HAZEN Harmony Lake might indeed be situated a bit off the beaten path.
But that is part of the appeal of the lake, situated within a North Dakota Game and Fish Department Game Management Area.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has two Waterfowl Production Areas nearby, making for good companionship. Fishing, hunting and camping is all associated with Harmony Lake. It is quite a change from the way things used to be.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN - - A brood of ducks enjoy a leisurely swim at Harmony Lake. Harmony Lake is located six miles north and one mile west of Hazen.
"It was an old mine pond," said Scott Gangl, N.D. Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader.
Indeed it was. The pond and surrounding 640 acres were given to Game and Fish by Coteau Properties which operated the Freedom Mine. Coteau Properties later became known as North American Coal Corporation. Most of the reclamation efforts at the site were made prior to it being gifted to Game and Fish. The Harmony Lake Game Management Area was officially opened in late 2003.
"It was built several years ago but still is a source of pride for North American Coal Corporation," said Don Steffen, environmental manager. "It's still used quite a bit. I drive by it and always see cars out there. The surrounding terrain is kind of unique, tucked into its own little world."
at Harmony Lake
2010 - Black crappie, 52 adult; white crappie, 280 adult; rainbow trout, 1,200 fingerling.
2009 - Black crappie, 46 adult; white crappie, 150 adult, rainbow trout, 1,400 fingerling, bluegill, 162 adult.
2008 - Rainbow trout, 1,200 fingerling.
2007 - Rainbow trout, 1,200 fingerling.
2004 - Bluegill, 756 adult.
2003 - Bluegill, 2,776 adult.
2002 - Bluegill, 800 adult.
2000 - Largemouth bass, 75 adult; fathead minnow, 173,000 adult.
The entire area is very beneficial to wildlife. There's grasslands for upland birds, ample areas for nesting waterfowl and a 38-acre lake stocked with fish.
"It was an old pit that they would have had to reclaim but ended up working with our fisheries and wildlife biologists and made it into a lake," said Dan Halstead, Game and Fish wildlife resource management supervisor at Riverdale. "They created a long and narrow lake, changed the terrain with some rocky terrain, natural fishing piers and put a boat ramp in. It turned out to be a really nice place. They won some national awards with that project."
After a visit to Harmony Lake, it is not hard to see why awards were won. What was once considered waste land is now a viable wildlife area open to public use.
Law enforcement hosts a kids' fishing derby there each year that draws up to 400 youth. Bluegills are the primary fish at Harmony but other species are there too - black and white crappie, rainbow trout and largemouth bass.
"The cormorants used to give us a lot of grief out there," Gangl said. "We started stocking larger fish and that seemed to help."
Gangl said what happened at Harmony is not "extremely common" because the land was gifted to Game and Fish. Nevertheless, Gangl said, "It makes for a nice partnership for someone who wants to leave something behind for us to manage for the public good."
Harmony Lake has the appearance of a trout pond. It is small and narrow compared to most popular fishing lakes in North Dakota. Boaters are limited to "idle speed only," a restriction that actually adds much to Harmony's appeal. Kayaks, canoes and float tubes can often be found on the water at Harmony, perfectly suited to the lake's size and contours.
"That's what you'll see out there, paddleboats and float tubes," Halstead said. "I've only fished it a few times but the bluegills were pretty active. You can catch them as fast as you want and there are some reasonably decent-sized ones in there. There's trout too."
Adult largemouth bass were stocked into Harmony in 2000. Test netting shows that the largemouths have been reproducing. However, reports of anglers actually catching largemouth bass from Harmony are rare. A reason may be that most fishermen are targeting the bluegills and rainbow trout.
In addition to the fishing and the chance to enjoy a serene body of water, Harmony Game Management Area offers much more. It is essentially an oasis for area wildlife.
"It's really a nice duck production area with a lot of duck and Canada goose brood produced there," Halstead said. "At times there's sometimes a fair number of pheasants. It has the potential for more sharptails and mule deer are quite common there."
Halstead said Mercer County has been very helpful in maintaining the road leading to Harmony Game Management Area. A maintained road makes it easier for fishermen and others to enjoy the area. Harmony Lake Game Management Area is located six miles north and one mile west of Hazen.