Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Balsam Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Balsam Lake

Polk County in Northwest Wisconsin is described as a “Gift of the Glaciers.” The phrase certainly applies to Balsam Lake and the town that bears its name. Balsam Lake has exceptional fishing, boating and wildlife and is a gift for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

The Native Americans named the area around Balsam Lake “Innenehinduc” which means “Place of the Evergreens.” The Chippewa lived around the lake when the first European settlers arrived. There was a trading post at Balsam Lake from 1844 through 1865. Eventually settlers built a dam, sawmill, and boarding house, and the town of Balsam Lake was born. That dam was rebuilt in 1941, but it no longer exists. The Town of Balsam Lake was officially organized in 1870, and it is Polk’s County Seat. In 1860 there was a dam built at the lake’s outlet. Rebuilt in 1893 it is still a functioning dam and holds the lakes water levels ten feet higher than the natural levels. The dam was owned by the Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Power Company and is now owned by the Village of Balsam Lake.

Balsam Lake is predominately fed by Rice Creek and Harder Creek. The lake’s outflow is through Mill Pond. There are several islands in the lake to explore and canoeing and kayaking are popular. There is also power boating, water skiing, and jet skiing. The lake is mesotrophic tending toward eutrophic, but the water quality is still good.

Balsam Lake is known for its large mouth bass fishing. There are also healthy populations of northern pike, bluegill, crappie and muskie. There are walleye in the lake, but their numbers have been declining. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has stocked Balsam Lake for several years in an attempt to boost the walleye population. In the winter there is also ice fishing on the lake. Winter is also a great time to cross country ski, snow shoe, and snow mobile around the lake.

The wildlife around Balsam Lake is diverse and plentiful. There are black bear, white tailed deer, foxes and minks just to name a few. Bald eagles soar around the lake and there are also ring-neck pheasants and woodcock. Waterfowl includes but certainly isn’t limited to mallards and wood ducks. Nearby Interstate Park is Wisconsin’s oldest State Park and a great place for wildlife. Established is 1900, the park extends into both Wisconsin and Minnesota. There is hiking, camping and also an Ice Age Center with exhibits about the glaciers that formed the region.

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway forms the western boundary of Polk County. Including both the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, the riverway is 252 miles to explore by canoe or kayak. Those who prefer to explore on land will find 90 miles of railroad corridor in the Gandy Dancer Trail. Named for the men who laid the rails, the trail is a great place to hike, bike, or ride horse. The trail extends from St. Croix Falls to Superior.

The beautiful glacier formed geography and abundant fish and wildlife provide a magnificent backdrop for Balsam Lake. Combined with the amenities and accommodations of Polk’s County Seat, Balsam Lake is an exceptional Northwest Wisconsin getaway and truly a gift waiting to be enjoyed.

Things to Do at Balsam Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Balsam Lake

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Balsam Lake

If you’re considering a Balsam Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Balsam Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Balsam Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Balsam Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Village of Balsam Lake

Surface Area: 2,054 acres

Shoreline Length: 23 miles

Average Depth: 17 feet

Maximum Depth: 38 feet

Completion Year: 1860

Lake Area-Population: 950

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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