11 Best Recreational Lakes near Wisconsin Dells, WI

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The Dells area has no shortage of amazing recreational lakes and reservoirs. Although most visit for its waterparks, the city is one of the best places in the country for lake recreation, too.

Most of the options on the list offer the full set of activities, from swimming and fishing to wakeboarding, jet skiing, and in some cases, scuba diving.

In winter, most lakes are open for ice fishing, and those with state parks in charge provide groomed trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Whether you’re looking for a buzzing beach or a peaceful fishing spot, there is a lake here for you. And the best thing is, all the options are within an hour’s drive.

Check out what Wisconsin Dells has to offer!

Lakes near Wisconsin Dells:

  1. Lake Delton
  2. Mirror Lake
  3. Mason Lake
  4. Devil’s Lake
  5. Lake Redstone
  6. Buffalo Lake
  7. Castle Rock Lake
  8. Lake Wisconsin
  9. Swan Lake
  10. Puckaway Lake
  11. Petenwell Lake
Lakes near Wisconsin Dells Wisconsin Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Lake Delton

Lake Delton
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Delton
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 4 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

Created in 1927 to increase tourism, Lake Delton became a popular destination during the mid-twentieth century. 

Although its level has changed occasionally due to flooding and droughts, the lake usually occupies approximately 249 acres. 

A number of homes and resorts have appeared around this lake. A lock system allows for the passage of small boats and canoes between the lake and along Dell Creek into the Wisconsin River. 

The Village of Lake Delton manages a small beach with limited parking that offers public access between two condos. Parking may be difficult, but locals enjoy this access point along the beach. 

Those who fish in Lake Delton may encounter northern pike, walleye, panfish, largemouth bass, and catfish. During the winter months, panfish are the top catch from under the ice. 

2. Mirror Lake

mirror lake wisconsin
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Mirror Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 6 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing

Mirror Lake is an area of Dell Creek impounded into a sandstone bluff gorge and two shallower bay areas. 

Dell Creek originates approximately 10 miles west of Mirror Lake, flows into the lake, then continues through another section of Dell Creek about a mile northwest to Lake Delton. 

Much of the 137-acre Mirror Lake falls within the boundaries of Mirror Lake State Park, a popular year-round destination with the lake at its centerpiece and 2,200 acres of wetlands, scrub, and forests. 

The entire lake has a no-wake designation. A boat landing within the park offers kayak, boat, and canoe rentals during the summer. 

A designated swimming area is available. Whether hiking, biking, or just casting a line, the general consensus among visitors is that Mirror Lake is a beautiful park, generally cleaner and less crowded than other destinations, such as Devil’s Lake State Park. 

The lack of fast motorized boats preserves the lake’s mirror effect and enhances fishing. Common fish caught in the park include panfish, northern pike, and walleye.

3. Mason Lake

Lake sunset in Wisconsin
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Mason Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Located 12 miles east of Wisconsin Dells, Mason Lake offers a large lake away from many of the tourist destinations and accommodations. 

Relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of under 10 feet, this 882-acre lake is mostly surrounded by private property. 

Some areas are developed, such as private campgrounds in different areas of the lake and the unincorporated settlement of Briggsville on the western shore.

Adams County maintains a public access boat launch ramp accessible from State Highway 23 near the middle of the southern portion of the lake. A small fee is required to launch vessels from this site. 

Fishing is generally fine throughout the lake. Burns Cove and Morris Cove on the northern shoreline offer good starting places to fish for panfish, largemouth bass, catfish, musky, bluegills, and northern pike. 

4. Devil’s Lake

Devil's Lake State Park
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Devil’s Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Scuba Diving, Rock Climbing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Ice-Fishing

A drive less than 20 miles south to Devil’s Lake offers wonderful recreational opportunities in a park with important geological formations. 

The 975-acre lake is the focal point of Devil’s Lake State Park, the largest and most frequently visited destination in the state park system. 

Since opening in 1911, the state has diligently maintained the natural aesthetic while expanding the outdoor activities to accommodate larger crowds that now surpass a million each year. 

Water-related activities include boating, kayaking, and canoeing. Boats may only have electric motors. The park has watercraft available for rental during the busy season. 

Two nice beaches at opposite ends of Devil’s Lake provide locations for swimming, each with a bathhouse for convenience. An activity here that is not found in many other Wisconsin parks is scuba diving. 

Whether diving underwater or casting a line, visitors to Devil’s Lake State Park will notice abundant populations of walleye, along with commonly-available populations of northern pike and largemouth bass. 

Lakeshore fishing spots are also available for those who prefer to fish from land. Those willing to visit during the chilly winter should plan on catching trout if they go ice fishing. 

5. Lake Redstone

  • Website: Lake Redstone
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A popular destination in Sauk County for those who enjoy waterfalls is Lake Redstone. 

Located 24 miles west of Wisconsin Dells, this 635-acre lake has a public beach, three boat landings, and access to a nearby county park. It has a maximum depth of 36.5 feet.

Crowds often flock to this park during busy summertime weekends, including many boaters. Many come to admire the rock formations and the waterfall that pours from Big Creek into the lake. 

This is a great warm-weather destination for paddling a canoe or kayak, although the wake from boats passing by may make it a challenge during peak periods.

Located on the south shore, Lake Redstone County Park offers 30 acres of recreational space and access to the park. 

Largemouth bass, musky, and panfish are top catches for anglers. Walleye, musky, and northern pike are present as well.

