Balsam Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11)
Balsam Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11)
Balsam Lake (2112800)
325.39 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.
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.
This lake is impaired
Eutrophication, Excess Algal Growth
Total Phosphorus
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.
Shallow 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.


Red Cedar Lake is a 1,841-acre drainage lake located on the Red Cedar River in the northeastern
corner of Barron County. An 11-foot water control structure is located on the outlet of the lake.
Hemlock Lake is a 357-acre drainage lake connected to Red Cedar Lake to the southeast. The water
control structure on the outlet of Red Cedar Lake controls the level of Hemlock Lake. Balsam Lake
is a 295-acre drainage lake connected to Red Cedar Lake and to the north along the course of the
merging Red Cedar River.
The Red Cedar Lakes Association has been awarded a Lake Management Planning Grant to
monitor water quality conditions in Red Cedar, Hemlock ai~d Balsam Lakes. This monitoring
project is ongoing but preliminary results suggest that Red Cedar Lake is a mesotrophc waterbody
with TSI values in the range of 52, and Hemlock Lake appears to be a eutrophic lake with TSI
values in the range of 59. This preliminary data suggests that Balsam Lake may be a low
mesotrophic lake with TSI values in the range of 48.
Fish tissue analysis for mercury contamination has been conducted on Red Cedar Lake and a fish
consumption advisory exists for walleye ranging from 15 to 22 inches (Category 2).
Volunteers have been collecting water clarity information on this lake since 1987 and during 1994
one of the volunteers started collecting phosphorus and chlorophyll g data on Red Cedar and
Hemlock Lakes as part of the TSI level of monitoring under the self-help lake monitoring program.
Red Cedar Lake is a high-quality aquatic resource and has been classified as an outstanding resource
water under the provisions of Chapter NR 102.10 of the Wis. Adm. Code. This high quality lake is
susceptible to any increase in phosphorus loading and should receive a high priority for protection

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1978, Surface Water Resources of Washburn County Balsam Lake, T37N, R1OW, Section 26, 27, 34, 35,

A hardwater, drainage lake located adjacent to the Village of Birchwood. Balsam Lake is between Birch and Red Cedar Lakes on the Red Cedar River headwaters. Besides the flow from Birch Creek,Balsam Lake also receives some spring water flow from the southeast bay. This rather isolated bay is connected to Balsam Lake by a lengthy, four-foot deep channel. Navigation is also possible to Red Cedar Lake by the broad outlet channel that is also four feet deep. The dam on Birch Lake obstructs Birch Creek as a thoroughfare to Birch Lake. The water level of Balsam Lake is affected by the water control structure on Red Cedar Lake and heightens the lake level by about two feet. The estimated normal flow of the Balsam Lake outlet is 40 cubic feet per second. The fishery of Balsam Lake consists of walleyes, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, black crappies, bluegills, rock bass, pumpkinseeds, perch, bullheads, bowfin (dogfish), white suckers, and several minnow species. The lake lies in end moraine glaciation and a deep, elongated basin, making the lakeshore steep and the bottom littoral areas unsorted gravel with some boulder areas. Muck bottom is found near shore by the outlet and over all of the large southeast bay. Marsh shoreline is found along the south end of the bay and along the entire inlet channel but around its main basin, as on the main body of the lake, the shore is upland vegetated with mixed hardwoods and pine. There are no shoal areas in the lake other than the near shore littoral. The southeast bay is rather shallow but has a maximum depth of 25 feet in one small area. Twenty acres of wetlands adjoin the lake, providing nesting habitat for mallards and wood ducks. Other migratory waterfowl and a few furbearing animals are also found here. Public frontage amounts to 0.34 mile, mostly undeveloped platted park land on the east side of the peninsula. Two undeveloped platted accesses are located on the west side of the peninsula and a public access is located at the upper end of the park land. Private development consists of 18 cottages and one boat rental at the north end of the lake.

Surface Acres-295.2, Maximum Depth-49 feet, M.P.A.-72 ppm, Secchi Disk-9 feet

Date  1978

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Balsam Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11) Fish and Aquatic LifeBalsam Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11) RecreationBalsam Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Balsam Lake (WBIC 2112800) was placed on the impaired waters list for total phosphorus in 2016. The 2018 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; total phosphorus sample data overwhelmingly exceeded the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use and Fish and Aquatic Life use. Chlorophyll-a sample data clearly exceeded the REC and FAL use thresholds. Based on the most updated information the impairments of Excess Algal Growth and Eutrophication were added to the Total Phosphorus listing.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

This water was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use and Fish and Aquatic Life use, however chlorophyll data do not exceed REC or FAL thresholds.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


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

Balsam Lake is located in the Red Cedar Lake watershed which is 140.01 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (74%), wetland (11.20%) and a mix of open (7.40%) and other uses (7.40%). This watershed has 167.65 stream miles, 6,893.24 lake acres and 7,428.58 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Low for runoff impacts on streams, Medium 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

Balsam Lake is considered a Two-Story 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.

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

Fish Stocking