Otter Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Lake Superior Northwoods Region -

Also known as:  Eagle River Chain of Lakes

Otter Lake is one of more than 1,300 lakes, 73 rivers and streams, and a half million acres of forest found within northeastern Wisconsin’s Vilas County. With those numbers you can be assured that fishing tops the list of activities at Otter Lake. The good news for those who don’t fish is that Otter Lake and Wisconsin’s Northwoods offer an endless selection of outdoor recreation. If you enjoy canoeing, swimming, camping, hiking, horseback riding, skiing or snowmobiling, you will be glad you discovered Otter Lake.

The first residents of Otter Lake and surrounding Northwoods were likely the ancestors of the Chippewa, Potawatomi and Menominee people. In 1634 the native people were visited by Jean Nicolet, the first explorer to cross Lake Michigan and travel into what would become Wisconsin. Fur traders and missionaries soon followed Nicolet, but settlers didn’t come to this isolated area until the logging industry arrived in the 1880s. It wasn’t until the 1920s, and the introduction of rail and automobile travel, that Wisconsin’s Northwoods started to grow into the vacation and recreation area we know today.

Otter Lake is one of 22 named lakes and 35 unnamed lakes located within the small community of Lincoln. Spreading beyond Lincoln into Vilas County, Otter Lake is also one of ten lakes that make up the Eagle River Chain of Lakes (ERC). An impoundment of the Eagle and Wisconsin Rivers, the ERC covers 3,928 acres, 68 miles of shoreline and a 286,618 acre wooded watershed. Naming from west to east, the lakes are: Watersmeet Lake (107 acres), Yellow Birch Lake (192 acres), Duck Lake (106 acres), Lynx Lake (31 acres), Otter Lake (217 acres), Eagle Lake (575 acres), Scattering Rice Lake (263 acres), Voyageur Lake (143 acres), Catfish Lake (978 acres), and Cranberry Lake (924 acres).

The original Otter Rapids Dam was constructed in 1906 on the Wisconsin River with additional construction added in 1924 and 1927. Today the dam is under the operation of Wisconsin Public Service. In 1911 the Burnt Rollway Dam was constructed upstream of Cranberry Lake. At this point a unique boat hoist was installed to lift boats from the Eagle River Chain of Lakes (1614 feet) to Three Lakes Chain (1625 feet). A hoist is still in operation today adding another 7,600 acres of waterway to create the largest inner coastal freshwater chain in the world.

Eagle River Chain of Lakes is considered a world class fishing destination. Open for fishing year around, Otter Lake is rated “Class A” for muskie and walleye and is also known for its generous populations of northern pike, bluegill and crappie. Additional species include largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. If you don’t have success on Otter Lake, you can fish a different lake or river every day in pursuit of perch, bullhead catfish and shiners listed among the species found in the Eagle River Chain.

Almost all major lakes in Wisconsin’s Lake Superior – Northwoods Region provide public boat access or shoreline fishing. Two state-owned boat ramps can be found on Lynx Lake near the western inlet to Otter Lake. With miles of inlets, bays and islands found among the chain of lakes, canoeing and kayaking form two very popular activities. Pontoon boat rentals or guided tours offer leisurely excursions through the Eagle River Chain of Lakes with multiple marinas spread along the shores to provide all the equipment or services a boater may need.

Found at the eastern end of Eagle River Chain of Lakes, Nicolet National Forest is a treat for those interested in exploring the woodlands. Catching a glimpse of deer, wolves, an occasional black bear, bald eagles, and nesting ospreys make hiking through the pines and lake shores a wildlife adventure. Over 30 hiking trails vary in difficulty from easy quarter-mile strolls with handicap access to more difficult climbs that take you to scenic overlooks atop rocky outcrops. Residents of Otter Lake will appreciate the multiple interpretive trails, equestrian trails, mountain biking trails and National Recreation Trails that connect to extended hiking opportunities. In the winter the majority of hiking trails convert to cross-country ski trails or snowmobile trails.

Over 30 public campgrounds are available within Nicolet National Forest with facilities varying from back country camping to remote rustic cabins. Numerous private campgrounds and RV parks are found along the shores of Otter Lake placing visitors close to day trips and area attractions.

The community of Eagle River lies three miles south of Otter Lake. During the summer months you will find equestrian guides, golf, miniature golf, go-karting, tennis and bowling to entertain your family. During the winter Eagle River becomes the “Snowmobile Capital of the World.” A 500-mile network of trails known as the Eagle River 500 leads snowmobilers on exhilarating rides across frozen lakes and through the surrounding forests. After a cold windy day on the trail, it will feel good to browse the exhibits of local museums, explore appealing shops or dine on a warm meal from the wonderful selection of cozy restaurants.

Attracted by limitless summer and winter activities, the majority of Otter Lake’s shoreline has become developed with private residences and second homes tucked into the surrounding woodlands. Follow the shoreline of Otter Lake and adjoining chain of lakes and you will find a selection of resorts, campgrounds, vacation rentals and real estate properties you can call home for a week-end or a lifetime. Come to Otter Lake and find your home in the midst of the Wisconsin Northwoods where water, land and country air provide all the ingredients for a perfect family vacation.

Things to do at Otter Lake WI

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Miniature Golf

Fish species found at Otter Lake WI

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

Otter Lake WI Photo Gallery

    Otter Lake WI Statistics & Helpful Links

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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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