Manitowish Chain of Lakes, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Lake Superior Northwoods Region -

Also known as:  Manitowish Chain O Lakes, Manitowish Chain, Manitowish Lakes

Located in the heart of scenic Vilas County, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes is truly a northern Wisconsin vacation paradise. The chain consists of ten sparkling lakes known for great fishing along with breathtaking beauty and quiet seclusion for swimming, canoeing, camping, and bird watching. With a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants, and outdoor activities, the Manitowish Waters area is the perfect spot for a relaxing vacation or weekend getaway, any time of the year.

Surrounded by tall pines and beautiful, rolling countryside, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes is one of the most popular lake chains in Wisconsin’s Northwoods region. The ten pristine lakes which make up the chain include – Island Lake (1,023 acres), Rest Lake (809 acres), Clear Lake (555 acres), Manitowish Lake (496 acres), Wild Rice Lake (379 acres), Alder Lake (274 acres), Spider Lake (272 acres), Little Star Lake (245 acres), Stone Lake (139 acres), and Fawn Lake (74 acres). Visitors to the lakes can also enjoy the Manitowish River which connects the ten pristine bodies of water. The Manitowish River begins at High Lake in the city of Boulder Junction, flows through the chain from Rest Lake to Alder Lake, and then on to the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County. A dam on Rest Lake marks the beginning of the chain. With numerous access points, boat landings, and many canoe-in (overnight) campsites, paddlers can design the perfect camping vacation. Great opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially eagles, abound.

The Manitowish Chain of Lakes offers a combined 58.5 miles of stunning shoreline and a total of 4,074 acres of beautiful water for just about every recreational pursuit you can imagine. All of the lakes are known for great fishing with an abundance of musky, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, crappie, perch, and bluegill. Little Star Lake is the deepest lake in the chain with a maximum depth of 67 feet. Little Star lake is also home to Little Bohemia Lodge where John Dillinger had his famous shootout. The majority of the Manitowish lakes offer public access to the water which can vary from a modern concrete boat launch to a gravel slope in the lake. Stone Lake and Fawn Lake are only accessible from Clear Lake. Boating, swimming, snorkeling, and waterskiing are all popular pastimes on the lakes.

Accommodations on the Manitowish Chain O Lakes are numerous. Many resorts and lodges line the shores of the lakes. Vacation rentals can also be found in the cities of Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction. A number of area resorts and lodges cater to anglers and offer excellent fishing packages complete with boats, fishing gear, and guides. Real estate for sale or rent is also plentiful in the area. Vilas County is also home to over 1,300 lakes, making lakefront property rather easy to find.

For those who prefer land beneath their feet, the dense forests surrounding the Manitowish Chain O Lakes offer many opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, birding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. Northwoods golfing is fantastic in the spring, summer and fall. Visitors can choose from a variety of courses within a short drive of the lakes. A highlight of the fall season are cranberry harvests. Manitowish Waters is home to many cranberry bogs which allow visitors to tour the colorful marshes. In the winter, outdoor enthusiasts visiting the lakes have access to miles of trails for skiing and snowmobiling. Ice fishing and ice skating are popular lake activities.

Almost completely surrounded by the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes is a haven for wildlife and solitude. Nearly 40 miles of remote and challenging bike and hiking trails and many more miles of old forest roads are open to the outdoor enthusiast. Wildlife in the area ranges from timid deer to soaring bald eagles. Over two million people visit the forest annually to experience the peace and tranquility of the woods and enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, wildlife watching, nature study, boating, canoeing, and countless other outdoor activities. Over 900 lakes can be found within the 225,000-acre forest.

Just east of the Manitowish Chain O Lakes, anglers will find the official Musky Capital of the world. Boulder Junction has long been noted for its excellent musky fishing with more than 50 Class A musky lakes and an additional 190+ recreational lakes within a few miles of town. Boulder Junction offers all kinds of accommodations, restaurants, and shops and is well known for its well-groomed snowmobile trails and cross country skiing trails. Bicyclists will appreciate the Boulder Junction area’s extensive trail system as well. Many of Boulder Junction’s trails are paved and open to touring bicyclists, along with a network of quiet back country roads with spectacular woodland scenery.

The community of Manitowish Waters offers Manitowish Chain O Lakes visitors opportunity for shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Lodges, inns, bed and breakfasts, and additional lodging can be found in town.

Less than a day’s drive from Chicago, Milwaukee, or Minneapolis, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes offers anglers and outdoor enthusiasts unlimited opportunity for recreation. Fish for record size musky, golf some of the most scenic golf courses in northern Wisconsin, mountain bike for miles, ski some of the state’s finest cross country ski trails, or sit back and relax and catch a glimpse of a majestic bald eagle. Each season offers a unique opportunity to experience the natural splendor that awaits your vacation to the lakes.

Things to do at Manitowish Chain of Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Snorkeling
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Manitowish Chain of Lakes

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

Manitowish Chain of Lakes Photo Gallery

Manitowish Chain of Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Chippewa and Flambeau Improvement Company

Surface Area: 4,074 acres

Shoreline Length: 59 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,601 feet

Maximum Depth: 67 feet

Completion Year: 1887

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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