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Lake Wazee - Black River Falls - Black River Falls WI


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The lake was the site of the former Jackson County Iron Mine quarry. The mine was in operation from the early sixties until April of 1983. Approximately 850,00 tons of iron-rich taconite pellets were produced at the mine each year, with the bulk of them used for steel production in mills located in East Chicago, Indiana. A crash of the domestic steel markets in the United States contributed to the decision to close the mine.


While the mine was actively producing ore, several high capacity pumps expelled more than 800 gallons of water per minute from the quarry. Once the pumps were removed, the quarry began filling and formed this unique lake.


Today, Wazee Lake is recognized as the deepest inland lake in the State of Wisconsin with a maximum depth of 355 feet. Visibility in the lake averages 30-40 feet during the summer months. Water temperatures run from approximately 70 degrees surface temperatures to 40 degrees below the thermocline. The thermocline depth varies during summer, but averages about 30 feet. Divers who venture to greater depths will encounter a second thermocline at approximately 60 feet where the temperature drops to a chilly 34 degrees. Use of a quality dry suit (with proper training) is recommended for deep diving in the lake. Although all machinery was removed from the quarry upon its closure, remnants of the mining operation still remain visible underwater. A series of circular haul roads wind around the pit, where divers often find artifacts including chains, pipes; taconite pellets, and iron shovel teeth. Massive boulders and shear cliff faces create challenging and interesting features for the more experienced recreational diver. Novice divers will enjoy the gradually descending roadways, which are found throughout the quarry. Divers may encounter several groups of fish cribs as well as four platforms used by instructors for training new divers. These were added to the site to increase the diver’s enjoyment, and to improve the habitat for the various fish species that are found in the lake. These species include rainbow, brook and brown trout, bluegills, suckers, catfish, and small mouth bass.



Other activities exist on site for additional recreational enjoyment. Many miles of hiking and gravel surfaced bicycle trails wind through a mosaic of prairie and forests. Several scenic overlooks are currently under construction as well as improved picnic and sanitary facilities. Construction of a large beach and boat launch complex was completed in 1996.


The area offers 12 rustic campsites with pit toilets and water, 9 miles of hiking trail, 3 miles of surfaced bicycle trail, a large beach, picnic areas, boat launch and several scenic vistas of the surrounding forest land. Reservations are accepted on 6 of the 12 campsites.


Reservations can be made from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Reservations require a 3 night minimum and can be made through the mail or in person. Sites cannot be held over the phone as full payment must accompany all reservations and credit cards are not accepted. Checking the availability of desired sites is encouraged when making reservations through the mail. Reservations are accepted from December 1st through Labor Day for the following year. Reservations must be made for a three night minimum and are subject to a $7.00 reservation fee for each site reserved.


Park attendants are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day to assist you with your visit and law enforcement patrol the area.



Dive fees are $10.00/day for each individual diver using the lake, or $75.00/calendar year for each diver. Dive fees are required all year. Admission fees are also required which are $3.00/vehicle/day or $20.00/vehicle/year. Vehicle admission fees are required between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and dive fees are required all year. Fees can be paid at the contact station between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or divers can self-register at the contact station in the absence of a park attendant.


Use of a dive flag is mandatory and is enforced by local law enforcement.

Comments

inkkslinger - 6/25/2013 11:36 AM
Rating Added: 4
There are several good dive sites at this lake. My favorite is the Sherwood Forest entry because of the trees. anywhere from 30Ft to about 90 Ft you will find trees that were growing when the mine was flooded. This is also the entry point that you go in to get to the small wooden cabin cruiser that they have sunk. There is also a 25ft and a 60ft training platform at this entry. Off to the left of the 25 ft platform are some concrete tubes that can provide some enjoyment to swim through.

Visibility varies greatly depending on time of year. I have seen it as high as 40 to 50 ft and as low as less than 10 ft. Water is also generally pretty cold. Surface temps in the summer range from mid 60’s to mid 70’s and drop to 50’s below the first thermocline and 40’s below the second thermocline.

There are many fish in the lake including smallmouth bass, crappies, bluegills, suckers, and walleye. Generally found in the shallower depths and around the fish cribs that are scattered about the lake. Although I have seen a wayward sucker at around 80 ft.

This is my primary dive location as it is less than an hour from home. For an inland lake it is one of the best that I have seen.
scubawolf71 - 5/19/2012 10:33 PM
Rating Added: 3

Sherwood Forrest was fun to dive through. Good camping too.
Muffin - 4/06/2009 6:56 PM
I dove this lake for the first time in September of 2008. It’s a very interesting place for diving and other outdoors activities.
The visibility 0-70ft was 20-30ft, but once we got down below 70ft the water became crystal clear like I’ve never seen in a fresh body of water, upwards of 80’ vis. At 165ft, it was definitely noticeably dimmer but we did not need a flash light to see our gauges or make out objects around us...not that there were many objects besides rocks:).
One thing to keep in mind, the water temp. below about 60ft drops to 36-38F...year round. Dry suits and cold water regs are STRONGLY recommended.

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