Big Sand Lake, Lower Namekagon River Watershed (SC19)
Big Sand Lake, Lower Namekagon River Watershed (SC19)
Big Sand Lake (2495200)
210.30 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 Seepage
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.
Shallow Seepage
Shallow seepage 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.


Big Sand Lake, in the Lower Namekagon River Watershed, is a 210.29 acre lake that falls in Washburn County. This lake is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently not considered impaired.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1978, Surface Water Resources of Washburn County Sand Lake, T42N, R13W, Section 5, 8, Surface Acres-198.0, Maximum Depth-9 feet, M.P.A.-18 ppm, Secchi Disk-6 feet A soft water, seepage lake in the northwest corner of the county. It is landlocked and subject tO Occasional natural fluctuations in water levels. As a result of low water levels in some years, partial winter fish kills have occurred; the known years of which have been 1945 and 1965. The Present fishery is composed mainly of perch, bluegills, largemouth bass, and golden shiners. Species present in much lower abundance are northern pike, pumpkinseeds, and common shiners. Walleyes were introduced into the lake in 1974 and the success of this stocking is not yet known. Sand Lake is Pear shaped and during low water levels the south end becomes isolated from the main basin. Its depth at those times is about five feet. The maximum depth of the lake varies from about 7-12 feet. The lower basin separates between levels of about 10-11 feet. Nearly the entire shoreline of the lake is sand. Jack pine and scrub oak covers the lakeshore uplands, except off the small northwest bay where there is a leatherleaf bog and marsh of 44 acres in size. A 15-acre marsh is located off the east shore but is at this time separated from the main basin by a sand bar. Aquatic vegetation is sparse. Although the maximum depth of the lake at present is only nine feet, the average depth is over six feet. Furbearer use here is small, but some mallards and teal nest here. Private lakeshore development includes a resort and six cottages. The only public frontage is the Town of Minong access site on the southeast shore which has only limited space for parking.

Date  1978

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Big Sand Lake, Lower Namekagon River Watershed (SC19) Fish and Aquatic LifeBig Sand Lake, Lower Namekagon River Watershed (SC19) RecreationBig Sand Lake, Lower Namekagon River Watershed (SC19) 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.


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

Sand Lake is located in the Lower Namekagon River watershed which is 239.34 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (73.10%), wetland (15.20%) and a mix of open (7.40%) and other uses (4.40%). This watershed has 172.53 stream miles, 12,590.30 lake acres and 21,781.64 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Ranked 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

Big Sand Lake is considered a Shallow Seepage 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 seepage lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.