Lake a Day Challenge: Nelson Lake and Totogatic River

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Another creative place name as we approach Nelson Lake Dam

There is a large lake a few miles north of Hayward and grandfather’s farm that has a story connected with it. I loved hearing my dad tell me about the days when there was a valley there instead of a lake. He was very young when conservationist Frank Nelson proposed a dam to be built on the Totogatic River to create “a lake or backwater, suitable for fish and which would furnish a refuge and breeding ground for all kinds of wildlife.” Dad had memories of accompanying his father who was helping to remove as much timber from the land to be flooded as possible.  The dam was completed in 1936 and Nelson Lake was created. It’s hard to imagine the valley that lies beneath its waters now.  Much of the shoreline is wild and undeveloped and the lake is known for excellent fishing.

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This wild jumble of blooms completely obscured the stair down to the restrooms.

The park at the dam has been a favorite picnic spot for my parent’s generation, for my generation and hopefully for the next generation. I have done my part by taking my niece and nephew there to explore. It was a “must visit” spot for my lake of the day challenge.

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Not real sure about the green water…

Mom and I drove out and found the park a little overgrown but much the same as we had known it. Wild sumac and flowers covered the bank by the dam and the boat landing was busy with fishermen coming in from a day on the lake. There was a lot of algae bloom in the water which made it a little uninviting as far as swimming was concerned. I stayed with the one foot dip. But the views were fantastic and after reading some of the history of the lake here , I was more appreciative of the part the lake and its accompanying flowage played in local commerce.  There is a large island in the middle of the lake accessible only by boat and I think exploring it is going on the list for my next visit.

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Nelson Lake behind the dam, island in view.
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Water is high now and there is good flow going over the dam.
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The Totogatic River downstream from the dam and highway bridge.

2 thoughts on “Lake a Day Challenge: Nelson Lake and Totogatic River

  1. I am thoroughly enjoying the posts on your lake-a-day challenge; they bring back so many good childhood memories for me…the waters of Round Lake, the blackberries, the Big Fish and the Nelson Lake dam. When Annette and I turned 17 or 18, we went to that dam to fish with our family and Uncle Lewi & Aunt Marlene. As I remember, we cooked and ate pan fish at the picnic area there right after we caught them. Yummers!

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