Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, USA

Also known as:  Hayward Lakes

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

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All About Lac Courte Oreilles

Known for its “really big muskie,” Lac Courte Oreilles near Hayward in Sawyer County has been a popular recreation spot with anglers for well over a hundred years. The fertile Wisconsin Northwoods with its wild rice and abundant wildlife has been calling to people for much longer.

Mounds on the southern shore of Lac Courte Oreilles point to the area being inhabited as far back as 500 B.C. More recently the area around Lac Courte Oreilles and the other Hayward Lakes, including Grindstone Lake, Round Lake, and nearby Lake Chippewa, has been inhabited by the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa. The LCO Band is one of six bands thought to have migrated along the St. Lawrence Waterway. The lakes were popular wild rice gathering grounds for the LCO Band. Originally called Ojibwa, the LCO Band settled on the shores of what was then known as Ottaway Lake after a child died and was buried there one winter. The grief-stricken parents refused to leave and the village grew up around them.

It’s been said that the history of Lac Courte Oreilles and Sawyer County can be traced from “beaver pelts, white pine, and summer resorts.” French fur traders were the first white inhabitants of the area. They traded with the local Indians, intermarried and were accepted into their culture. Courte Oreilles means “short ears” and is the name given the Indians by the French. After the traders opened posts and settled the area, the timber barons moved in to log it. Today Hayward is home to the Lumberjack World Championships as a tribute to its timber rich past. Held annually since 1960 the lake’s contest draws over 12,000 visitors a year. Lumberjacks compete at chopping, sawing, logrolling, and a 90 foot tree climb.

Logging changed the area, but the beautiful water brought visitors and summer resorts. The first fishing clubs started as early as 1889, giving anglers from as far away as Chicago and even Kentucky a place to fish and relax. Meanwhile the Lac Courte Oreilles Indians were living on a reservation created by a treated signed in 1854. The reservation is 48,000 acres in Sawyer County and includes about half of the lake. The LCO Band has been instrumental in protecting the lake’s water quality, and they still harvest wild rice and spearfish on Lac Court Oreilles.

Lac Courte Oreilles is a large, deep, clear natural drainage lake at the headwaters of the Couderay River. The waters of Grindstone Lake flow into Lac Court Oreilles through Grindstone Creek, and water flows out of Lac Court Oreilles into Little Lac Court Oreilles and Billy Boy Flowage created in 1936. With over 5,000 acres of water there is plenty of room for anglers and recreational boaters, and the lake has healthy populations of walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and bluegill. There are also crappie and largemouth bass and some gigantic muskie. In fact, the second largest muskie was caught in Lac Courte Oreilles in 1949 by Cal Johnson. The record for the 67 pound 8 ounce fish can be seen at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward. Shaped like a 143 foot long, 41 foot tall muskie, the museum has everything to do with fishing, and visitors can even stand in the muskie’s mouth.

In winter there is ice fishing, and snowmobiles can drive across Lac Courte Oreilles. Sawyer County has cross-country skiing, and Hayward is the home of the largest American cross-country ski race. The three-day competition draws visitors from all over. There are plenty of trails for hiking and ATV’s near Lac Courte Oreilles, and nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has over 800,000 acres to explore. Hayward has great restaurants, all kinds of accommodations, and any amenities visitors could want.

The deep, clear water and exceptional fishing will call visitors to Lac Courte Oreilles. The beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods, rich history and fantastic recreation opportunities will keep them there.

Things to Do at Lac Courte Oreilles

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish Species Found at Lac Courte Oreilles

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

Find Places to Stay at Lac Courte Oreilles

If you’re considering a Lac Courte Oreilles 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 Lac Courte Oreilles Vacation

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

Lac Courte Oreilles Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: LCO Band and Wisconsin DNR

Surface Area: 5,039 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,286 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,288 feet

Average Depth: 34 feet

Maximum Depth: 92 feet

Water Volume: 169,000 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 774

Drainage Area: 66 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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