Yellow Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Lake Superior Northwoods Region -

Every lake boasts about the size of their fish, but Yellow Lake in Burnett County of northwest Wisconsin doesn’t need to boast. It has the record to prove it. In 1979 Jon Procai pulled a 79 inch long, 179 pound-10 ounce state record lake sturgeon out of Yellow Lake. Not all the fish in the lake are as big as that man-sized monster, but there are more than enough big fish to challenge any angler.

Also known as Big Yellow Lake, Yellow Lake is a natural drainage lake on the Yellow River. The river, called “Riviere Jaune” in French, likely got its name from the tannin in its water. At almost 2,300 acres Yellow Lake is the largest lake in Burnett County which borders Minnesota. The lake connects to 348 acre Little Yellow Lake and has 243 acres of marsh wetlands. Although Yellow Lake itself is not dammed, its water levels are controlled by a headwater control structure on the Danbury Flowage. The structure is managed by the Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Power Company.

The first inhabitants around Yellow Lake were the Native Americans, and by the 1800’s more than a thousand lived around the lake. In 1833 Reverend Fred Ayer and his wife established a mission and opened a school at the outlet of Yellow Lake. By 1874 the first non-native families moved into the area. Like so much of the Wisconsin Northwoods, the area around Yellow Lake was established by fur trading and logging. Visitors to Yellow Lake can explore its history at the Forts Folle Avoine Historical Park. The living history park in nearby Danbury is 80 wooded acres along the Yellow River. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a reconstruction of fur trading posts in their actual 1802 – 1805 sites. There is also a Woodland Indian village.

Yellow Lake’s history, however, doesn’t end there. It also has a rich history as a resort and recreation area, and a past as colorful as its name. In the 1920’s a bridge was built between Big Yellow Lake and Little Yellow Lake. Rumor has it that Al Capone built the bridge as a secondary escape route from a dance hall he frequented above Yellow Lake Lodge. No one will ever know for sure, but the bridge is still controversial because it limits larger boat traffic from Big Yellow Lake to Little Yellow Lake.

Boating on Yellow Lake is good and there is also water skiing and jet skiing. The lake is considered a great muskie lake. It has some trophy sized fish, but it is more popular because of the number of fish. There are also healthy populations of walleye, bluegill, northern pike, crappie, large mouth and small mouth bass and of course lake sturgeon.

The Town of Yellow Lake is on the lake’s shore. It has restaurants, stores for provisions and amenities, and accommodations range from campgrounds to resorts. Nearby Danbury is larger and has additional restaurants, shops and accommodations. For visitors who like to hike, bike, or ride horse back, the Gandy Dancer Trail has an overlook on Yellow Lake. The trail is a 90 mile former railroad corridor that runs from St. Croix Falls to Superior. Named for the men who laid the rails, the trail is a great way to explore northwest Wisconsin. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is 252 miles of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers preserved for recreation. Dedicated in 1968, it’s a beautiful place to canoe or kayak. The riverway also forms the eastern boundary of Minnesota’s St. Croix State Park. An easy drive from Yellow Lake, the state park has over 30,000 acres of woods and wildlife to explore.

With it’s rich history, fantastic boating and truly gigantic fish, Yellow Lake is sure to become a favorite Wisconsin destination for the whole family.

Things to do at Yellow Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park

Fish species found at Yellow Lake

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sturgeon
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Yellow Lake Photo Gallery

    Yellow Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Water Level Control: Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Company

    Surface Area: 2,287 acres

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 928 feet

    Average Depth: 19 feet

    Maximum Depth: 31 feet

    Lake Area-Population: 2,851

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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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