Spectacle Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Lake Superior Northwoods Region -

Those dreaming of the quiet beauty of a northern Wisconsin lake will want to check out Vilas County’s Spectacle Lake. Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest encompasses over a million acres in the Lake Superior Northwoods region along the Wisconsin-Michigan border. This small gem of a lake is surrounded by bigger lakes in the midst of Nicolet National Forest. Those lucky enough to discover the national forest campground, the private home rentals, or the condo timeshare location along the four-mile shoreline will quickly decide Spectacle Lake is one of the most beautiful locations in the entire Northwoods.

Vilas County is noted for having one of the highest numbers of lakes in the world. Nearby Eagle River holds a large number of connected lakes and is a favorite for boating and fishing. Spectacle Lake is far less busy than the more commercialized Eagle River Chain of Lakes. Only a small portion of the shoreline lies within the national forest; the rest is sparsely developed with private homes. It’s considered ‘in the middle of nowhere’, which is exactly where Spectacle Lake fans want to be. Since the town is less than ten miles from the little town of Phelps, the remoteness is an illusion brought on by the endless sea of forest permeating the area. It’s a place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the natural beauty that is northern Wisconsin.

Swimming, kayaking, fishing and wildlife watching are what take up the day at Spectacle Lake. Traffic is light along the gravel roads near the lake, perfect for bike riding and leisurely walks. The lake is relatively shallow, with average depths of 12 feet. Near-shore areas are ideal for swimming. Motors are allowed, so waterskiing, tubing and other watersports are enjoyed during daytime hours. No-wake limits are in place after five o’clock, perfect for sailing, pontooning, kayaking and canoeing in the early evening when wildlife is often most active. The one-lane public boat ramp cannot accommodate large boats, so the only powerboats on the lake are those belonging to property owners who live here.

Spectacle Lake consists of two ‘bays’ or basins connected by a narrow channel that resembles a pair of spectacles. The national forest campground occupies a corner of the northern bay. Thirty-three campsites share a loop on treed lots with plentiful shade. There is no on-site electricity or water and amenities are minimal, with vault toilets and two hand pumps for drinking water. All campsites contain a picnic table and grill. Reservations for this campground are not available, so wise patrons arrive early to get their favored campsites. A 500-foot sandy beach fronts a buoyed swim area. The boat ramp is nearby with a convenient fishing pier for shore fishing. The campground is the perfect place to allow children to explore nature and amuse themselves watching for turtles, minnows and frogs. A 2.5-mile hiking trail leads from the Spectacle Lake Campground to the campground on nearby Kentuck Lake. Wildlife is abundant, with loons often seen in the early morning, and a wide variety of songbirds and waterfowl visiting the lake every day.

The campground is open from late May to early September, but the Spectacle Lake-Kentuck Lake Trail is available in winter for snowshoeing. The route utilizes an old logging rail bed and displays a variety of wildflowers in spring and early summer. Fishing is popular year-round with summer targets mostly largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, trout, walleye, bluegill and sunfish. In winter, ice fishing is possible, although roads near the lake within the national forest may not be plowed. Nature lovers and hikers will enjoy using Spectacle Lake as home base for exploring the numerous hiking and biking trails in the surrounding area. A number of wilderness areas and natural areas nearby are open to hiking and nature viewing.

Within ten miles of Spectacle Lake, Beaver Creek State Natural Area, Blackjack Springs State Natural Area, and Blackjack Springs Wilderness feature sparkling trout streams, stands of second-growth forest, and wetlands harboring bear, fisher (weasel family), deer, ruffled grouse and many songbirds. No motorized vehicles are allowed in wilderness-designated areas, but primitive camping is allowed as is paddling using hand-carried canoes or kayaks. Many hiking trails and local scenic destinations are available nearby, including to the site of an old fire tower and a dilapidated loggers’ cabin.

In winter, downhill ski hills are located nearby, as are numerous old logging roads for cross-country skiing. A number of groomed snowmobile trails are located in the Phelps area, along with most needed local services and supplies. The small City of Eagle River is only ten miles to the southwest, with all types of resort-style amenities, plenty of lodgings and choices of restaurants. The entire area is filled with winter activities such as ice fishing tournaments on the larger lakes, snowmobile races, and a Klondike Days winter festival. All year round, activities in the area of Phelps and Eagle River provide fun, food and excitement to every member of the family. Whether your sport is pond hockey, kayak racing, marathon running or professional muskie tournaments, you’ll find it here in Vilas County. In addition, there is always an arts-or food-related festival or celebration coming up with fun for the entire family.

Real estate is sometimes available on the lakefront at Spectacle Lake. Hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts and lakefront resorts are numerous in the nearby areas, so lodgings of all types can easily be found. Other larger nearby lakes such as Kentuck Lake, Long Lake, Big Sand Lake, and North and South Twin Lakes may be better known, but no place beats Spectacle lake for sheer beauty, colorful fall foliage or pristine swimming beaches. So come check out Spectacle Lake and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Enjoy the peaceful and natural beauty that greets each day.

Things to do at Spectacle Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Spectacle Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Spectacle Lake Photo Gallery

Spectacle Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 171 acres

Shoreline Length: 4 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,772 feet

Average Depth: 12 feet

Maximum Depth: 35 feet

Water Volume: 2,065 acre-feet

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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