Columbus Lake, Wisconsin, USA

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

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Looking for Columbus Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Columbus Lake

Columbus Lake is a hidden gem on the road less taken. The nearly 700-acre lake is just north of Sugar Camp in the Northwoods tourism region of Wisconsin. Columbus Lake has sandy banks and tree lined shores, perfect for wildlife habitat and wading during the warm summer months.

Columbus Lake just a 15 minute drive from three communities: Rhinelander, Three Lakes or Eagle River. Its shores are largely undeveloped. Most of the frontage is private, except two fairly isolated parcels of state land touching the lake on the north and northeast shorelines. There are no public boat launches; only “wilderness type access” is available to the public.

Columbus Lake is what Department of Natural Resource agents call a branch lake meaning water flows in and out of the lake. This helps keep the water quality good. So good in fact that the lake is not actively stocked, the species in Columbus Lake are self-sustaining. Columbus contains muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and pan fish.

You will need to look to the surrounding communities for a vacation rental when visiting Columbus Lake since there are few houses on the lake itself. The neighboring communities also offer a host of activities. Columbus Lake is surrounded by national forest land, specifically the Ottawa and Nicolet National Forests. Since Wisconsin is home to more than 15,000 lakes, one of the characteristics of both forest lands is clear pristine lakes. The area is a four season destination with each time of the year offering different activities. In the spring and summer there are fishing, canoeing, camping, hiking, and horse back riding. When fall arrives, so do the hunters or folks who stop to see the area’s famous fall colors. There are 3,600 miles of back roads to take in the scenery. Winter brings a lot of snow so cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiling are the norm. Area snowmobiling clubs help cut and maintain hundred of miles of snowmobiling trails. It is a great way to enjoy the snowy landscape.

Winter in Eagle River brings about a special project. On and off since 1920 the people of the town have built an ice palace. The “Castle” is constructed with more than 3000 12-inch-thick ice blocks cut from a local lake. The blocks are then hauled to downtown Eagle River and the beautiful castle is built. It only takes about 700 man-hours!

You may want to put a visit to the Rhinelander Logging Museum Complex on your agenda on your trip to Columbus Lake. In the complex you can tour the Rhinelander School Museum which depicts school in the pioneer days. The Logging Museum is a series of buildings representing a true-to-life replica of a lumber camp of the 1870’s, consisting of a bunkhouse, a cook shanty, and a blacksmith shop, plus many artifacts. The SOO Line Depot was built in 1892 by the SOO Line Railroad. It remained in constant railroad service until 1989. There is also a model train display in the basement of the depot. It is a representation of the prototype railroads operating in Rhinelander in the 1920’s through the 1940’s.

The communities neighboring Columbus Lake offer a wide variety of museums. In addition to the Logging Complex, there is The Northwoods Petroleum Museum in Three Lakes. The museum has displays from the major oil and tire companies hailing the days when a gallon of gas was under a buck. The Northwoods Children’s Museum in Eagle River offers an all day diversion for the kids. The 22 interactive exhibits offer a wide range of creative play. There are also special facilitated craft workshops during the school year on Saturdays at 1 p.m. The Nicolet Art Gallery is on the campus of Nicolet Technical College in Rhinelander. The World Snowmobile Headquarters and Museum is aptly stationed in Eagle River, the site of the World Championship Snowmobile Derby.

If you are an adventurer and have a habit of taking the road less traveled then a trip to Columbus Lake could make all the difference. If some members of your traveling party like more populated destinations the surrounding communities have something for them as well.

Things to Do at Columbus Lake

  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish Species Found at Columbus Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Columbus Lake

If you’re considering a Columbus 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 Columbus Lake Vacation

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

Columbus Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 693 acres

Shoreline Length: 4 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,626 feet

Average Depth: 17 feet

Maximum Depth: 26 feet

Drainage Area: 32 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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