In 1853 Amos Courtwright and Luther Hanchett first dammed the Plover River near the site of the current dam for logging purposes. In 1864 ownership of the dam was transferred to Dr Alexander S. McDill and his brother Thomas H. McDill who operated a sawmill there as well as a grist mill. As pioneer lumbermen and merchants they made the Plover River integral in the local lumber Industry, and at that time the area was known locally as “McDillville”. In the 1870’s lumber rafting on the Plover River began to decline due to the development of the railroad, and logs were hauled by rail vs. water. In 1895 a fire destroyed the McDill sawmill.
The McDill Pond grist mill was erected in 1885 at the same site as the sawmill. The site originally contained two dams. The grist mill was used to grind grain for local farmers, and later served as a graphite mill for graphite that was mined in the Junction City area. Near the turn of the century the site was purchased by a paper company and a Kraft pulp mill was operated. Locally termed the “stink mill” it operated on and off until after World War II.
In 1954 the Village of Whiting bought the land and mill buildings for $7000. At that time the size of the pond created by the dam was much smaller than it is today. After the Village of Whiting purchased the land, they raised the water level to approximately where it is today. By the late 1950’s the McDill dam was in poor condition. In 1959 the village of Whiting drained the pond to build a new dam. During the three year drawdown, previously submerged tree stumps were collected and burned, and muck was removed from some channels. Several areas of the pond were deepened, including a trout pond that was dug by a local sports club. A few property owners also draglined and bulldozed channels. In some areas bottom material was used to create and expand some of the islands in the pond.
In 1962 the Village of Whiting completed the construction of the new concrete dam for $31,000, which contained three adjustable gates for water flow. Upon completion of the dam it took about one week for the water levels to return back to its previous levels. Until 1999 the Village of Whiting manually adjusted the water level on the pond for fluctuations, often requiring almost daily monitoring and adjustment of the dam gates. In 1999 a new dam was constructed by the Department of Transportation and Portage County as part of the Highway HH reconstruction. In June 2011 the dam failed, causing a 2 year drawdown while the Village of Whiting, City of Stevens Point, McDill Lake District, WI DNR and Portage County worked out a mutual repair agreement and completed repair with a DNR Grant. McDill was refilled in May 2013, and restocking will be completed over the next two years. The McDill Inland Lake District has taken over ownership of the dam, with shared expense maintenance of the dam between the Lake Distict and City of Stevens Point.
Around the mid-1960’s, a group of property owners formed the Riverwoods Association. The activities back then mainly included a nuisance weed control program and an annual cleanup and debris removal. In 1991, the Riverwoods Association changed its name to the McDill Pond Association. Although steps were taken as early as 1977 to form a Lake District, it wasn’t until 1994 that the McDill Pond Inland Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District was officially created. The Lake District was created and operates under Chapter 33 of the Wisconsin State statutes. There is a 5-member board in addition to a city and county council representative. The board members serve a 3-year term and are elected at the Fall annual membership meeting. The board meets on a regular basis and meetings are open to anyone.
Lake District members are generally assessed Lake District dues every year as needed to cover expenses for lake management and district expenses. There are currently 176 properties in the Lake District. McDill Pond is also home to the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society Bird Refuge and the abundant wildlife that make it home.