed down, carry a few extra shear pins, and keep an eye out for obstacles.

St Croix Flowage

St Croix Flowage

St Croix Flowage boat landing

St Croix Flowage boat landing

The St Croix Flowage in Gordon, Wisconsin

The St Croix Flowage in Gordon, Wisconsin

This post is in honor of this cabin I’ve just listed on the north shore of the Saint Croix Flowage, also known as the Gordon Flowage. At 1,913 acres, and with 29 miles of meandering shoreline, the Gordon Flowage is one of the largest, least developed lakes anywhere in northwestern Wisconsin. The Flowage is located near near Gordon, Wascott, and Solon Springs, and is just west of U.S. Highway 53. For your enjoyment, I’ve ended this post with some fresh photos taken at various points around the lake.

The Flowage has a maximum depth of 28 feet and a mean depth of 7 feet; much of it is relatively shallow.  Its water, however, is quite clear.  Secchi disk readings are generally around 8 feet.

The Flowage is a popular, year-round destination for anglers.  You’re most likely to catch sunfish, crappies, northern pike, and largemouth bass.  The Flowage also contains smaller numbers of muskies and smallmouth bass.

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

Just minutes away, you’ll find dozens more rivers and lakes.  You’ll also be close to trails and abundant public land.  Just off US 53; 40 minutes from Superior or Spooner.

There aren’t a lot of sandy beaches on the Flowage, and it’s not great for waterskiing, jet skis, or high-speed boating.  It’s fine, though, for pontoons, fishing boats, and canoes or kayaks.  If you prefer eagles, loons, and otters to PWCs and water skis, then this is the lake for you.

St Croix Flowage

St Croix Flowage

St Croix Flowage, Gordon, WI

St Croix Flowage, Gordon, WI

St Croix Flowage

St Croix Flowage

St Croix Flowage boat landing

St Croix Flowage boat landing

Lake cabins and homes available on the St Croix Flowage.  

Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

Favorite NW Wisconsin Bike Routes: The Gordon Flowage, Bass Lake Road, Whitefish Lake, Lost Lake, Saint Croix River Loop

Looking for good places to bike in northwestern Wisconsin? Check out this 28.5 mile loop in the Gordon-Wascott area.

Starting point: North Shore Bar, at the corner of Flowage Lane and Stuckey road. To get there from Highway 53, just drive west on Flowage Lane for about 3 miles. Great burgers and pizza.

Roads you’ll travel: Flowage Lane, Highway 53, Cty. Rd. Y, Bass Lake Road, Cranberry Lake Road, Lost Lake Road, West Mail Road, Cty Rd. M, Stuckey Road.

Althernate starting points: Downtown Gordon. The Buckhorn features great burgers, Friday fish fries, and daily specials. Or, Gordon Pines golf club at the corner of West Mail Road and County Road Y. Casual dining and full-service bar.

(By the way, this route passes near lake homes I’m listing on Bass Lake, Whitefish Lake, Leader Lake, and Cranberry Lake—plus this home on County Road Y that has a spectacular view of the Gordon Flowage. Please give me a call if you’d like to see these homes. Or, start your own search at www.JeanHedren.com.)

Please check back now and then; I’ll occasionally be posting more of our favorite hiking and biking routes. I’ll try to include a couple photos with each post, but not enough to take all the fun and mystery out of exploring these routes yourself. Stay tuned…

Bass Lake Rd

Bass Lake Rd

Bass Lake Rd

Bass Lake Rd

Lost Lake Rd

Lost Lake Rd

West Mail Rd

West Mail Rd

St Croix River

St Croix River

Moose River

Moose River