With more than 1,300 lakes, there are endless places to launch a boat in Vilas County. This Northwoods vacation destination is home to lakes of all sizes, from picturesque postage-stamp waters to lakes big enough for an extended cruise. And the best news: you don’t have to choose. Thanks to the county’s lake chains, you can explore several lakes—or more than a dozen—in a single outing. Here’s a quick guide to some beautiful lake chains.
Eagle River Chain
One of the most well-known chains in the Northwoods is the Eagle River Chain of Lakes. In fact, it’s the largest freshwater chain of lakes in the world. The chain connects with the Three Lakes Chain to the south, so boaters have a total of 29 lakes with 174 miles of shoreline to explore. The Eagle River portion of the chain includes nine lakes covering 3,600 acres, including small waters like 22-acre Lynx Lake and expansive lakes such as the thousand-acre Catfish Lake. From May-September a boat hoist helps boaters travel between the two lakes at Burnt Rollways Dam, lifting boats high into the air from one chain to the next.
In far northern Vilas County, the Cisco Chain takes boaters into Michigan waters. With 15 lakes and 270 miles of shoreline, it’s one of the biggest chains in the world. Big Lake, West Bay and Mamie Lake extend into Vilas County and connect with lakes like Cisco and Thousand Island Lakes to the north.
Lac du Flambeau Chain
This spring-fed 10-lake chain is known for its abundant fish and clear water. It’s anchored by Fence Lake, a clear, 3,483-acre lake that contains musky, panfish, smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye. There are many places to get on the water and one of the chain’s lakes, Long Interlaken, borders downtown Lac du Flambeau.
Manitowish Chain O’ Lakes
In Manitowish Waters, you’ll find a 10-lake chain with some great fishing and an interesting history. The chain includes Rest Lake, Stone Lake, Fawn Lake, Clear Lake, Island Lake, Alder Lake, Spider Lake, Wild Rice Lake and Manitowish Lake. The lake that helped the chain gain fame is Little Star Lake, home to Little Bohemia Lodge, site of a 1934 gangster shootout involving John Dillinger.
Just south of Woodruff, this chain will take you through Oneida County. It includes 700-acre Kawaguesaga Lake, Lake Minocqua, Mid Lake and Lake Tomahawk. These lakes are close to Vilas County lodging and dining, so they offer boaters another nearby chain option to explore.