Wisconsin Lakes, Nature March 18, 2019
The Underappreciated County In Wisconsin That’s Home To 1,001 Heavenly Lakes
Our neighbor to the west touts their 10,000 lakes, but here in Wisconsin we know our beauty speaks for itself and we don’t have to make it a tagline. We’ve got more than 15,000 lakes and if you know where to look, you can find areas that are positively chock full of lakes of all different shapes and sizes. Most of our fabulous lakes are the product of the last Ice Age, known as the Wisconsin Glaciation. About 12,000 years ago when the glaciers moved through, they left behind tons of craters in the land which were soon filled with the melting ice. Though there are lakes all over the state, there’s one spot that is positively teeming with them. Lakefront property abounds, as does the opportunity to get out on and in the lakes to have an absolute blast. If you’re looking for lakes in Wisconsin, you absolutely have to head to Vilas County.
Way, way up North, on the border with Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is Vilas County. The county has about 1,000 square miles and about 16% of that area is made up of lakes. There are 563 named and 755 unnamed lakes covering 93,889 acres in Vilas County, more than any other county in Wisconsin. Vilas County is home to one of the largest collections of freshwater lakes in the world, with more than 1,300 beautiful lakes and 73 rivers and streams.
No matter what you love, from activities to lazing about listening to the water lap on the shore, you can find it up here. Vilas County is basically the epitome of that feeling that we associate with "Up North." It's a different speed of life, where you can enjoy stellar sunrises and sunsets, see a huge variety of wildlife and generally forget that any real life responsibilities exist.
The whole family will love all the options of ways to get out on and in the water and have a blast. Dip your toes into some of the clearest water in the state and wash away some of the summer heat.
Or take advantage of myriad frozen surfaces in winter for activities like ice fishing, hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and so much more. Definitely don't only check this place out in winter. You'll find some zen in getting a view from the center of your favorite lake when it's frozen.
From stunning greenery in the summer to the gorgeous foliage of fall, you pretty much can't turn around up here without running into picture perfect scenery that will leave you in awe. You'll be able to find spots where you feel like you're the only person on earth and it's a heady feeling.
The lakes provide a massive opportunity for all the water fun and frolicking you can imagine. Take a pontoon out and kick back or race through some of the bigger lakes with inner tubes to get a total adrenaline rush. Wade in the water or go full-on swimming. No matter how you love to enjoy life on the water, you can do it out here.
There are nearly 100 miles of paddling trails laid out for you by the county, ranging from two miles to 25 miles. Whether you're in a canoe or kayak or on a paddle board, there are a ton of options for getting out on the water under your own power and exploring that fabulous natural beauty. There are also the Manitowish and Wisconsin Rivers to discover. A number of the lakes up here are restricted to non-motorized boats, so there's so much serenity to be had.
Whether you're a seasoned angler or trying fishing for the first time, Vilas County is basically the perfect place for you. The county boasts some of the best smallmouth bass, walleye and musky fishing in North America. In addition, Vilas County lakes have exceptional fishing for crappie, bluegill, northern pike and more. A fishing license is required for those over the age of 16, but they can be procured easily up here. There's a reason that regardless of season, this is a fishing destination for both Midwesterners and beyond.
There are at least a dozen gorgeous public beaches that will make you question if you're somewhere a bit more tropical than Northern Wisconsin. There are nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline up here and plenty of spots to just settle in and relax on the water's edge. Kids will love playing in the sand and you'll love kicking back to catch some rays, maybe read a book and feel all your stress just melt away.
There's basically nowhere that can match the pure peaceful beauty of Vilas County. Scenes like this are so common you might find yourself getting used to them. Life in Vilas County is basically perfection and you'll love the laid-back vibe all those lakes provide.
The county maintains a fabulous lake grid that you absolutely have to check out. There’s more information in these four pages than you could ever hope to have.
If you’re heading up to Vilas County,
check out these things Northern Wisconsinites wish everyone else knew.