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3 ways to explore Vilas County’s lakes and rivers


  • Beaches
  • Fishing
  • Lakes & Rivers
  • Paddling
Child at beach on Crystal Lake Campground Vilas County WI

It’s easy to get out on the water in Vilas County—our corner of Wisconsin’s Northwoods is home to more than 1,300 lakes and notable waterways like the Wisconsin and Manitowish rivers, so there’s plenty to explore whether you’re fishing, paddling, or headed to the beach. Here’s what you need to know to find fun on Vilas County’s waters.


Anglers who return to Vilas County year after year know it’s home to some of the best fishing in the Midwest. And with more than 1,000 lakes to choose from—one of the largest concentrations of freshwater lakes in world—you’re sure to find a great place to fish, whether you’re going after bass, walleye, pike, panfish, musky, or even lake trout.

Vilas County is home to hundreds of public access lakes as well as opportunities for shore fishing at parks and lodging properties across the county. Grab your gear—or hire a guide when you get here—and track down a trophy catch today.

Canoeing, kayaking & stand-up paddleboarding

Take a peaceful paddle on some of the Northwoods’ most scenic lakes on your next trip to Vilas County. Many of the lakes in the county—including several in the Northern Highland-American Legion (NHAL) State Forest—are no-motor lakes, meaning you won’t have to worry about anglers, pontoon boaters, and skiers as you glide across calm waters.

Looking for a more structured paddling trip? Try one of the canoe trips through the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest or on the Wisconsin River—see more details here.


You don’t have to cast a line or dip your paddle in the water to enjoy Vilas County’s lakes, either. The county is home to several public beaches that are the perfect place to spend a summer day in the Northwoods, whether you’re splashing in the water or simply lounging on shore. You’ll find public beaches across the county, from north (Black Oak Lake Beach in Land O’ Lakes) to south (Torpy Park in Minocqua). There are even some dog-friendly beaches, like Nichols Beach in Boulder Junction and Rest Lake Park in Manitowish Waters.

You can also find private beaches and swimming areas at resorts, cabins, cottages, and vacation homes throughout Vilas County.

Learn more about Vilas County’s beaches here.