Lake Petenwell, Wisconsin, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Lake Petenwell.

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Lake Petenwell visitor and community guide

Thirty miles north of the famous Wisconsin Dells near Monroe Center, Lake Petenwell is a hidden treasure. The largest manmade inland lake in the state and the second largest overall, Lake Petenwell covers parts of both Adams and Juneau Counties. Petenwell Dam was built on the Wisconsin River by the Wisconsin River Power Company in 1948. Visitor to the lake can tour the dam which is the largest hydroelectric facility in the area. Petenwell Dam is still owned by the Wisconsin River Power Company and generates power for the surrounding area.

There is not much private lakefront property on Lake Petenwell. Most of the shoreline is undeveloped forest which is the reason for the lake’s beautiful unspoiled characteristics. There are great amenities, however, including one of the state’s top rated golf courses. There are several public boat ramps and lots of room for waterskiing and sailing. Anglers will find plenty of walleye, northern pike, large and small mouth bass, and muskie to challenge them, and Adams County has very good hunting. Petenwell County Park on the shores of Lake Petenwell has camping, a boat launch and swimming beach, and trail for hiking and cross country skiing.

A trip to Lake Petenwell wouldn’t be complete without visiting the rock that shares its name. Petenwell Rock was named for Peter Wells a man who lived with the area’s Indians. He and the chief’s daughter “Clinging Vine” fell in love, but she was already promised to someone else. The poor star crossed lovers leapt from the rock to their deaths. Today Petenwell Rock is one of the best places in the state to watch wintering bald eagles.

Nearby Necedah Natural Wildlife Refuge is another great place to watch birds and other wildlife. Established in 1939 by President Roosevelt, the 43,656 acre refuge was created to protect and preserve migratory birds, wildlife and their habitat. The refuge is part of the Great Central Wisconsin Swamp which is the largest wetland bog in the state, and it’s home to whooping cranes, wolves, trumpeter swans, and several endangered or threatened species.

Its proximity to the Wisconsin Dells, “America’s Waterpark,” and its sister lake, Castle Rock Lake, along with the beautiful unspoiled bog of Necedah Wildlife Refuge combine to make Lake Petenwell a fantastic getaway. Add the undeveloped forested shoreline, interesting geological features and great golf, shopping and restaurants and a trip to Lake Petenwell is sure to please the whole family.

Custom Lake Petenwell house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Lake Petenwell

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Petenwell

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

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Lake Petenwell

The Lake Petenwell map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Lake Petenwell photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Lake Petenwell statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Wisconsin River Power Company

Surface Area: 23,040 acres

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 924 feet

Maximum Depth: 44 feet

Water Volume: 495,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1948

Lake Area-Population: 363

Drainage Area: 5,860 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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