Vilas county has 1,318 lakes, Oneida county has another 493, and there are hundreds of miles of streams in our area. Could a paddler ask for anything more?
But how do you pick a place to go? We put together some ideas for you.
The Northern Highland American Legion State Forest (NHAL) has a multitude of paddling destinations. The link below gives officially designated canoe/kayak routes. These are mostly a combination of lakes and streams that come together for nice routes. Most will require putting an extra car or bike at the far end to get back to your starting point. Go to http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/StateForests/nhal/ (Click “maps and pubs,” routes are listed under “canoe trails”). There are also many lakes within the NHAL that are designated as “no motor” or “electric motors only”. If you are looking for a silent experience, we highly recommend choosing a lake from this list.
Some or our favorite lakes for kayaking and canoeing in the Vilas area include:
1. The chain of lakes including Bittersweet, Prong, Smith and Oberlin. There are short portages between each lake. They can be accessed from the north side of Hwy 70, near where Blue Island Road comes in from the south.
2. Salsich Lake, just east of the town of Star Lake. This requires a lengthy portage from the parking spot to the lake.
3. Allaquash Lake, just east of Hwy M near Trout Lake. This lake has a larger portion where motors are allowed, and a smaller marshy portion where motors are not allowed.
4. Day Lake, just northwest of Trout Lake. It is also classified as a State Natural Area.
5. Dorothy Dunn Lake, north of Star Lake. This is a smaller, somewhat marshy lake.
6. Fallison Lake, west of Sayner near Hwy N, which also has a nature trail around the lake. The lake is spring fed and clear.
7. Frank Lake, north of Sayner, which requires a short carry down from the parking spot. It is fairly large for a no motor lake.
8. Gilmore Lake, west of the Rainbow Flowage in Oneida county. If you are feeling adventurous, start at Dog Lake (off of Hwy J), and paddle down Dog Creek to Gilmore. Expect lots of fallen trees and other obstacles on the creek.
9. Jute Lake, northeast of Boulder Junction. There are a few cabins on the north side, but overall a very clear, quiet lake.
10. Lone Tree Lake, northwest of Star Lake. Nice beaches in low water years.
11. Lost Canoe Lake, southeast of Boulder Junction. There is some development on the west side, but the shoreline is mostly wilderness. It has a unique set of rails for getting boats to the lake from Hwy K.
12. Nixon Lake, east of Boulder Junction - swampy and good for wildlife viewing.
13. Partridge Lake, north of Star Lake. With only one cabin on the lake, it has a strong wilderness feel.
14. Pickerel Lake, west of St. Germain in Oneida County. The south shore is developed, but the north shore is pristine.
15. Anywhere on the Rainbow Flowage – the upper reaches are great for spotting eagles.
16. Escanaba Lake, southeast of Boulder Junction, unique because fishing is open year round. Lots of bays and islands.
17. Nebish Lake, southeast of Boulder Junction, near Escanaba Lake. This is a pretty small lake, but very quiet and clear.
18. Anywhere in the Sylvania Wilderness, which borders Vilas County on the north in Upper Michigan. The smallmouth bass fishing is fantastic. You will need to purchase a pass and go through an orientation.
19. Wisconsin River – see link Wisconsin Valley Improvement link below.
To make our favorites list, the lakes must have little or no development on the shoreline, limited boat motor traffic, be large enough to have some room to paddle, and no developed campgrounds. Let us know if you have some additions to the list!
The Wisconsin River winds its way all through the Vilas area, and offers a variety of water types.
There are some great maps of the river with lots of notations, published by the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company at: http://www.wvic.com (Click on maps 1 and 2 for the maps that apply to our area.)
Canoe and kayak rentals in Vilas County
Woodruff and Boulder Jct:
"All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was." -Toni Morrison