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Willow River Rod & Gun Club flourishes

Shotgun training is offered at Willow River Rod & Gun Club in the fall.

Over the next few months, when time permits, several of our local conservation clubs and organizations will be profiled to provide historical background plus highlight the opportunities these organizations offer to area residents.

Willow River Rod & Gun Club

The Willow River Rod & Gun Club is one of the oldest conservation, shooting and archery clubs in the county.

Located just west of New Richmond off old Highway 64, the Willow River Rod and Gun Club facilities include a four season clubhouse with indoor plumbing and bar, an indoor archery range, a contained rifle range with 25-, 50-, 100- and 200-yard bunkers and an overhead protected shooting platform, two lighted automatic trap ranges, a pistol range with covered shooting benches, a practice and walkthrough archery range, ample picnicking and play areas and walking paths. Other amenities include a patio complete with picnic tables and adjoining horseshoe pits.

The club is an established conservation and outdoor recreational-oriented organization with facilities nestled on approximately 35 acres of partially wooded land. Deer, pheasants, turkeys, grouse, rabbits and a variety of bird species and other wildlife are frequently observed on the club land.

The club strives to offer a variety of activities to its members and guests. This includes a summer trap league, summer and winter archery leagues, archery and hunter education programs, turkey shoots, 3D archery shoots, picnics, fishing contests, rifle sight-in days and rim fire leagues.

In addition, the Willow River Rod and Gun Club support conservation sponsorships through partnerships at the local, county, state and federal level. Several law enforcement agencies and sponsored groups use the facilities for training and instructional programs.

The club's history goes back to the 1930s when it was sponsored by, and remained for a number of years, a branch of the New Richmond Kiwanis Club. In the early 1940s, a separate Willow River Rod & Gun Club was formed.

The land where the club is presently located was purchased in 1951 from Ernie Germain. On July 5, 1955 the club filed articles of incorporation with the State of Wisconsin. After several successful years, interest in the club waned and the club became inactive. Efforts in the late 1960s and 1970s to get the club back on track ended in partial success.

In 1979 there was a concerted effort by a number of local individuals to re-establish the Willow River Rod and Gun Club as a viable organization. There had been a railroad "induced" fire on the club land a few years earlier that destroyed hundreds of pine trees. It wasn't until the railroad settled the claim to the satisfaction of the club that there were funds available to get the club off the ground.

Construction of a roofed pavilion on the club land in 1983 followed by the enclosing of that structure in 1985 marked the start of the club house evolution. The addition of indoor plumbing, bathrooms, a large log bar, an entry mudroom and an indoor archery range to the club house in later years continues to demonstrate the club's vision for the future.

A card activated gate with member access is positioned at the entrance allowing 24 hour access. A new storage shed is the most recent addition to the landscape.

The vast majority of physical labor for the improvements was donations by club members. Volunteer hours also can be used to defray the cost of a membership.

Present Willow River Rod & Gun Club officers are President Brian Headlee, Vice President Jon Nysse, Secretary Dave Miller and Treasurer Jerry Van Houten with John Medina, Tory Johnson and Chris Polfus rounding out the rest of the Board of Directors.

The monthly meetings are scheduled for the second Thursday of each month, starting at 7 p.m. on the club land. The January meeting is also the annual meeting and is set for Jan. 10.

If you are interested in more information about the club, visit their website at and attend the January Meeting. The club's address is WRR&GC, P.O. Box 145, New Richmond, WI 54017.

Lakes of Wisconsin

St. Croix County has a relatively few number of lakes when compared to Polk County, but I guess we are better off lake-wise than Pierce County, which has even fewer. The deepest major lake we have is Perch Lake at 63 feet but has a listed area of only 43 acres. Bass Lake is 293 acres with a maximum depth of 37 feet while Baldwin Pine is 107 acres with a maximum depth of 21 feet and Squaw Lake is 129 acres and has a 32-foot maximum depth. Cedar Lake is listed at 1,107 acres but most of that is in Polk County.

Lake area due to water levels fluctuations move up and down over time and that is all but evident to the people who live on lakes like Perch, Squaw and Bass in recent years. Ground water tables play a major role in this.

Hatfield Lake is listed at 90 acres but in an older lake book is listed at 47 acres. I have run across references that farmers actually cut hay in the area of Hatfield Lake back in the 1930s while sailboat races were held there in the late 1800s.

Area lakes and ponds like those on Erickson's WPA and a few bays on Baldwin Pine and Perch Lake have old fence lines running down into the water and coming up the other side. Go figure.

Wisconsin has approximately 15,000 lakes, which is more than 10,000 (if my math is correct). 10,000 is a popular number across the border. The county with the most lakes is Vilas with 1,327, while Outagamie County has but four.

Lake Winnebago has the most acreage with 137,708 and Green Lake is the deepest at 236 feet. Mudd Lake is the most common named lake at 116 Mudds followed by Bass (82), Long (59), Spring (45) and Lost (42). Winnebago also has the most volume at 696 billion gallons and the most shoreline at 85 miles.

Question! How come some lakes' names begin in "Lake" and others end in "Lake"? It's Bass "Lake" and not "Lake" Bass. Lake Wapogasset would sound funny being called Wapogasset Lake. All the Great Lakes are Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario but lake size is not the key because Lake Mallalieu is much smaller than Cedar Lake.

If anyone has the answer let me know. Sometimes I think I have too much time on my hands. (My wife checks my columns for typos and wholeheartedly agrees with that last statement.)