Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Lake Superior Northwoods Region -

Also known as:  Hayward Lakes

Known for its “really big muskie,” Lac Courte Oreilles near Hayward in Sawyer County has been a popular recreation spot with anglers for well over a hundred years. The fertile Wisconsin Northwoods with its wild rice and abundant wildlife has been calling to people for much longer.

Mounds on the southern shore of Lac Courte Oreilles point to the area being inhabited as far back as 500 B.C. More recently the area around Lac Courte Oreilles and the other Hayward Lakes, including Grindstone Lake, Round Lake, and nearby Lake Chippewa, has been inhabited by the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa. The LCO Band is one of six bands thought to have migrated along the St. Lawrence Waterway. The lakes were popular wild rice gathering grounds for the LCO Band. Originally called Ojibwa, the LCO Band settled on the shores of what was then known as Ottaway Lake after a child died and was buried there one winter. The grief-stricken parents refused to leave and the village grew up around them.

It’s been said that the history of Lac Courte Oreilles and Sawyer County can be traced from “beaver pelts, white pine, and summer resorts.” French fur traders were the first white inhabitants of the area. They traded with the local Indians, intermarried and were accepted into their culture. Courte Oreilles means “short ears” and is the name given the Indians by the French. After the traders opened posts and settled the area, the timber barons moved in to log it. Today Hayward is home to the Lumberjack World Championships as a tribute to its timber rich past. Held annually since 1960 the lake’s contest draws over 12,000 visitors a year. Lumberjacks compete at chopping, sawing, logrolling, and a 90 foot tree climb.

Logging changed the area, but the beautiful water brought visitors and summer resorts. The first fishing clubs started as early as 1889, giving anglers from as far away as Chicago and even Kentucky a place to fish and relax. Meanwhile the Lac Courte Oreilles Indians were living on a reservation created by a treated signed in 1854. The reservation is 48,000 acres in Sawyer County and includes about half of the lake. The LCO Band has been instrumental in protecting the lake’s water quality, and they still harvest wild rice and spearfish on Lac Court Oreilles.

Lac Courte Oreilles is a large, deep, clear natural drainage lake at the headwaters of the Couderay River. The waters of Grindstone Lake flow into Lac Court Oreilles through Grindstone Creek, and water flows out of Lac Court Oreilles into Little Lac Court Oreilles and Billy Boy Flowage created in 1936. With over 5,000 acres of water there is plenty of room for anglers and recreational boaters, and the lake has healthy populations of walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and bluegill. There are also crappie and largemouth bass and some gigantic muskie. In fact, the second largest muskie was caught in Lac Courte Oreilles in 1949 by Cal Johnson. The record for the 67 pound 8 ounce fish can be seen at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward. Shaped like a 143 foot long, 41 foot tall muskie, the museum has everything to do with fishing, and visitors can even stand in the muskie’s mouth.

In winter there is ice fishing, and snowmobiles can drive across Lac Courte Oreilles. Sawyer County has cross-country skiing, and Hayward is the home of the largest American cross-country ski race. The three-day competition draws visitors from all over. There are plenty of trails for hiking and ATV’s near Lac Courte Oreilles, and nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has over 800,000 acres to explore. Hayward has great restaurants, all kinds of accommodations, and any amenities visitors could want.

The deep, clear water and exceptional fishing will call visitors to Lac Courte Oreilles. The beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods, rich history and fantastic recreation opportunities will keep them there.

Things to do at Lac Courte Oreilles

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lac Courte Oreilles

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Lac Courte Oreilles Photo Gallery

Lac Courte Oreilles Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: LCO Band and Wisconsin DNR

Surface Area: 5,039 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,286 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,288 feet

Average Depth: 34 feet

Maximum Depth: 92 feet

Water Volume: 169,000 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 774

Drainage Area: 66 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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