Wisconsin is a gorgeous state full of wildlife and untouched land. It is so full of history, there’s a museum everywhere you turn showing off the area’s story of how it came to be. Part of the history surrounding the state has to do with how the majority of the lakes within the state were formed by glaciers hundreds of years ago.
The state of Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes. Yep, you heard that right, 15,000 lakes. That’s quite a large number to decide between if you’re looking to take an on-water Wisconsin vacation. Lucky for you, I have put together a list of the top 5 lakes in the state. Not to say any of the other 15,000 lakes are not also worthy of a visit. My goal is simply to shorten the list to the most popular lakes ranked by tourists and locals.
Not to worry, with over 15,000 lakes in the state, I’m sure you’ll find one worth a trip. These lakes have made their rankings for different reasons. Nonetheless, let’s dig into what exactly makes these top five special.
1. Geneva Lake
Geneva Lake is surrounded by a small resort town that is full of culture. There is a ton of history surrounding the water and the town. This is most definitely a town and lake you’ll want to spend a few days visiting.
The lake is a beautiful, quiet paradise for those looking to spend some time enjoying the water. Families love to spend vacations out tubing and swimming around the boat. It also has a picturesque shoreline that makes the perfect backdrop during a sunset cruise, especially in the fall once the leaves turn.
Geneva Lake is great for those who are passionate about fishing. You will find an abundance of Smallmouth bass in the lake, along with a number of other species. With five boat launches, there will be somewhere to drop your boat in and head out on the water for a day full of fishing. For the fishing enthusiast, this could be your new favorite honey hole.
If you don’t own a boat, no worries because boat rentals are available at some of the marinas around the lake. You can also opt for cruises on a tour boat rather than renting a boat. Either is a great way to check out the lake ranked number one in Wisconsin.
2. Lake Winnebago
Coming in at number two on our list, we have Lake Winnebago. Known around the country for its outstanding beauty and surrounding parks with hiking trails. The great thing about parks that surround the lake is that they provide beautiful scenery for those who are exploring via boat. If you want some picturesque views, Lake Winnebago has you covered.
The reason it ranks number two rather than number one is that this lake is fairly shallow. The average depth of the lake is only 15.5 feet, and the maximum depth is 21 feet. However, the depth is not that much of a deterrent for the average boater.
Lake Winnebago is home to a number of sandbars that attract crowds of people during the summer months. Boaters gather here to enjoy the summer weather and to socialize with another lake folk.
Fishing is very popular on this lake because of the abundance of Panfish, Walleye, Sturgeon, and Catfish. With other species living in the lake as well, it may be your dream lake to fish. If you don’t want to haul your own boat here, you can rent a boat to fish in for the day from one of the marinas. The lake has plenty of amenities to cover your interests while visiting.
Now, we can’t forget to mention the towns found on the lake. There are a number of towns located right on the water. Stockbridge, WI is the main town on the lake. But there’s also Fond De Luc, WI on the Southern side of the lake and Neenah, WI to the North. All of these towns are beautiful and well worth a visit.
3. Green Lake
Now we come to the famous Green Lake. Many know this lake because of its extreme depth. It has an average depth of 100 feet. At its deepest point, it’s measured to be 237 feet deep. That is very deep for an inland lake and it’s the deepest inland lake in Wisconsin.
This body of water is surrounded by culture and history unlike any other. The town is beautiful and often hosts live entertainment right off the water's edge. There are a number of restaurants I recommend checking out as well if you find yourself in the area.
As for the lake itself, it is perfect for all kinds of boating. No matter if you’d rather cruise around the shore or take a lap water skiing, you won’t be disappointed. The deep water makes it fairly easy to navigate and avoid obstacles. This makes a captain's life a lot easier, that’s for sure.
As for those interested in fishing, Green Lake is a hotspot. You’ll find Smallmouth bass, Trout, Catfish, and more in the lake. You could spend an entire day out on the lake fishing for different species with the abundance of fish in this area. Whatever your hobby on the water is, a visit to Green Lake would be well worth your time.
4. Lake Pepin
Ranked number four on our list is Lake Pepin. This lake is right on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin so both states get to enjoy the beauty of Lake Pepin. The lake naturally occurs along the Mississippi river so really, you could travel far distances if you kept following the river.
There is a ton of history that surrounds the lake because of the location on the Mississippi river. You can find a number of museums in the towns that surround the lake. If you’re interested in checking out the history of this body of water, I recommend visiting Bay City or Stockholm.
As for boating, you can’t go wrong on Lake Pepin. There is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy. Whether you prefer some intense watersports in the morning or a cruise in the evening, Lake Pepin is ideal for all. And, since the lake is so long, it is great for sailing on a windy day.
There are many activities to enjoy while visiting Lake Pepin. You won’t find yourself bored while visiting the area. Even during the winter months, people love to ice fish or just enjoy the frozen lake.
5. Petenwell Lake
The final lake on this list is Petenwell Lake. This lake is a bit of a hidden gem because it’s not as developed and it’s more off the grid than the others listed above are. For some, that might be exactly what you’re looking for.
To start, there are a total of 15 boat launches around the lake. You won’t have to worry about having to drive to the opposite side of the lake to launch your boat since they are scattered all around it. Along with motorized boats, kayaks and canoes are very popular among lake visitors.
It has been said that skiing on this lake is unlike anywhere else. Since the shoreline is largely undeveloped, it provides a very scenic early morning water ski session. Sometimes passing houses upon houses on a lake gets old, it's nice to spend some time on a lake surrounded by trees and wilderness.
If you’re interested in fishing, you won’t be disappointed if you decide to visit Petenwell Lake. You’ll find Panfish, Largemouth bass, Northern pike, and other species in the lake. Overall, the lake is a unique place to explore, and fishing with a gorgeous backdrop is never a bad thing.
Take a trip over to Petenwell Lake to see it for yourself. While it is off the grid, you can travel to some of the surrounding towns to enjoy a bit of history and delicious food.
Go Visit Wisconsin Lakes
All this research and talk about these lakes has provoked me to add them to my growing list of lakes to visit. I can only imagine how beautiful they are during the summer. Along with all the history that surrounds the lakes, there’s so much to do.
All of these lakes are unique and with over 15,000 in the state of Wisconsin, I can only imagine there are many others worth a trip. It doesn’t matter if you want to cruise on a pontoon, fish, or ski, these lakes are great for whatever your choice of a hobby is.
Make sure to add Wisconsin to your bucket list if any of these lakes sound interesting to you. Most have accommodations near the water making it easy for those who are traveling. I recommend checking out one or all of these lakes if you have the opportunity.