Where’s the Lake?

I was googling places to visit near St. Paul, and was drawn to Willow River State Park in Hudson, WI. It had a nature center, trails, and a cute little lake and beach to hang out. I set the coordinates in my GPS system in my truck and headed out. As I was driving in the park, I should have been able to see the lake but only a big meadow and prairie was there. Perplexed, I drove to the boat launch, same thing, no lake. I continued on to the Nature Center and inquired about the lake.

Recent dam inspections brought up concerns about the existing dam’s structural integrity and the ability of the existing structure pass projected 100 and 1000 year flood flows. A complete drawdown of Little Falls Lake began in June 2015. The lake has now been completely drained. Completion of the new dam is targeted early 2020, and the lake will return. I am going to ask my cousin to visit the lake next year when it’s back, take some pictures to match the ones I shared below of the boat launch and beach. I will blog again about it as a “Before and After” piece.


In the last 4 years, many creatures have thrived in the lake-less environment. When the dam is complete and the lake returns what happens to them? Part of me says NO to damming the river. On the other hand, it was the lake that precisely drew me to visit and explore the state park. And, new critters will appreciate the lake habitat. How does one balance recreation and wildlife. I don’t pretend to know the answer.


This little experience also got me wondering about our global navigation systems. The lake has been gone 4 years, but it clearly showed up in my Google search as still there. My trucks Sync navigation also showed the lake as still there. When I checked Waze (a GPS App) on my phone, it did not show the lake. I found it all a little curious.

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