Star Lake: The Lake

  • Article

    Star Lake is an exceptional lake in Vilas County in that it is both fairly large, and quite undeveloped. It is 1,213 acres in a horseshoe shape; the fact that it was named anything but horseshoe lake suggests that it was named by someone standing on its shore and not looking down from above, or viewing a good map. It has two bays, running southwest to northeast, connected at the southwest end.

    There are three developed parcels on the lake: One at the northeast end of the north bay, a second on a peninsula on the north side of that bay, and the last the Star Lake townsite, at the northeast end of the south bay. All the other land, including the peninsula that divides the two bays, is owned by the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Northern Highland area--making the shoreline about 88% state-owned. There were three resorts on the lake, but one--Murphy's Housekeeping Cottages--was sold off in the 1970's; a second, Rizzo's Silver Muskie Resort, closed in 2005;and the third, North Star Lodge continues in operation.

    The lake has been a good fishery, providing muskie, walleyes, bass, northern pike and panfish. In recent years an overpopulation of the invasive rusty Crayfish has severely reduced the weeds in the lake and consequently reduced its fish carrying capacity. Over the years it has been stocked with walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and muskie.

    The lake has an average depth of 15 feet, with a maximum depth of between 65 and 70 feet, reached in two deep holes. It has an inlet from Little Star Lake to the north and an outlet to Plum Lake in the south. It ultimately drains into the Wisconsin River and then to the Mississippi. Little Star Lake is the furtherest upstream the Wisconsin River watershed extends, the next lake north, Ballard, drains into the Manitowish, Flambeau, Chippewa river system. The lake directly drains an area of six square miles.

    Star Lake drains into Plum Lake via Star Creek. The outlet to the creek is on the south shore of the lake. There is a dam at the outlet, just before the creek passes under a bridge that lets hikers continue on the trail around the lake. There is a road to the outlet from Highway N, leaving N just at the Star Lake East Campground. The dam is simply a concrete barrier that cannot be adjusted. It provides a minimum water level for the lake. The DRN ID number for the dam is 1508. The DNR online information sheet indicates that the dam was approved 12/1/1927, and inspected the preceeding August and September. It was subsequently inspected in 1940, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1979, and 1985. Inspection reports are evidently on file for the inspections between 1962 and 1972.

    Note: The statistical data are from a Lake Survey of Star Lake, 1969, by the DNR. Copy in the "Star Lake File" at the Rhinelander DNR and in the files of Charles Forbes in Star Lake.

    Charles P. Forbes
    August 9, 2006
    Revised: August 1, 2007, July 27, 2017
  • Bibliography

