Birch Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11)
Birch Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11)
Birch Lake (2113000)
368 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 Lowland
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.
Sawyer, Washburn
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 Lowland
Deep lowland 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.


Birch Lake is a 368-acre drainage lake on the Red Cedar River connected to and downstream from Lake Chetac. The village of Birchwood is adjacent to the south and west shorelines of this lake. A 19-foot water control structure is located on the outlet of the lake. Current water quality data is lacking on this lake and it would be desirable to document the trophic condition of ths important headwaters area lake.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1978, Surface Water Resources of Washburn County Birch Lake, T37N, R9,10W, Section 19, 24, 25,

A hard water, drainage lake in southeast Washburn County, and partly in Sawyer County between Balsam and Chetac Lakes. It is the headwaters area of the Red Cedar River watershed. A 19-foot headwater control structure is located on the outlet, Birch Creek. The structure, a concrete roller dam, formerly owned by Northern States Power, is now owned by Washburn County with maintenance agreements with the local towns. The normal estimated outlet flow is 35 cubic feet per second. This deep, clear-water lake has a fishery of walleyes, northern pike, largemouth bass, a few smallmouth bass, bluegills, black crappies, pumpkinseed, perch, white suckers, bowfin, and several minnow species. The lake is irregularly shaped and has a rocky, gravel shore in most places, and is steeply sloped along the northwest shore, parts of the south shore and the inlet. West of the inlet off the north shore is a bay with an abundance of aquatic vegetation. There is little that can be called wetlands near the lake, but a few dabbler ducks and loon nest near the wild parts of the lake. Furbearer use is insignificant. There are 11 resorts and 42 cottages and homes on the lakeshore, which is partly in the Village of Birchwood. A county park, Doolittle Park, offers swimming, picnicking, camping, and a public boat launching ramp. Another public access is located east of the dam on the south shore. Public frontage amounts to 0.56 mile of which 0.19 mile is the frontage of four state-owned islands within the lake.

Surface Acres-368.0, Maximum Depth-73 feet, M.P.A.-56 ppm

Date  1978

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Birch Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11) Fish and Aquatic LifeBirch Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11) RecreationBirch Lake, Red Cedar Lake Watershed (LC11) Fish Consumption


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 Water Quality or Sediment
Insufficient TP data to make assessment. Further TP monitoring recommended.

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

Birch 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

Birch Lake is considered a Deep Lowland 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 lowland lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.

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