Adventure: paddling

Learn more about paddling


If you’re new to paddling, you’ve come to the right place. Vilas County has more than 1,300 lakes and 73 rivers and streams. You’ll find quiet waters perfect for practicing your paddling skills. If you’d like a gentle start to your adventure, practice paddling in shallow waters. When you’re getting comfortable on the water, it can be reassuring to see that the bottom is close. You can get some great beginning paddling advice from Vilas County outfitters – and they’ll also rent you a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard that’s well-suited to our lakes and rivers. You can use the Vilas County Silent Sports Trail Map, which will point you to some paddling routes perfect for a canoeing or kayaking adventure. A good place for a first paddle is Merrill Lake, located just west of Land O’ Lakes. It’s a small but picturesque lake that’s just 24 acres. Another place to experience paddling on a smaller scale is Upper Ninemile Lake east of Eagle River. This 108-acre lake has a maximum depth of just 5 feet. It’s located off Butternut Lake Road in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.


Vilas County offers endless options for day paddling adventures. If you’re looking to spend just part of the day on the water or explore a couple of smaller routes, Vilas County has some perfect options. For a quick trip, consider Brandy Lake and Arrowhead Lake in the Minocqua area. They are small lakes, nice for a morning float. You’ll find abundant dining options nearby off Hwy. 51. To the west, there are some additional great paddling lakes in the Lac du Flambeau area: check out Fence Lake, Crawling Stone Lake and Flambeau Lake. Canoe and boat rentals are also available in Lac du Flambeau. You can also strap your canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard to your car and check out carry-in boat landings across Vilas County. Some highlights include Pallette Lake near Sayner/Star Lake, Clair Lake in Land O’ Lakes, East Ellerson Lake in the Minocqua Area and 1,200-acre Presque Isle Lake.


There is nothing like summer paddling – the long days and pleasant weather make it possible to cover a lot of ground. You won’t run out of paddling options in Vilas County. One could spend a season exploring the county’s backwaters and not begin to touch all the beautiful places to launch a boat. Looking for a paddle/hike combo? Check out the Guido Rahr Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Preserve Trail. Enter at the boat landing on Palmer Lake, then take a scenic trip over to Tenderfoot Lake to explore the undeveloped shorelines of Tenderfoot Lake, Roach Lake and Mirror Lake. The county has paddling routes that can make a great multi-day adventure. Two routes detailed on the Vilas County Silent Sports Trail Map include the Wisconsin River Centennial Trips. Trip 1 covers 25 miles, from Lac Vieux Desert near Land O’ Lakes south to Conover. Continuing south, Trip 2 heads south and west past Eagle River covering 23 miles. Together, the two legs total more than 20 hours of paddling. Enjoy!


Want more paddling info?

Order the Vilas County Silent Sports Trail Map today for more paddling routes.
See all Vilas County public access waterways here.