Ellen Lake, North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed (MI05)
Ellen Lake, North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed (MI05)
Ellen Lake (32500)
111.94 Acres
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin Natural Communities.
Deep Headwater
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of monitoring data stored in SWIMS. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
Deep Headwater
Deep headwater lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Ellen Lake, in the North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed, is a 111.94 acre lake that falls in Sheboygan County. This lake is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently not considered impaired.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Lake Ellen Subwatershed is located in the northcentral portion of the watershed and consists of two intermittent
streams, a small pond and Lake Ellen.

Lake Ellen is a 121 acre, seepage lake maximum depth of 47 feet and a mean depth of 23 feet.
Lake Ellen stratiefies in both summer and winter. Hardwood swamp wetlands adjoin the southwestern portion of the
lake. The outlet of Lake Ellen discharges to the North Branch in the Cascade Swamp Subwatershed. Phosphorus
loading to the lake does not appear to be a significant problem, but contributes to moderate algal blooms and some
nuisance aquatic vegetation. A spring-fed tributary which flows through tely owned pond and discharges to the
north side of the lake has historical upstream manure storage problems, pasturing and a failing septic system
which have contributed to high bacteria and nutrient levels in the stream, and ultimately to Lake Ellen. I
Although these problems have been substantially corrected, perceived issues by area residents continue. Practically
speaking, low flows in this tributary and the pond's natural function as a sediment and nutrient trap, it may be some
time before the pond ceases discharge of accumulated pollutants to Lake Ellen. Conflicting use by boaters, skiers and
anglers is a major recreational use problem in the lake. To help reduce these conflicts, areas of the lake have been
designated for specific uses.

The intermittent tributary entering the east shore of Lake Ellen was not evaluated.

No toxic screening has been conducted on streams in this drainage system.

Fisheries. Lake Ellen supports a warm-water sport fishery and is currently managed for bass, panfish, northern pike
and walleye. Fisheries for the latter two species are supplemented by stocking because existing spawning habitat is
limited. Overharvest however, appears to be the most significant factor limiting sustainable fisheries for these species.
Survival of stocked walleye has been poor in this lake and is scheduled for reevaluation. Trout have also been stocked
in the distant past. Overall, surveys suggest that this lake may be best managed for the self-sustaining populations of
largemouth bass and panfish. Aquatic vegetation and insufficient spawning areas may also be important factors limiting
the current fishery and require further evaluation.

Date  1990

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Source: 1968, Surface Water Resources of Sheboygan County Ellen Lake T14N, R21E, Section 29, 32 Surface Acres = 110, S.D.F. = 1.33, Maximum Depth = 48 feet.

One of the largest natural lakes in the county; fertile and highly productive water. Gradual decline of northern pike spawning grounds and no known natural reproduction of walleyes warrants periodic stocking of these species to supplement native population. Bass, bluegills, northern pike, and walleyes constitute the core of the fishery. The lake was formerly managed for trout. Conflicting use by boaters, water skiers, and fishermen presents a major use problem. Periodic algae blooms, turbid water, and minor fluctuations in water level are problems confronting the use and esthetic value of the resource. At times, the outlet functions as an inlet. Buoys have been placed in certain areas to help segregate and rectify conflicting activities. The presence of rough fish may impose future management problems. Three resorts, 2 boat rentals, camping area, and a public access with parking are available. Twenty-five acres of adjoining wetlands (mixed hardwood swamp) have significantvalue for wildlife in the area.

Date  1968

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Ellen Lake, North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed (MI05) Fish and Aquatic LifeEllen Lake, North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed (MI05) RecreationEllen Lake, North Branch Milwaukee River Watershed (MI05) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Lake Ellen (WBIC 32500) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use and the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting these designated uses and was not considered impaired.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek


Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available. Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.


Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.


Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Watershed Characteristics

Lake Ellen is located in the North Branch Milwaukee River watershed which is 149.67 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (45.40%), grassland (20.30%) and a mix of wetland (15.50%) and other uses (18.80%). This watershed has 159.81 stream miles, 886.38 lake acres and 13,793.69 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, High for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

Ellen Lake is considered a Deep Headwater under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model resultsand DNR staff valiation processes that confirm or update predicted conditions based on flow and temperature modeling from historic and current landscape features and related variables. Predicated flow and temperatures for waters are associated predicated fish assemblages (communities). Biologists evaluate the model results against current survey data to determine if the modeled results are corect and whether biological indicators show water quaity degradation. This analysis is a core component of the state's resource management framework. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.

Deep headwater lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.