Arbutus Lake*, East Fork Black River Watershed (BR07)
Arbutus Lake*, East Fork Black River Watershed (BR07)
West Arbutus Beach, Arbutus Lake (1727700)
0.08 Miles
0 - 0.08
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.
Impounded Flowing Water
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.
Clark, Jackson
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.
Impounded Flowing Water
This classification includes waterbodies created by dams (mill ponds, reservoirs, flowages, and other impoundments) with a residence time of 14 days or more (under summer (June – Sept) mean low flow conditions with a 1 in 10 year recurrence interval (US EPA 2000)). Many natural lakes also have dams or water level control structures. However, to be included in the Impounded Flowing Waters category, the dam or water level control structure, must account for more than half of a waterbody’s maximum depth. Impoundments with a residence time of less than 14 days should be covered under the rivers and stream assessment methodology process.
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.


This impoundment on the Black River is an intensively used recreational resource in Jackson and Clark counties. Both counties maintain parks on its shores and public access to the lake. Lake Arbutus has a surface area of 839 acres, with an average depth of 16 feet and maximum depth of 50 feet. A consumption advisory for mercury contamination exists for most game fish (WDNR, 1997). Additional representative fish species should be collected for contaminant analysis to update the advisory database and track mercury concentration trends (Amrhein). Due to the fish advisory, Lake Arbutus is on the 1998 Wisconsin impaired waters (303(d)) list provided to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Many homes border the lake, some of which have illegal structures too near the shoreline. The county zoning administrators of Jackson and Clark counties are responsible for enforcing shoreland zoning. WDNR staff should support county staff in enforcement of existing county ordinances and education of lakefront landowners of the need and importance of shoreland zoning.

As part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license requirements for the dam at Lake Arbutus, extensive water quality testing was conducted in 1991. Macrophyte communities appeared to be severely limited due to the substrate and stained water, which reduces light penetration. The fishery is dominated by walleye, but musky, bass, northern pike, channel catfish, yellow perch, rock bass, and black crappie are also present in the lake (Midwest Hydraulic Company).

There have been occasional complaints of excessive algal growth in Lake Arbutus over the past several years. Water quality monitoring was conducted biweekly in Lake Arbutus from May 15, 1997 through October 1, 1997 to assess in lake water quality conditions. Water quality monitoring indicated the lake has extremely high nutrient levels. Due to the water being highly colored and near normal flows in the Black River, algal levels were moderate in 1997. The low retention time may be a reason why there are fewer nuisance algal blooms in Lake Arbutus as compared to other impoundments. Nutrient monitoring was also conducted in the Black River at Neillsville and the East Fork of the Black River near the lake. The lake water quality data and tributary stream data can be utilized to predict under what conditions algal growth would become excessive in Lake Arbutus.

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Arbutus Lake is a soft water, drainage impoundment on the Black River in Clark and Jackson Counties. The dam has a 92-foot head and is owned by the Northern States Power Company. The water is slightly acid, has a medium brown color, and a low transparency. Muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, black crappie, white crappie, yellow perch, sticker, and redhorse make up the fishery. Although present, carp are not a management problem. Recreational areas, including picnicking, camping, swimming, and boat launching sites, are provided by Clark and Jackson Counties who have leased lands from the Northern States Power Company. Clark County owns frontage along the Arnold Creek arm of the flowage. There are seven resorts, about 95 private dwellings, and a Boy Scout Camp located on the shores. During the migratory seasons, swans, geese, clucks (dabblers and divers), and coot may be found on the impoundment and hunters take advantage of this during the fall season.

Source: 1965, Surface Water Resources of Clark County Arbutus Lake T23N, R3W, S36 Surface Acres = 821, S.D.F. = 3.24, Known Maximum Depth = 56 feet.

Date  1965

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Arbutus Lake*, East Fork Black River Watershed (BR07) Fish and Aquatic LifeArbutus Lake*, East Fork Black River Watershed (BR07) RecreationArbutus Lake*, East Fork Black River Watershed (BR07) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Arbutus Lake was recently evaluated during the ten-year period of 2009 through 2018 for results that were reported to the USEPA for the 2020 Clean Water Act condition report. The waterbody is considered impaired, or in poor condition for designated uses which include the quality of fish and aquatic life, recreational use, and public health and welfare (fish consumption and related). Pollutants or problems encountered during sampling (impairments) are determined based on water quality standards outlined in Wisconsin 2020 Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (WisCALM). Assessment results show water conditions that are potentially harmful for Aquatic Life and Recreation uses due to values for total phosphorus and chlorophyll that fall into the range expected for an aquatic community in poor health, therefore this water is listed as impaired.

Assessment results during the 2020 listing cycle show total phosphorus chlorophyll levels that indicate impairment to Aquatic Life and Recreation uses, according to 2020 WisCALM standards. Based on the most updated information, the impairments of eutrophication and excess algal growth were added to the total phosphorus listing for this water in 2020.

Date  2019

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.



Monitor or Propose 303(d) Listing
Chemistry samples for total phosphorus and Chlorophyll a will be collected in Lake Arbutus to determine if current in-lake conditions meet water quality standards and to verify, per WisCALM guidance, whether 303(d) listing is appropriate for this lake. This project will fund the first of two years of sampling.

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

Arbutus Lake* is located in the East Fork Black River watershed which is 305.93 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (58.60%), wetland (29.50%) and a mix of agricultural (6.20%) and other uses (5.70%). This watershed has 540.35 stream miles, 2,409.06 lake acres and 62,851.05 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. 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

West Arbutus Beach, Arbutus Lake is considered a Impounded Flowing Water 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.

This classification includes waterbodies created by dams (mill ponds, reservoirs, flowages, and other impoundments) with a residence time of 14 days or more (under summer (June – Sept) mean low flow conditions with a 1 in 10 year recurrence interval (US EPA 2000)). Many natural lakes also have dams or water level control structures. However, to be included in the Impounded Flowing Waters category, the dam or water level control structure, must account for more than half of a waterbody’s maximum depth. Impoundments with a residence time of less than 14 days should be covered under the rivers and stream assessment methodology process.

Fish Stocking