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Olson Lake making a comeback in west central Minn.

The Olson Lake brood marsh and public hunting area near Raymond is making a comeback. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

RAYMOND -- Olson Lake is a 124-acre, shallow water lake that was once a waterfowl hunter's Mecca and could be soon again.

It's part of a 450-acre Waterfowl Production Area, and the protected grassland on the property are as popular with pheasant hunters as the lake will again be for waterfowl hunters.

Olson Lake escaped the fate of many shallow waters in this area: More than 95 percent of our original wetlands have been drained, according to Scott Glup, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader with the Litchfield office. He spoke May 7 at the dedication ceremony.

But this lake did not escape the consequences of drainage.

Shallow lakes such as Olson Lake once were surrounded by grasslands and not connected to other wetlands or streams. The water levels in these shallow waters rose and fell slowly over the course of a season. This natural system created ideal habitat for waterfowl, and clean water.

As agricultural drainage systems were developed and connected to Olson Lake, its waters rose and tended to remain high. Much of its emergent vegetation was lost, and minnows and fish species that could devour forage otherwise favored by waterfowl took hold as well.

For the last 15 to 20 years, the site was no longer attracting the ducks it once did.

A restoration project involving a number of partners -- Ducks Unlimited, USFWS, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Hawk Creek Project among them -- was launched in late 2008. A new pipe and water control structure makes it possible to draw down the lake.

The lake was drawn down from November 2008 through the spring of 2010.

Emergent vegetation re-established itself, and the once algae-thick waters are again clear.

The response by waterfowl and other wildlife has been just as astounding, said Glup.

He cautioned that its waters could again deteriorate, but if that happens there is now the possibility to again draw them down and start the restoration process over.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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