20 tips for buying a lake home in NW Wisconsin – # 4 Recreational Activities

20 tips for buying a lake home in NW Wisconsin – # 4 Recreational Activities

What are your favorite recreational activities? As you are searching for the ideal lake home, think about the type of lake, as well as the surrounding area, that offers the most activities.

Local communities are also important. Most local communities will at least have a grocery store, liquor store (in Wisconsin they’re usually together), gas station, post office, restaurant/tavern. Very likely, you’ll be within a half hour drive from a larger town or city that will offer more shopping options. Typically, they will offer a summer weekend festival and those are often fun and family oriented.

Is a smaller lake right for you?

Many people prefer larger lakes; there’s more to see and more to explore.  But if you’re willing to settle for a smaller lake, the same home may also come with a smaller price tag.  What’s more, there are some real advantages to being on a smaller lake.

Chances are, it’s going to be quieter.  Lakes below a certain size just aren’t very interesting for jet skis and water skiers; they tend to see more pontoons, fishing boats, or canoes.

You’ll have fewer neighbors, and you’ll probably get to know them better.  Depending on the lake, fishing pressure may be lighter.  Fish may be both larger and less wary.

The Book of Lakes

If you’re thinking of buying a lake home or cabin in northwestern Wisconsin, then you should know about the Northwest Wisconsin Fishing Map Guide: Northern Region from Sportsman’s Connection.  I call it The Book of Lakes for short.

Even if you’re not into fishing, you’ll find lots of useful information that can help you decide which lake is right for you.  The book includes depth maps, DNR fishery data, and detailed background information for 180 lakes in Bayfield, Douglas, Sawyer, and Washburn counties.  That’s not all of the lakes in this area, but it’s an awful lot of them.

But maybe you’d like to do a little research on your own, shorten your list, and know you’re focusing the lakes that are right for you.  You’ll find it at finer bookstores and bait shops everywhere.


As I mentioned in The Book of Lakes section above, you’ll find information about the types of fish found in lakes. You’ll want to know which lakes are best known for walleye, panfish, northern, bass, and other types of local fish.

If you are into flyfishing, you’ll definitely want to know where the best trout streams are located. The Brule River in Douglas County is a world-class trout stream. There are many trout streams in Northwest Wisconsin. You can download full, detailed maps of the streams in Douglas County WI and other Wisconsin counties at the Wisconsin DNR website.

trout streams in NW Wisconsin

Douglas County WI trout streams


If waterskiing and jet skiing are your thing, you’ll want to know which lakes are best suited to these types of activities. Typically, large, open lakes without a complicated shoreline are best.

If you simply want to tour around in a pontoon, then most any lake will work. Pontoon boats work just fine in shallow waters. Perhaps a flowage would be the best choice with plenty of lake and shoreline to explore. If you prefer to paddle a canoe or kayak, then a quiet lake or flowage is for you.


Many lakes in northwest Wisconsin offer clear, deep water with sandy beaches or sandy lake bottom. You’ll want to look for a clear lake. Many lake homes include a sandy beach front or at least a sandy lake bottom off the dock.


Northwest Wisconsin is a great destination for cross-country skiers. From the world famous Birkebeiner ski event to ski trails dotted throughout Douglas, Washburn, Bayfield, and Sawyer Counties, you’ll find many trails to match your expertise.

Many trails will be just minutes from a lake or community that may be of interest to you. Northwest Wisconsin Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe is a great source for trail maps and snow conditions.


Northwest Wisconsin is a favorite destination for snowmobile and ATV enthusiasts. Trails are located throughout Douglas, Washburn, Bayfield, and Sawyer Counties.

Wisconsin DNR offers trail maps to download.

WI snowmobile/ATV trail map

WI snowmobile/ATV trail map

There’s plenty to do here in NW Wisconsin at the lake or nearby.

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