    Major References

    ****. Commission to Hold Hearing Regarding Star Lake Level. [Vilas County News, August 18, 1927, p. 1.] Eagle River, 1927. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    ****. Eurasian Water Milfoil Fragments Found Floating at East Star Lake Boat Landing. [Our Lakes, Vol. 1, #3, Fall, 2009, p. 1] Sayner, 2009. View Full Entry
    ****. Atlas of Wisconsin. Milwaukee, 1878. View Full Entry
    ****. Plum Lake [Town] Sets Meeting on Lake Management Plan. [Vilas County News Review, July 5, 2017, p. 7A.] Eagle River, 2017. View Full Entry
    ****. Short Casts [...presence of spiny water flea in Star Lake....]. [Loon Hoots (Newsletter of the Plum Lake Association), June 26, 2014, p. 5] Sayner, 2014. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    ****. Star Lake Nature Trail. [NHAL State Forest Visitor's Guide, 2018, P. 47 [map p. 45]] Minocqua, 2018. View Full Entry
    ****. Star Lake [map]. [Lake Survey Map (Wisconsin)] Wausau, . View Full Entry
    ****. Wisconsin DNR Surveying Lakes in Vilas and Oneida. [Vilas County News-Review, Aug. 7, 2013, p.11A.] Eagle River, 2013. View Full Entry
    ****. Woman Dies after Helping Save Three Children. [Lakeland Times, online, 7/23/2014] Minocqua, 2014. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Albert, Dennis. Regional Landscape Ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. [General Technical Report NC-178 4th Revision, July 1974] St. Paul, 1974. View Full Entry
    Alexander, J. H. H.. Relax in Wisconsin, Friendly Land of Beauty. [Wisconsin Blue Book, 1940, pp. 171-176.] Madison, 1940. View Full Entry
    Anderson, Ken. Plum Lake Kicks Off $220,000 4-Year Plan to Manage Area Lakes. [Vilas County News Review, July 12, 2017, p. 9A.] Eagle River, 2017. View Full Entry
    Anderson, L. G.. For Sale--188 A[cre] Cutover at Plum Lake, Wis.. [Chicago Tribune, June 2, 1912, p. 55] Chicago, 1912. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Hudson, Matt. GLIFWC's Mercury Maps. [Mazina'igan, Summer, 2009, p. 4 ff.] Odanah, WI, 2009. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Jackson and Warye. St. Germain, Sayner and Star Lake etc.. Presque Isle, WI, 2004. View Full Entry
    Luehring, Mark. Massive Chippewa Flowage Among 19 Lakes Surveyed by GLIFWC Shocking Crews. [Mazina'igan, A Chronicle of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, Summer, 2011, p. 3.] Odanah, 2011. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Luehring and Rose. Fish Population Assessments of Ceded Territory Lakes in Wisconsin..... [GLIFWC Administrative Report 12-05, June, 2012] Odanah, 2012. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Plum Lake, Town of. Planning for a Town-Wide Lake Management Plan. [Press Release, June 30, 2017] Sayner, 2017. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Richter, John. Orconectes Rusticus [Rusty Crayfish]. [Loon Hoots (Newsletter of the Plum Lake Association), June 26, 2014, pp. 1-5] Sayner, 2014. View Full Entry
    Roesler, Craig. Parasite Appears to Reduce Rusty Crayfish Populartions. [Lake Tides, Vol. 35, #4, Fall, 2010, pp. 4-5] Stevens Point, 2010. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Rowe, Alan. Diver's Guide to Historic Wisconsin Lakes, A: Book Three Forgotten Logging Camps. Milwaukee, 1980. View Full Entry
    Sargent et al.. Endoparasite impacts on rusty crayfish. [Final Report, Start Date: April 15th 2011; End Date: April 15th 2012] South Bend, Indiana, 2012. View Full Entry
    Sayner-Star Lake Chamber of Commerce. Town of Plum Lake Rearing Pond[s]. [In: Sayner Star Lake, Wisconsin, Annual Chamber of Commerce Brochure, 1996-1997 edition.] Sayner, 1996. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Small, Dan. Fish Wisconsin. [Second Edition] Iola, WI, 1993. View Full Entry
    Strebig, Dave. Fishing Wisconsin's Northwoods. River Forest, IL, 1995. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin DNR. NHAL State Forest Timber Sales. [Wisconsin DNR Website, Revision of April 3, 2017, and related papers] Madison, 2017. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin, Natural Resources, Dept. of. Vilas County Lake Directory. [From: Wis. Lakes, DNR PUB-FH-800 99REV] Madison, 2000. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin, Natural Resources, Dept. of. Vilas County Lakes. [Repro. from DNR PUB-FM-800 95 Rev.] Eagle River, n.d.. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin DNR. Vilas County Lakes Directory. [From Wisconsin Lakes, Wis. DNR PUB-FH-800 2001] Eagle River, 2002. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin DNR. Watercraft Inspection Results - Star Lake. [Wisconsin DNR Website, downloaded March 4, 2012] Madison, 2012. View Full Entry (Full text available)
    Wisconsin, Natural Resources, Dept. of, Bureau of Water Resources, Lakes Section and Bureau of Fisheries Management-Aquatic Education. Wisconsin Lakes. [PUBL-FM-800 91 & PUB-FH-800 2001] Madison, 2001. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin, University of, Oshkosh, Environmental Research and Innovation Center (ERIC). Vilas County Decontamination Program for Aquatic invasive Species. [3-Panel brochure] Oshkosh, 2019. View Full Entry

    Minor References

    Geist, Wally. Citation Issued in Memory of [Karen] Potocki-Wessel. [Vilas County News-Review, July 22, 2015] Eagle River, 2015. View Full Entry
  • Links
  • Images
  • Miscellany


    The DNR Invasive Species Inventory for Vilas County Lakes, shown under LINKS in this Topic, 2011, shows these invasive species in this lake: Banded mystery snails, Chinese mystery snails, and rusty crayfish.

    Loon Hoots, Newsletter of the Plum Lake Association, in its June 26, 2014, issues reports the presense of spiny water flea in December, 2013. A 2019 Brochure confirms the presence of spiny water fleas.


    The percentage of the shoreline owned by the State of Wisconsin has been variously reported between 80% and 90%. In 2013, using Google Maps, Craig and Charles Forbes carefully measured the shoreline to be 10.5 miles. Using the same map protocols, the three pieces of privately held shoreline meansured 1.3 miles. That would mean 87.6% of the shoreline was public. There are two uncertainties in this measurement: First, the length of the shoreline varies depending on how close together the meansuring points are set. However, since the same protocol was used for both measurements, this does not significantly affect the percentage figure. However, the other issue does affect the percentage. There are three manmade peninsulas extending into the lake: Two extending to the site of the former railroad trestle at "Trestle Bay" where the East Campground is located. The third is at the mill site, extending toward the townsite. In measuring the total shoreline those artifical extensions were not included. Had they been included in the total shoreline measurement, it would have increased the percentage of shoreline that was owned by the state.


    The DNR website provides this data for Star Lake, gathered at the public boat landing near the East Star Lake Campground:

    Year: 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011

    Boats Inspected: 9 / 10 / 12 / 191 / 229

    People Talked to: 24 / 24 / 46 / 507 / 571

    Manhours used: 4 / 4 / 14 / 100 / 141

    Refer to the link "AIS Boat Inspections"