Sunday, October 18, 2009

Anokijig's Little Elkhart Lake Named One of Wisconsin's Top Lakes

Milwaukee Magazine recently ran an extensive article on Wisconsin's 15,081 lakes. It was a very comprehensive article, which focused on the health of Wisconsin's lakes and efforts made over the years to combat invasive species and other threats to these waters. It also discussed the rapid rise in popularity of Wisconsin's lakes in the early-20th Century.

The article really reminds us of how lucky we were to have people like Ray Vance and Uncle Adolph Gillund, who founded Anokijig and were responsible for locating our current site on Little Elkhart. The two men started the first summer of camping at Anokijig in 1926 and the Milwaukee Magazine article states that by 1932, so many people from Milwaukee, Chicago and the Twin Cities were vacationing in Wisconsin, that Vilas and Oneida counties had 221 resorts, 3,995 summer homes and 73 camps or clubs.

If people at that time were willing to drive that far for a getaway, the shoreline on Little Elkhart would've certainly gotten caught up in the rush, had those two men not secured it for Anokiig's use years earlier. The article also talks about the gradual near-extinction of the middle-class lakefront property owner in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Jeffrey Thornton is the principal environmental planner for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and he was quoted extensively thoughout the story. One of his most eye-opening quotes talked about the lakefront real estate boom of the 1990s, where cottages fell three at a time to make room for massive year-round homes for the wealthiest Midwesterners. "With the lakes' water quality improved, property values soared. Vacant lots in Waukesha County with 100 feet of frontage on 90-acre lakes started selling for $1 million.

Little Elkhart is not quite that large or convenient to Chicago, but Anokijig's water frontage on Little Elkhart measures in the thousands of feet. One can imagine what plans developers had in mind when Anokijig was put up for sale in 2005.

The story also talks about the threat posed to lakes by residents who think they are cleaning up their shorelines, by removing fallen trees and anything else that "looks messy." The article claims these efforts directly impact blue gills and largemouth bass, who grow three times slower in lakes without woody habitats. Anokijig's shoreline is chock-full of this habitat, which might help explain why we have such a vibrant fishing program.

The article also lists Wisconsin's top lakes in several different categories. Given Anokijig's presence on Little Elkhart, it should come as no surprise that a panel of Wisconsin DNR lake experts rated our lake as one of Wisconsin's healthiest. Nearby Elkhart Lake and Crystal Lake were also named the best swimming lakes in Sheboygan County. We know Little Elkhart was left off this list, because we have no public beach access. However, Anokijig has the biggest and best beach on Little Elkhart and we know it to be every bit as good for swimming as the public beach areas on our neighboring lakes.

In short, we can't overstate how fortunate we are to have such a tremendous natural resource in Little Elkhart Lake. If you'd like to read this article in it's entirety, you can follow this link-

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