Big Butternut Lake, Trade River Watershed (SC10)
Big Butternut Lake, Trade River Watershed (SC10)
Big Butternut Lake (2641000)
384.49 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
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 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.


Big Butternut Lake, in the Trade River Watershed, is a 384.48 acre lake that falls in Polk County. This lake is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently not considered impaired.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Big Butternut Lake is a shallow, 378 acre drainage lake situated on the southeastern edge of
the Village of Luck. A lake district was formed around this waterbody in 1981 and a feasibility
study was completed in 1986. This study documented the eutrophic status of Big Butternut
Lake and delineated the excessive phosphorus loading with both external sources and in-lake
recycling contributing to the trophic condition.

Suggested management alternatives from this study included land management practices in the
watershed, macrophyte harvesting, aeration, wetland protection and buffer zone maintenance.
The physical limitations of this lake basin may preclude any short term visible water quality
improvement, but this lake should be ranked as a high priority for funding of implementation
practices outlined in the 1986 report. The recruitment of a self-help observer would be a good
start to document any changes that may occur from any implementation work.

Date  1992

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

This lake has a navigable outlet (1.3 cfs) flowing to Little Butternut Lake. This stream, Butternut Creek, has a one-foot dam situated on the lake outlet. The lake's fish population includes northern pike, walleyes, largemouth bass, bluegills, black crappies, perch and bullheads. It has 2,754 feet of public frontage bordering the city park. An access road with parking islocated near. Private development consists of two resorts, one boat livery and 21 private cottages. The 140 acres of adjoining wetlands are inhabited with muskrats and nesting mallards and wood ducks. Algae bloom is sometimes a problem on this lake, probably due to pollution of the water by domestic wastes. Source: 1961, Surface Water Resources of Polk County Big Butternut Lake T36N, R17W, Sec. 27, 33, 34 Surface Acres =387, S.D.F. = 1.17, Maximum Depth = 20 ft., M. P. A. = 83

Date  1961

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Big Butternut Lake, Trade River Watershed (SC10) Fish and Aquatic LifeBig Butternut Lake, Trade River Watershed (SC10) RecreationBig Butternut Lake, Trade River Watershed (SC10) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Not recommended for 2010 listing; this lake system is thought to be naturally eutrophic and studies are currently underway on the lake system to investigate sources. Big Butternut and Long Trade Lakes in Polk County and Round Lake in Burnett County are all part of the Trade River watershed, which has been known historically to be highly eutrophic. While the TP and chl a TSI values for the three lakes exceed the thresholds for 303(d) listing, this area of Polk and Burnett Counties is known to contain high-phosphorous glacial outwash till that causes naturally eutrophic lake conditions. Local lore has it that Big Butternut Lake was called Big, Stinky, Green Waters in Objibwe prior to European settlement. There are currently open grant projects investigating the watershed and in-lake sources of Big Butternut Lake nutrients and monitoring the aquatic plant and Eurasian watermilfoil communities. Therefore, we are flagging the lakes for further monitoring until the additional information can be analyzed and considered for listing.

Date  2009

Author  James Kreitlow

Impaired Waters

Big Butternut Lake (WBIC 2641000) was placed on the impaired waters list for total phosphorus in 2012. The 2018 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a sample data exceeded the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use and Fish and Aquatic Life use. Based on the most updated information, no change in the existing impaired waters listing was needed.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

Big Butternut Lake (2641000) was placed on the impaired waters list for total phosphorus in 2012. The 2016 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; total phosphorus and chlorophyll sample data exceeded 2016 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Recreation use. Total phosphorus and chlorophyll data do not exceed Fish and Aquatic Life 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.


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

Big Butternut Lake is located in the Trade River watershed which is 194.93 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (56.40%), wetland (18.80%) and a mix of grassland (11.70%) and other uses (13.10%). This watershed has 166.68 stream miles, 2,902.48 lake acres and 21,757.05 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Medium 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.This water is ranked High Lake for individual Lakes based on runoff problems and the likelihood of success from project implementation.

Natural Community

Big 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.

Maps of Watershed