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Every lake boasts about the size of their fish, but Yellow Lake in Burnett County of northwest Wisconsin doesn't need to boast. It has the record to prove it. In 1979 Jon Procai pulled a 79 inch long, 179 pound-10 ounce state record lake sturgeon out of Yellow Lake. Not all the fish in the lake are as big as that man-sized monster, but there are more than enough big fish to challenge any angler.
Also known as Big Yellow Lake, Yellow Lake is a natural drainage lake on the Yellow River. The river, called "Riviere Jaune" in French, likely got its name from the tannin in its water. At almost 2,300 acres Yellow Lake is the largest lake in Burnett County which borders Minnesota. The lake connects to 348 acre Little Yellow Lake and has 243 acres of marsh wetlands. Although Yellow Lake itself is not dammed, its water levels are controlled by a headwater control structure on the Danbury Flowage. The structure is managed by the Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Power Company.
The first inhabitants around Yellow Lake were the Native Americans, and by the 1800's more than a thousand lived around the lake. In 1833 Reverend Fred Ayer and his wife established a mission and opened a school at the outlet of Yellow Lake. By 1874 the first non-native families moved into the area. Like so much of the Wisconsin Northwoods, the area around Yellow Lake was established by fur trading and logging. Visitors to Yellow Lake can explore its history at the Forts Folle Avoine Historical Park. The living history park in nearby Danbury is 80 wooded acres along the Yellow River. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a reconstruction of fur trading posts in their actual 1802 - 1805 sites. There is also a Woodland Indian village.
Yellow Lake's history, however, doesn't end there. It also has a rich history as a resort and recreation area, and a past as colorful as its name. In the 1920's a bridge was built between Big Yellow Lake and Little Yellow Lake. Rumor has it that Al Capone built the bridge as a secondary escape route from a dance hall he frequented above Yellow Lake Lodge. No one will ever know for sure, but the bridge is still controversial because it limits larger boat traffic from Big Yellow Lake to Little Yellow Lake.
Boating on Yellow Lake is good and there is also water skiing and jet skiing. The lake is considered a great muskie lake. It has some trophy sized fish, but it is more popular because of the number of fish. There are also healthy populations of walleye, bluegill, northern pike, crappie, large mouth and small mouth bass and of course lake sturgeon.
The Town of Yellow Lake is on the lake's shore. It has restaurants, stores for provisions and amenities, and accommodations range from campgrounds to resorts. Nearby Danbury is larger and has additional restaurants, shops and accommodations. For visitors who like to hike, bike, or ride horse back, the Gandy Dancer Trail has an overlook on Yellow Lake. The trail is a 90 mile former railroad corridor that runs from St. Croix Falls to Superior. Named for the men who laid the rails, the trail is a great way to explore northwest Wisconsin. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is 252 miles of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers preserved for recreation. Dedicated in 1968, it's a beautiful place to canoe or kayak. The riverway also forms the eastern boundary of Minnesota's St. Croix State Park. An easy drive from Yellow Lake, the state park has over 30,000 acres of woods and wildlife to explore.
With it's rich history, fantastic boating and truly gigantic fish, Yellow Lake is sure to become a favorite Wisconsin destination for the whole family.
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