Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA

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

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Shell Lake visitor and community guide

Some of Wisconsin’s best fishing is in the clean, clear water of beautiful Shell Lake. Tucked away in rural northwest Wisconsin, Shell Lake and the city of the same name is a fantastic getaway for the whole family.

Shell Lake is in Washburn County. With 961 lakes, the county is 7th in the state for total water surface. Shell Lake is the largest landlocked seepage lake in the entire state. A seepage lake is a natural lake whose only water source is ground water and precipitation. There is no stream inlet or outlet.

The entire lake is with in the city corporate limits of Shell Lake, which is Washburn’s county seat. As the city grew up around the lake and Shell Lake’s shoreline became very developed, the surface around the shore became less permeable. As a result there was more run off causing lake levels to rise. The City of Shell Lake tried unsuccessfully for years to lower that water. Eventually they built a pipeline that siphons water from the bottom of the lake keeping lake levels relatively steady.

There is an advantage to the development around Shell Lake. It is an easily accessible lake with plenty of amenities including restaurants, shopping and accommodations. There are several boat launches although only one is a trailer in launch in an attempt to curtail invasive species. There are quite a few parks, a pavilion, city operated campgrounds and sandy beaches. The City of Shell Lake also has water craft rentals. The lake is a popular place to boat especially with sail boats and there are several regattas held each summer.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources considers Shell Lake an “excellent fishery.” There are healthy populations of walleye, musky, northern pike, several types of pan fish and large mouth and small mouth bass. The Wisconsin DNR also named Shell Lake an Outstanding Resource Water or ORW. Outstanding Resource Water’s receive the highest protection allowed by law and the water running into them is monitored carefully to make sure it does not lower the water quality in the lake.

In addition to playing on the water, there is plenty to do at Shell Lake. It is an easy drive to the Museum of Woodcarving. Holding the largest collection of carvings by an individual, the museum displays the work of Joseph Barta. Sometimes described as walking through a wooden bible, the museum has both life size figures and miniatures made predominately from laminated pine 2 x 4’s. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is nearby. The riverway is 252 miles of the St. Croix and Namakagon Rivers set aside for recreation and exploration. It is a beautiful way to explore the area by canoe or kayak. Shell Lake is also close to the Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary. The sanctuary is an exceptional place to watch birds and water fowl.

With its clean, clear water, exceptional fishing, and all that the City of Shell Lake has to offer, there is something to please everyone on this unusual lake.

Custom Shell Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Shell Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Shell Lake

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

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Shell Lake

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Shell Lake photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Shell Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: City of Shell Lake

Surface Area: 2,580 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,221 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,220 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,222 feet

Average Depth: 23 feet

Maximum Depth: 36 feet

Lake Area-Population: 1,309

Drainage Area: 16 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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