Butternut Lake, Butternut Creek Watershed (UC12)
Butternut Lake, Butternut Creek Watershed (UC12)
Butternut Lake (2283300)
983.22 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.
Shallow 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.
This lake is impaired
Impairment Unknown, Mercury Contaminated Fish Tissue, Excess Algal Growth
Total Phosphorus, Mercury
Ashland, Price
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 Lowland
Shallow 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.


Butternut Lake, in the Butternut Creek Watershed, is a 983.20 acre lake that falls in Ashland and Price Counties. This lake is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently considered impaired.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1983, Surface Water Resources of Price County,WI: WI-DNR Butternut Lake, T40N-T41N, RIW, Section 8 Surface Area = 1,006.2 acres, Maximum Depth = 32 ft, MPA = 69 ppm, Secchi disk = 6 ft.

A large, hard water, drainage lake located on Butternut Creek, this lake has six inlet streams of varying size and flow. Its estimated outlet flow to the Flambeau River is 15.5 ft(3)sec. Butternut Lake has a fishery of muskellunge, northern pike, walleyes, perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegills, black crappies, rock bass, pumpkinseeds, black bullheads, white suckers, redhorse, burbot, rock sturgeons and common shiners. The lake has a medium brown water color. In the past, a poorly operating sewage treatment plant upstream caused periodic algae blooms throughout the open-water season. Since that time, the problem has been corrected and the algae blooms decreased. Aquatic vegetation is sparse and scattered around the lake. The littoral bottom is mainly sand with small amounts of gravel, rubble, bedrock and muck. Swamps make up 15% of the shoreline, while the remainder is hardwood and pine. A large number of ducks nest each year by Butternut Lake, and other ducks, coots, geese and swans use the lake in fair lake numbers during spring and fall migrations. Furbearer use is insignificant. Private development consists of 9 resorts, 2 boat rentals and 160 cottages or homes. The lake has four public boat landings, one each on the north and east sides, and two on the west side.

Date  1983

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Butternut Lake, Butternut Creek Watershed (UC12) Fish and Aquatic LifeButternut Lake, Butternut Creek Watershed (UC12) RecreationButternut Lake, Butternut Creek Watershed (UC12) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Butternut Lake (WBIC 2283300) was placed on the impaired waters list for Mercury in 1998 and for total phosphorus/excess algal growth in 2012. The 2018 assessments showed continued excess algal growth; new chlorophyll-a sample data exceeded the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use, and were only nearly below the FAL use thresholds. Based on the most updated information, no change in the existing impaired waters listing was needed.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

Butternut Lake (2283300) was placed on the impaired waters list for Mercury in 1998 and for total phosphorus/excess algal growth in 2012. The 2016 assessments showed continued excess algal growth; chlorophyll sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use, however, total phosphorus did not exceed REC thresholds. Total phosphorus and chlorophyll data were clearly below Fish and Aquatic Life listing thresholds. Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

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.



Water Quality Modeling
The Price County Land Conservation Dept will sponsor a project which will collect all needed data to create a response model for Butternut Lake including a water budget, detailed phosphorus budget, lake water quality modeling and evaluation of groundwater impacts.

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

Butternut Lake is located in the Butternut Creek watershed which is 77.66 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (58.30%), wetland (29.20%) and a mix of grassland (7.20%) and other uses (5.30%). This watershed has 80.85 stream miles, 1,375.00 lake acres and 13,529.86 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked 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

Butternut Lake is considered a Shallow 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.

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