By Friends of Bertram Lakes
I find it hard to believe that I have not written about the importance of one of the most prominent aspects of the Bertram Chain of Lakes, Otter Creek. There are many details about the creek (probably even more than I know) so I will mention several.
First of all, Otter Creek begins in the southwest swamp area of Birch Lake. There may be other minor sources but it is hard to tell. It begins and passes through the land that in 1879 belonged to Juilia Bertram, wife of George Bertram. It should be noted that George Bertram died in 1879, leaving this land and several plots of land on West River Street to his wife.
Otter Creek enters Bertram Lake on the west side. In the spring, bow fishermen can be seen hunting suckers because this is a major area for spawning. I hope that is all they hunt. The dam is located where Otter Creek exits Bertram Lake. It was placed there to control the water level of the lake and has done so for almost 100 years (since 1922).
Since the parkland falls in the center of a glaciated area, there are many springs that feed Otter Creek. Between the dam and Long Lake, there are a few minor springs but south of where the creek enters Long Lake, there is an underwater artesian well. If you are ever canoeing or kayaking on Long Lake, feel the water in the middle of the lake and then paddle to south end and feel the water again, you will find a noticeable difference in the temperature between the two.
After Otter Creek exits Long Lake, it flows through Mud and First Lakes. On the north side of these lakes the Portland Cement Company had a processing plant for marl, which is the main ingredient for cement. Over the centuries the fine textured marl would wash off the land and settle in the bottom of the lakes. Portland Cement Co. mined the bottom and eventually enlarged the lakes. Otter Creek then was allowed to flow through them and clean much of the debris.
From First Lake, the creek flows to the Mississippi River passing under County Road 39, under Interstate 94, through the golf course, through Otter Creek Park, under County Road 75, and finally down to the Mississippi River. To my knowledge, Otter Creek has never been dry. Due to the many springs and the Artesian well, it is constantly flowing and because of this, the creek is day after day, year after year, mixing with the waters of the lakes and keeping them clean. This is a wonderful resource and we need to protect it as long as we can.