The Rice Lake – Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District is one of the oldest Lake Districts in the State of Wisconsin. It was established in 1977 and includes all property within the municipal boundaries of the City of Rice Lake and a large portion of Township of Rice Lake, both located in Barron County. The Lake District has the authority to tax all properties with in these established boundaries provided that tax is approved by its constituency at the Annual Meeting usually scheduled the third week in October.
Rice Lake is a 939-acre lake controlled within a few inches of normal pool elevation by an 18-ft dam with a 12-ft. hydraulic head at it’s outlet to the Red Cedar River. The lake has a maximum depth of 19-ft. It has a 9.66-square mile watershed that drains into the lake through two main tributaries, the Red Cedar River and Bear Creek. Aquatic vegetation lines generally occur at a depth of 10-12 ft. in the lake. Curly-leaf pondweed, a non-native, aquatic invasive plant species is present in large amounts throughout the lake. Current lake management activities involve large-scale plant harvesting throughout the system for curly-leaf pondweed in the spring, and nuisance level growth of native aquatic plant species throughout the open water season.
Rice Lake is separated into two basins by the County C Bridge. The north basin is shallower, with a maximum depth of about 15ft. Two major tributaries (Red Cedar River & Bear Creek through Stump Lake) enter into this basin and the outfall (dam) is also located here. The south basin is deeper and more of a bowl shape. Flow typically is not observable at the bridge connecting the two, though a significant drainage area does enter the southern basin through various ditches and gullies. Thermoclines do develop in the north basin but are broken frequently by flow or waves. An annual thermocline develops and remains intact all summer in the southern basin.
The lakeshore is nearly fully developed. Downtown Rice Lake sits on the west shore of the lake and a significant portion of the urban storm water from the city drains directly to the lake. Numerous public boat launch facilities exist around the lake, with the 2 most used launch facilities at Veterans Memorial Park off Orchard Beach Lane and at the newest public access at the Lumbering Hall of Fame Park off Stein Street downtown off Main. The main attraction to Rice Lake is the fishing, including trophy Musky. In past years, the lake often had algae blooms and was heavily weeded, keeping direct contact uses less frequent, though a water-skier or swimmer was not uncommon on hot summer days. More recent changes in water quality and better aquatic plant management have improved the conditions in Rice Lake so recreational sports like swimming, tubing, and skiing are becoming more frequent. The City Beach off Lakeshore Drive has not been officially “open” for many years. Currently there are plans in the works to create a new City Beach off of Narrows Park on Sawyer Street/County C.
There are numerous businesses located on or near the lake including hotels, resorts, bars, and restaurants. There are also several manufacturing facilities downtown. Several private residences on the lakes are operated as vacation rental units. Tourist and locals use the lake for boating, fishing, waterfowl hunting, skiing, wildlife watching, and general recreation.
The Lake District first updated its Aquatic Plant Management Plan in 2010. At that time it had not been updated since 1994. Another update of the plan was completed in early 2015 and will guide aquatic plant management for at least the next five years. The Lake District did not have a complete Comprehensive Lake Management Plan, but did have a fair amount of lake and watershed data. Using that data, a complete Comprehensive Lake Management Plan was drafted and approved in late 2014. Both plans are currently being implemented with funding support from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource grants and Lake District funds through its taxing authority. For more history of the Rice Lake – Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District follow this link Lake District History.