Located in Downtown Whitewater in Walworth County, Cravath Lake covers an expanse of 70 acres. The lake doesn’t get deeper than most commercial pools with a maximum depth of 10 feet. It is popular in the summer for boating.
Connected to Cravath Lake lies another popular lake called Tripp Lake. Tripp Lake (Trapp) is a 121 acre lake with a maximum depth of 8 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from a public boat landing. Tripp Lake is very popular for fishing and ice fishing, fish include Panfish, Largemouth Bass and Northern Pike. The lake’s water clarity is low.
These lakes have a rich and storied history, much of which can be found within “A Lake Protection Plan for Cravath and Trippe Lakes”: This history begins with the founding of what was to become the City of Whitewater, within which the Lakes are situated, at the confluence of Whitewater Creek and Spring Brook. The then Town was named for the soft, white clay that lined the streams flowing through the area.
Samuel Prince, the first settler, erected a cabin on his 60-acre claim in 1837, and a gristmill, sawmill, paper mill, and numerous stores were soon established in this agricultural area. Twenty-one years later, the Town of Whitewater “came of age” as the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad built a station in the Town on its Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien route, and the Esterly Grain Harvester Company and Whitewater Wagon Company, among others, transformed the Town of Whitewater into an industrial town. The Town was incorporated as a Village that same year, and, in 1885, the then Village of Whitewater became a City. In 1868, the State’s second normal school—later the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater—located here, further changing the character of the community.
Cravath Lake was created in the mid-1850s to provide motive power to a gristmill that was built on Whitewater Creek, and Trippe Lake was (recreated) in the mid-1860s to power a paper mill, nominally the first such mill in the State of Wisconsin. Early drawings of the area compiled by Kraege show watercraft such as sail boats and rowboats operating on these impounded waters.
In this regard, Kraege has documented several previous impoundments constructed in this area, which were subsequently washed out or destroyed, prior to the current dams being constructed. Kraege also notes an early record of Whitewater Creek being relatively shallow, with a depth of 2.5 feet where the then-Territorial Road crossed the Creek and merged with Main Street.
While the mills and factories that led to the establishment of the City of Whitewater and to the creation of the Lakes have faded into history, the Lakes have remained as a focal point of the City of Whitewater. In this regard, the functions of these waterbodies have gone from supporting the economic heart of the City to becoming a focal point for recreation and natural resources. In turn, this changing use has led to increasing concern for these waterbodies and efforts by the residents of the City of Whitewater to protect and improve their water quality” (Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission 2,3).
Cravath Lake Photos:
Tripp Lake Photos:
Photography by Danny Balister