What Can I Do?

Lake care is a community effort. We need everyone’s help to protect the lakes for generations of families!

Commonly Asked Questions

We’ve grouped our most commonly asked questions at the top of this FAQ list so you can get answers quickly!

Our entire community can keep the lakes safe! The Lilly Center recommends lake-focused best-practices, based on thorough research, and helps local families adopt them. (Native plants, proper disposal of waste, washing cars in the car wash, picking up after pets, careful boating, etc.) We model some of those actions on our own property: native landscaping is an example. We also use eco pavers and a green roof. Throughout the year, we host workshops, webinars and nature hikes, too.

After we gather field data, we organize it, check it for accuracy and house it in our database. Then we analyze the data (for both formal, published research studies and our own publications) and deliver best-practices to you.

We work closely with state and local organizations, too, including the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDNR) and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).

We rely on volunteers to power our community events. If you’re ready to get your feet wet (and depending on what you choose to do, you might actually get wet!) we encourage you to email us at lakes@grace.edu with your areas of interest. There’s something for everyone.

Native Plants & Lawn Care

Planting native plants and proper lawn care are two ways you can protect the lakes from your property, whether or not your home is on a shoreline.

There are lots of ways to keep stormwater on your property. Here are a few we recommend:

  • Reduce paved surfaces and use porous materials like mulch, gravel and brick.
  • Install a rain barrel to collect water from your roof, which can be used to water your lawn and garden.
  • Install rain gardens with native plants in low areas of your yard.

Around lakes, nutrients commonly enter the water through eroding shorelines, lawn and garden fertilizers, grass clippings, and leaves! Too many nutrients can lead to excess weeds and algae blooms. Collect your leaves for removal according to your local guidelines, or use them to create a healthy compost pile.

Over-fertilizing and fertilizing during rainy seasons often means excess nutrients enter our lakes and streams. When it reaches the water, the nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertilizer are used as fuel by algae and weeds. Their growth can suddenly spike, choking out other aquatic vegetation and limiting the habitat of aquatic creatures.

Rather than over-fertilizing, only fertilize your property in the fall. Try using organic fertilizers; they have lower amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, the catalysts for algae blooms and other lake-related problems. You can even try composting!

Erosion happens when rain (or another source of water) pours over the ground and washes loose soil, debris and contaminants downhill or downstream. This can lead to problems in our lakes, including excessive algae and weed growth.

  • Patch bare spots in your lawn with native grasses or groundcover, or use mulch in shady areas where grass won’t grow.
  • If you’re working on a landscaping project, minimize the amount of time the soil is disturbed by re-planting as soon as possible and avoiding work before major rain is forecasted.
  • Use native plants in your landscaping and along shorelines to help hold soil in place.

Native plants are plants that have existed within a certain region for a long period of time, and are adapted to that region’s weather, and animal and insect inhabitants. In northern Indiana, native plants include: flowering dogwood, spicebush, wild columbine and many more. Avoid these invasive plants!

  • Keep Indianapolis Beautiful shows how to install a native plant garden

Riverview Nursery
(260) 704-5092

Cardno Native Plant Nursery
(574) 586-3400

S & L Environmental
(574) 536-9879

Myers Landscaping & Nursery
(574) 457-5354

Heartland Restoration Services
(260) 489-8511

Clayton’s Garden Center

Identifying algae, spills, fish kills & invasives

Seeing an oddly-colored scum on or in your lake is concerning. So are fish kills! Here are few ways to identify what you might be noticing.

Algae (including blue-green algae) comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. So do harmless aquatic plants, like duckweed. Identifying what you’re noticing on your lake might take some research! Start by taking a picture of the scum or plants and comparing it to a field guide.

If you suspect blue-green algae, keep your friends, family and pets out of the water and visit our Ultimate Guide to Blue-Green Algae to learn more. If you’re still unsure, email your picture to us and one of our researchers will get back to you.

Although not good, fish kills tend to be a natural part of lake’s springtime cycle. Especially when ice and snow are left on the surface for a long time during winter, dissolved oxygen becomes limited for the fish who live in the lake. If you suspect a different cause, though, email us with your concern.

Weeds are good for a lake and its habitats, when they grow in moderation. Their roots anchor the soil and provide living spaces for small aquatic creatures. But too many weeds can be a bad thing! Before you start pulling up or treating unwanted plants, contact Aquatic Weed Control or Aquatic Control. They can walk you through the process.

Shoreline Health

Preserving your shoreline is one way to prevent erosion. Try planting native plants or installing glacial stone, rather than a concrete wall.

We recommend Tim Fultz and Natural Rock Seawalls team. Keep in mind that new seawalls require a DNR permit and may not be allowed for all lakes.

The shoreline is one of the most critical areas which impacts overall lake health. Aside from streams that flow into the lake, the lake’s shoreline is one of its chief gatekeepers—it determines what enters the lake from the surrounding landscape.

Native plants are easy to grow, lovely to look at, and a guaranteed bird-and-butterfly magnet. Try creating your own wetland edge seed mix using this helpful fact sheet.

Lake Recreation

We encourage you to tour the Visitor Bureau’s website for all your weekend or day-trip needs. But here are a few lake recreation tips to get you started!

The Visitor’s Bureau, alongside the Clean Waters Partnership, created four guides for Kosciusko County’s outdoor spaces:

All-sport lakes are typically defined as lakes that allow water skiing and jet skiing. Rules vary by lake, but in general, all motored watercraft are permitted. Here are the all-sport lakes in Kosciusko County, with approximate distances from Warsaw.

  • Beaver Dam Lake (14.8 miles)
  • Big Barbee Lake (11.5 miles)
  • Big Chapman Lake (8 miles)
  • Dewart Lake (14.7 miles)
  • James Lake (13.3 miles)
  • Lake Tippecanoe (11.5 miles)
  • Lake Wawasee (19.4 miles)
  • Oswego Lake (10 miles)
  • Syracuse Lake (18.7 miles)
  • Webster Lake (16.4 miles)
  • Winona Lake (2 miles)
  • Yellow Creek Lake (12.7 miles)

All of the lakes that have public access points are available for kayaking, fishing, boating and more! If you’d prefer a quieter kayaking experience, we recommend Grassy Creek.

Portions of the Tippecanoe River provide scenic, challenging canoeing routes. P4C and the Lilly Center host logjam removal events for local streams and parts of the river.

Although there are many good options, Tri-County Fish and Wildlife Area is among the best in our county. It provides quality hunting and fishing opportunities across 3,546 acres of land, with 650 acres of lakes and impoundments. Make sure your fishing and hunting permits are up-to-date before visiting.

Learn about the proper techniques and equipment required for fishing in this guide from Camping Cooks. You can find out what kind of fish live in our lakes by visiting the lake directory and clicking on specific lake pages. A DNR fishing permit will be required.