Skip to main content

History of good stewardship

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters AreaHistory of good stewardship

The Chippewa and Flambeau Improvement Company (CFIC) was created by Chapter 640, laws of 1911 [see s. 182.71 Wis. Stats. [exit DNR], for the purpose of building, maintaining, and operating dams and reservoirs on the Chippewa and Flambeau Rivers and their tributaries. The law directs the Company to produce as nearly a uniform flow of water as practicable in the Chippewa and Flambeau Rivers, by storing in reservoirs surplus water for discharge when the water supply is low, to improve the usefulness of the rivers for all public purposes, and to reduce flood damage.

turtle dam

Turtle Dam

The Turtle-Flambeau Flowage was created in 1926 when Chippewa and Flambeau Improvement Company (CFIC) built a dam on the Flambeau River downstream from its confluence with the Turtle River. The dam flooded sixteen natural lakes and forms an impoundment of approximately 14,000 acres. The Flowage was intended to provide flood protection and to augment river flows for hydro-electric plants operated by downstream electric utilities and paper mills.

At the time, the dam was quite controversial. The perception was that the project created "the greatest destruction of nature's beauty in the state" as documented in a 1930 silent film. CFIC had offered land owners in the flooded basin either equal land on the shore of the new Flowage or a cash buy-out. Because of the negative perceptions, most people took the cash. Most of the Flowage therefore came under the ownership of CFIC.

Perceptions change however — the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage is now viewed as a unique recreational resource and the closest to a wilderness experience that you will find in the state. It is often referred to as the "crown jewel of the north."

The early perceptions that resulted in CFIC acquiring most of the Flowage shoreline ultimately provided an opportunity for the State of Wisconsin to purchase the lands for resource protection and outdoor recreation. The state purchased approximately 22,000 acres from CFIC in 1990 with funding from the Stewardship Program. Additional acquisitions have increased state ownership to over 37,000 acres including 114 miles of Flowage shoreline and 195 islands.

Stewardship Sign
DNR Photo

This state property, called the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area, is managed by the Department of Natural Resources. A master plan has been developed for management of the property with direction from a citizen advisory committee. The goal of the plan is to implement management practices that will perpetuate the natural character of the Flowage's shoreline. Top priorities are to preserve its scenic qualities and protect its plant and animal communities. The Department is also striving to preserve the quality and wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities including fishing, hunting, camping, nature observation, trapping, boating, and canoeing.

Last revised: Monday July 15 2013