Thursday, December 1, 2011


From my Outdoors Column WATERWORKS for December 7th, Aitkin Independent Age

All across the county we are watching and waiting. On Monday, November 21st, we looked out to see total lake coverage, as a thin sheet of ice had covered all 414 acres of Nord Lake. But for the next week and a half there was thawing, freezing, then blowing and drifting ice. Each day had a different view of a lake changing its mind.

No doubt about it, the cold is on its way. Snowmobiles are ready. Grooming machines have paraded downtown. Skates, skis, and augers are ready to go.

The DNR wants to tell us about “safe ice.” There isn’t any. But go out and chop a hole and measure it. If it’s more than four inches thick, you probably were safe getting out there. When there’s 15 inches or more, you probably can drive your pickup onto the lake without losing it. But be careful out there! Already little kids have made the Twin City news by running out on a shallow pond and falling in.


For the loons on many county lakes it was a pretty good summer. Our three nesting pairs on Nord Lake hatched at least three chicks that were observed. One of them survived early predation to become a juvenile. If the baby chicks can make it beyond two weeks, when they learn to dive, their chances of living greatly improve.

Lake representatives at the county lake association (ACLARA) have reported a good hatch of loon chicks on their lakes this summer. In 2010 there were 24 county lakes with loon watchers who counted 85 adults, 25 chicks, with 9 constructed nesting platforms in use. To learn about a particular loon count or how to become a loon watcher, ask the leaders of your lake association. Or you can find the information from me, in care of the water planning task force at 927-6565.

One of the measures of water quality in our lakes is the clarity or transparency. The readings this summer on Nord Lake were just a little below the long-term season average. With unusually heavy rainfall in the spring, lasting through July, there was extra shoreline runoff, and lake levels stayed up at snow-melt elevations. With the dry spell in August and September, the level receded to normal. At Nord Lake the Secchi Disk average reading is between eight and ten feet. The white disk disappears below that depth.


How we manage our shoreland plays a large part in keeping a lake healthy - for fish and wildlife, and for future generations. One of the simplest and easiest measures to clean the water from the watershed, before it flows into the lake, is to leave a natural area unmowed at the water’s edge. This buffer, 10 to 20 feet wide, filters out what we should not put into the lake.

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