Chippewa Flowage

The Chippewa Flowage, a 15,300-acre impoundment, is located in central Sawyer County, 15 miles east of Hayward.

First filled in 1924, the "Big Chip" was created as a means to augment downstream water flow for power generation and flood control. Dotted with approximately 200 undeveloped islands, it is Wisconsin's third-largest lake and boasts a highly irregular, wooded, and generally undeveloped 233-mile shoreline. Although Xcel Energy still owns and maintains the dam which creates the Chippewa Flowage, the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa operates an electrical power generation facility at the dam on the Chippewa River near Winter, Wisconsin.

sunset

sunset on the flowage.

For decades, the Flowage has been highly regarded throughout the Midwest for its spectacular natural scenery and high-quality recreation, especially fishing. Historically, the Chippewa Flowage has been considered a premier muskellunge lake and earned the reputation as the waters that produced the world record musky. It also provides some of the finest walleye fishing in Wisconsin.

The Flowage offers a fishing experience generally found only on lakes farther north in Minnesota or Canada. Its seemingly endless maze of islands, points, bays, floating bogs and channels offers visitors numerous opportunities for exploration, discovery and a feeling of wildness within the northern forest landscape. Camping at one of the primitive island campsites is an opportunity not common in Wisconsin. Visitors rate the natural scenery, undeveloped "wild" character, "uncrowded" atmosphere and the fine fishing as the Flowage's outstanding attributes.

The local topography is a mosaic of rolling hills, valleys, streams, and bogs that reflect the glacial origin of the landscape. The Flowage's shorelands are generally forested with a mixture of aspen, birch, pine, northern hardwoods, and oak. Mature aspen forests predominate but in many places longer-lived hardwoods and conifers are gradually replacing them. Almost all birds and animals that are indigenous to northern Wisconsin are found within the area and include bald eagle, osprey, and loon. Wildlife viewing opportunities enhance the attractiveness of the Flowage to visitors.

Location and directions

The Chippewa Flowage is located in central Sawyer County in northwestern Wisconsin. Access from the south is via either State Highway 27 and 70 and Sawyer County Highway CC or from the north via Sawyer County Highway B and CC. Access points are off County Highway CC in the central portion of the property, County Highway B on the north, or via County Highway G and Dam Road on the southeast side. The property office is located on Highway 27 at the DNR Service Center in Hayward.

Activities

Recreational opportunities

  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Cross Country Sking
  • Snowmobiling (designated trails only)
  • ATVing (designated trails only)
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Fishing - walleye, black crappie, muskellunge, bluegill
  • Bird Watching
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Snowshoeing

Objective

Flowage management

The islands and surrounding shorelands on the Flowage are owned by public, tribal, and private landowners. Of the 233 miles of shoreline the State owns about 50%; remaining land ownership is approximately 30% Tribal, 12% National Forest, and 8% privately owned.

Partners for the future

Cedar Swamp Island in Winter
DNR Photo

In August of 2000, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (LCO) formally joined efforts under the guidance of the Chippewa Flowage Joint Agency Management Plan [PDF]
DNR PUB-LF-028 2001. This plan dedicates the cooperative efforts of these three partners to the long-term management of the Flowage to protect the natural features and to provide uniform regulation.

The overall management goal is "to perpetuate the undeveloped shoreline character of the Chippewa Flowage and to manage for compatible resource opportunities."

Islands, shoreland and forests

To protect the natural character of the lakeshore there are 100- and 200-foot wide shoreline protection zones on approximately half of the Flowage shorelands. Deed restrictions on these lands prevent changes within these zones, including cutting of native vegetation and placement of buildings and signs.

winter scene
DNR Photo

On the islands and mainland shoreline easily visible from the water, vegetation is managed for a natural-appearing landscape. Emphasis is placed on promoting long-lived tree species, big tree character, and mature vegetative communities. Management also focuses on providing nesting and brood-rearing areas for endangered, threatened and sensitive species, including suitable habitat for eagles, osprey, great blue herons, and loons.

On backland areas not seen from the water, vegetation is managed for a mosaic of forest stands of different ages to provide a broad range of habitats for a variety of native wildlife and plant species.

Under the plan, protecting the natural aesthetics of the Flowage for the long term is the principal management goal. Under the continued good stewardship of the three partners, the Chippewa Flowage will remain a valuable resource for its visitors and inhabitants.

Visitors must do their part to protect the Flowage by complying with use regulations and by stridently protecting the natural lakeshores that draw people to the Flowage. Visitors also hold an obligation to understand the use regulations and identify whether the lands are publicly owned, tribal, or private.

Public access and use regulations differ between DNR, LCO, and USFS managed lands. Tribal lands, except for designated public campsites, are not open to the public.

Photos

Picture Gallery

We've compiled pictures of the Chippewa Flowage.

thumbnail: Cedar Swamp Island in Winter thumbnail: CC North Landing 1 thumbnail: CC North Landing 2 thumbnail: Crystal Lake thumbnail: Winter Dam Landing thumbnail: Bear Scavenging Trash thumbnail: Crane Campsite thumbnail: big Muskie thumbnail: Sunset 1 thumbnail: Sunset 2 thumbnail: Little Banana Island Campsite thumbnail: Invasive Purple Loosetrife thumbnail: lake view thumbnail: Turkey Vulture Island Campsite thumbnail: winter scene thumbnail: campsite thumbnail: campsite thumbnail: Weiner Island campsite sign thumbnail: Darrow Island campsite sign thumbnail: Dolly Island campsite sign thumbnail: perched eagle and dragonfly thumbnail: perched eagle thumbnail: hawkweed thumbnail: kayak on the shore thumbnail: kayak on the shore thumbnail: kayak on the shore thumbnail: kayak on the shore thumbnail: Weiner Island campsite sign thumbnail: lakeview thumbnail: lakeview thumbnail: lakeview thumbnail: lakeview thumbnail: lakeview thumbnail: wooded campsite thumbnail: wooded campsite thumbnail: path with toilet sign thumbnail: winter scene thumbnail: winter scene with snowmobiles

Submit Your Pictures for our Gallery

Submit your pictures of the Chippewa Flowage by contacting:

Property Manager
Department of Natural Resources
10220 State Road 27
Hayward, WI 54843
715-634-2688

Thank you Ann Runyard for submitting pictures for our gallery.

Contacts/Partners

Contact information
For questions and comments about the Chippewa Flowage contact:
Property Manager
Department of Natural Resources
10220 State Road 27
Hayward WI 54843
715-634-9658 ext. 3513
Chequamagon/Nicolet National Forest [exit DNR]
USDA Forest Service
604 Nyman Ave
Hayward WI 54843
715-634-4821
Conservation Department
Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe [exit DNR]
13394 W Trepania Road
Hayward WI 54843
715-634-0102
Partners
Additional information about the Chippewa Flowage may be obtained from the following:
Chippewa Flowage Lake Association [exit DNR]
P O Box 915
Hayward WI 54843
Chippewa Flowage Resort Association [exit DNR]
10630 W Twin Bay Road
Hayward WI 54843
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau [exit DNR]
P O Box 1055
Hayward WI 54843
715-634-4801
1-800-724-2992
Chippewa Flowage Area Property Owner's Association [exit DNR]
P O Box 555
Hayward WI 54843-0555
Wisconsin Association of Lakes (WAL) [exit DNR]
4513 Vernon Blvd Suite 101
Madison WI 53705
Last revised: Friday January 10 2014