Adventure: boating

Learn more about boating


Vilas County is home to one of the largest concentrations of freshwater lakes in the world. These lakes were left behind by glaciers that covered the region thousands of years ago. Some of the lakes are small; others cover thousands of acres. They are all spectacular. To truly experience the beauty of the region, consider getting out on the water. If you want to pilot your own boat (captain’s hat recommended but not required), check out this boating information. A certification is required for anyone who’s at least 16 years old and born after Dec. 31, 1988, who wants to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft. Some of the most scenic lakes in Vilas County include Trout Lake south of Boulder Junction, Lac Vieux Desert in northeastern Vilas County and Presque Isle Lake.


With more than 1,300 lakes and over 1,700 miles of shoreline, boating options in Vilas County are just about endless. You’re never far from a boat landing in Vilas County, and there are lots of great options for a half-day cruise. Head out early in the morning, cruise the flat water and pull up to a dock for some lunch. Some great lakes for a half-day cruise with dining options include North and South Twin Lakes in Conover and Big Arbor Vitae Lake in Arbor Vitae. Other great cruising can be found on the 10-lake Lac du Flambeau chain. Fishermen have caught some monster musky on these lakes, including three world line records.


Perhaps you have your own boat and are looking to spend some significant time on the water. Vilas County has some great cruising options for you. The Eagle River-Three Lakes Chain of Lakes consists of 28 lakes and is part of the largest chain of freshwater lakes in the world. Boaters will not only find beautiful views of the Northwoods but also world-class fishing for musky, panfish and bass. Want a fun experience on your trip? Head to the Burnt Rollways Boat Hoist, which connects the Eagle River and Three Lakes chains. Another popular chain is the Manitowish Waters Chain of Lakes. This 10-lake chain covers nearly 4,200 acres, has 58 miles of shoreline and includes a section of the Manitowish River. On Little Star Lake, you’ll pass Little Bohemia Lodge, site of a 1934 shootout between the John Dillinger gang and the FBI. Today the lodge is a restaurant that serves a great fish fry as well as a bit of gangster history, including bullet holes leftover from the shootout. Most lakes on the chain provide boat access.


Want more boating info?

See all Vilas County public access waterways.