6. Buffalo Lake

Lake during fall in Wisconsin
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Buffalo Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 27 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping

Buffalo Lake is a drive of fewer than 30 miles to the northeast of the Wisconsin Dells. Located in Marquette County, this 2,179-acre lake has four boat landings that offer public access. 

The northern end of the lake reaches Montello, the county seat. Most of the lake is shallow, with the deepest portion only eight feet.

Two notable land preserves are in the area of Buffalo Lake. Although generally not visited by anglers, they preserve sections of the natural habitat. 

Just south of the lake and the village of Endeavor, the 1,054-acre Fox River National Wildlife Refuge is a preservation area open only to deer hunters with licenses. 

Page Creek Marsh – owned by the Nature Conservancy – occupies lands south of a portion of the lake with wiregrass and boggy plants. 

Within the lake, catfish and panfish are abundant. Those casting a line may also catch northern pike, walleye, and largemouth bass. 

Several campgrounds like Ox Creek or Buffalo Lake Camping provide access to the lake with piers, boat rentals, and beaches.

7. Castle Rock Lake

Kayakers on a lake in Wisconsin
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Castle Rock Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 26 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A little more than 25 miles north of Wisconsin Dells, the Wisconsin River expands and assumes the name of Castle Rock Lake. 

This opening of the river spans 13,955 acres and includes multiple access points through public beaches and boat landings, as well as access to wildlife access areas near the lake. 

A perfect starting point for visiting Castle Rock Lake is Buckhorn State Park. Along with two adjacent state wildlife areas, this park encompasses in excess of 8,000 acres along the lake that offer recreation, hiking, hunting, camping, and fishing opportunities. 

This park has many accessible-for-all facilities, including a floating boarding fishing pier. Through the Tackle Loaner Program, donated fishing equipment is available for guests to use without cost. A kids’ fishing pond is also available. 

Those casting a line will not be disappointed. Musky, sturgeon, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and panfish are frequently caught by anglers. 

Wintertime visitors to the lake and park will find sites for ice fishing as well as snowy hiking trails that are groomed after sufficient snow cover. 

8. Lake Wisconsin

Lake Wisconsin
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Lake Wisconsin
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Only 35 miles south of Wisconsin Dells, the river widens into an area with great fishing possibilities. Lake Wisconsin is a 7,197-acre reservoir near Merrimac and Moon Valley. 

This is a great summertime swimming area for people from throughout the state, with this reservoir also offering more than a dozen boat landings. 

Visitors to Lake Wisconsin will be amazed at the abundance of smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, walleye, trout, panfish, and catfish. 

There are parks and recreational areas in close proximity to the lake as well, such as Camp Rest Park, just above the area where the lake assumes river form. 

Although generally less crowded than the Wisconsin Dells area during the summer, this is a great getaway destination for the day or a stopping place on a long journey. 

9. Swan Lake

Purple sunset over a lake in Wisconsin
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Swan Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 24 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics

A 407-acre lake located 24 miles southeast of the Wisconsin Dells, Swan Lake offers a shallow waterway that has developed a positive reputation among locals for the panfish and smallmouth bass caught there. 

The long and narrow lake occupies a less-developed area in the region, one with meadows and less traffic.

The water quality of the lake is maintained in part by the presence of the nearby Swan Lake State Wildlife Area. This state-managed property consists of more than 2,000 wetland acres, along with more than 360 acres of wooded habitat and 100 acres of pristine grassland. 

For those who want to combine a fishing expedition with hunting or trapping during the appropriate time of the year, this may be the perfect destination. 

Although no designated trails exist within the Wildlife Area, this is a great place to see waterfowl, turkeys, and deer. Winter access allows for cross-country skiing.

10. Puckaway Lake

Puckaway Lake in Wisconsin
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Puckaway Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 41 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping

Located east of Buffalo Lake as part of the Fox River system, Puckaway Lake is a natural lake that has historically shallow waters. 

In the late 1800s, the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dam and lock near Princeton, but the water never rose to a level that would support widespread commercial use along the lake. Although the dam remains in place, it has not been used for a century. 

Water from Buffalo Lake flows through the Fox River and into Puckaway Lake. Approximately 40 miles from the Wisconsin Dells, this 5,013-acre lake offers public boat landings. 

With a maximum depth of five feet and an average depth of three feet, this especially shallow lake is for small boats that can navigate in extremely shallow water. 

Walleye, catfish, northern pike, musky, and panfish await anglers who travel here. 

Those who plan a visit should check the weather forecast, however, since waves along this wide-and-shallow lake may pose a problem during windy days. 

11. Petenwell Lake

Petenwell Lake in Wisconsin
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Petenwell Lake
  • Distance from Wisconsin Dells: 50 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Located just upriver from Castle Rock Lake and approximately 40 miles north of the Wisconsin Dells, Petenwell Lake came into existence after workers built a dam along the Wisconsin River for the Wisconsin River Power Company near Necedah. 

When completed in 1948 on the south end of the lake, the dam created a body of water that now averages more than 23,150 acres in size. 

Within Petenwell Lake, anglers will enjoy an extensive array of fish. Catfish, musty, bass, walleye, panfish, northern pike, and sturgeon await those who bring rod and reel. 

Much of the immediate area surrounding the lake includes undeveloped forests. There are wilderness parks, boat landings, and other recreational activities all along the lake. 

State Parks in Wisconsin: