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Tucked away in Wisconsin's Northwoods, Gile Flowage is a lovely wilderness getaway. With its undeveloped shoreline and all the amenities of nearby Hurley, Gile Flowage has something for everyone.
Iron County, named for the iron ore mining that led to the area's development, is in Wisconsin's Northwoods bordering Michigan. In fact it was because of a survey error that Iron County and Gile Flowage are part of Wisconsin and not Michigan. The flowage was formed by a dam on the West Fork of the Montreal River. Built by the Montreal River Lumber Company, the dam was used to control the water for logging the area's virgin timber stands. Like the rest of the Northwoods, eventually the timber ran out and the sawmill closed. The old dam was either removed or washed out and by 1945 a new dam had been built on the site of the old one. The new dam was built by the Lake Superior District Power Company which merged with the Northern States Power Company and today is Xcel Energy. There has never been hydroelectric power generated at Gile Flowage. The flowage is a reservoir for two hydroelectric facilities downstream. Gile Flowage ensures that there is enough water for the dams at Saxon Falls and Superior Falls. Xcel Energy controls the water levels and draws down the water twice a year. The summer drawdown starts in May to control winter runoff, which lowers water levels by about 6 feet. After refilling, winter drawdown of 7 to 8 feet starts in December to make room for melting snow and spring rains.
With a maximum depth of only 27 feet, Gile Flowage is relatively shallow. Most of the shoreline is ancient exposed bedrock, and there are bedrock islands scattered over the flowage, the largest of which is called Big Island. About ninety percent of the shore is owned by Xcel Energy or Iron County, and there are no resorts or commercial businesses on the other ten percent. There is also no plan to develop the shoreline which is open to foot traffic and tent camping but not to ATV's. Tent camping is also allowed on the islands in Gile Flowage. Gile Park has a swimming beach and picnic area, and there are several public boat launches.
Gile Flowage is considered a world class smallmouth bass fishery. There are also abundant populations of muskie, northern pike, walleye, and bluegill. The flowage holds the current Wisconsin state record for a 4 pound 8 ounce black crappie caught in 1967. Along with the fish, Gile Flowage is home to loons, nesting bald eagles, trumpeter swans and other water fowl. Iron County has plenty of wildlife, and the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest is in the southern part of the county. Established in 1925 the state forest is 225,000 acres of land in Vilas, Oneida, and Iron Counties with hunting and plenty of trails.
The shoreline of Gile Flowage may be undeveloped, but Hurley, Iron County's seat, is only about four miles away. Known for the ATV Hurley Rally and the Red Light Snowmobile Rally, Hurley has over 500 miles of trails. Accommodations range from B&B's and historic inns to condos. There are great restaurants and lots of amenities. Hurley averages over 200 inches of snow a year, making it a great year round destination.
With is unspoiled shore and nearby amenities, Gile Flowage is sure to delight any Northwoods visitor.
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