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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Little friends enjoy a day at the beach on Little Silver Lake, Waushara County. © Scott Provost
Little friends enjoy a day at the beach on Little Silver Lake, Waushara County.

© Scott Provost

June 2006

Hit the beach

Nineteen spots to soak up some sun, dunk your toes and celebrate summer.

Wisconsin Natural Resources editors


Northern Wisconsin
Northeastern Wisconsin
South Central Wisconsin
Southeastern Wisconsin
Western and Central Wisconsin
Tips to enjoy your days at the beach

Editor's note: On a cold wintry morning, we were thinking of warmer times and sunny skies. We asked staff to take a one-minute vacation and tell us about some of their favorite places to swim in Wisconsin – natural waters where you could enjoy a cool, refreshing dunk on a hot day, a picnic with the family, a beautiful sunset. Our list is by no means comprehensive; we've just dipped our toes in the water in a state with 15,000 lakes and more than 40,000 miles of flowing streams and rivers. Here are a few gems to try.

Northern Wisconsin

Name: Loon Lake Beach inside Copper Falls State Park
Location: Take State Highway 13 to the north side of Mellen and turn northeast on State Highway 169. Continue about 1.8 miles. The park entrance will be on your left.
Why go? Loon Lake offers a small, secluded sand beach with a nice grassy area surrounded by woods. A gradual ramp from the beach right into the water makes the water accessible to all. Biking and hiking trails also begin at the beach, so after cooling off, take a one-mile hike to see picturesque Red Granite Falls. You can hike or drive to Copper Falls, or just relax and enjoy a burger or ice cream treat at the central picnic area. The site is adjacent to the North Country National Scenic Trail.
Amenities: Restrooms, parking for cars and bikes. A ramp for folks with limited mobility and a rustic cabin accessible to disabled campers make this beach part of a great weekend getaway.

Name: Buck Lake, also called Almond Recreational Area, operated by Oneida County Forestry and Parks Department.
Location: Three miles south of Rhinelander off Hixon Lake Road in Oneida County.
Why go? Clear water and a great sand beach on a relatively remote northern lake.
Amenities: Restrooms, hiking, shelter, picnic area.

Name: Big Bay Beach
Location: Madeline Island offshore near the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore off the coast of Bayfield, six miles east from the Town of La Pointe on Hagen Road
Why go? The pure sands of Big Bay Beach stretches more than a mile and a half along the Madeline Island shore. It's a great place to sunbathe.
Amenities: The day use area has picnic tables, grills, water and restrooms. Some of the park's 60 campsites are disabled accessible.

Name: Amnicon River
Location: Amnicon Falls State Park is about 12 miles east of Superior. Take U.S. Highway 2/53 southeast out of Superior. From the junction of highways 2 and 53, take U.S. 2 about a mile east to County Highway U. Turn left (north) on Highway U and travel about 0.3 mile. The park entrance is on your left.
Why go? Waterfalls, whirlpools and scenic beauty are plentiful here. The river is a great place to swim. Given a choice of four waterfalls in the park, a person can find a place that matches his or her comfort zone. The river also has a number of smaller pools below cascades. These spots again provide opportunities for a unique swimming experience. Caution: Swimming here is not suitable for small children and is not accessible to people with disabilities. There are steep, sharp dropoffs, rapid currents and slippery rocks. At times, the river is too high for anybody to swim below the falls, especially the upper falls. During this kind of flow, teenagers, young adults and adults will still be able to get into the pool below the lower falls.
Amenities: Picnic area with hand pump, open-air shelter, primitive campground for backpack campers and a covered bridge.

Name: Wisconsin Point on Lake Superior
Location: Off Highway 53 on Moccasin Mike Road at the southeastern edge of the City of Superior.
Why go? This may be the longest freshwater sand beach in the world with crystal clear, sand-bottomed water. Sand dunes are full of uncommon species and you can comb the shore for cool beach glass, rocks and driftwood. The shallow flats are ideal for little tykes, and the beach is easy to reach by boat. On days with a west wind and lots of sunshine, the water warms up. The area is wild, undeveloped and there is lots of public access and parking. There's a Native American spiritual site at the tip of the point in patch of boreal forest, or hike to a neat lighthouse at the entry to the St. Louis River Estuary. The coolest part? You can open your eyes under water and see for quite a distance, and it actually feels great on the eyeballs because the water is so pure!
Amenities: None. That's part of the attraction. Take a cooler full of beverages, snorkeling gear, a horseshoe set, a bunch of friends and spend the day. At times it feels like you are on a deserted beach in Florida.

Name: North Trout Lake Campground
Location: In the central part of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest in Vilas County, just south of Boulder Junction between State Highway 51 and County Highway M. Take Highway 51 north from Minocqua about 6.2 miles to County Highway M, turn right, go 6.8 miles to the entrance of the North Trout Lake Campground. Follow signs to the swimming area.
Why go? At 3,816 acres, Trout Lake is the biggest lake in the county – a beautiful deep, clear water with towering white pines and a rocky shoreline reminiscent of Lake Superior. It has two lobes, north and south, without much development. You'll find a swimming area in the north campground where you'll enjoy a real Northwoods feel. True to its name, it is one of only two lakes in Wisconsin with a native lake trout population (Black Oak, also in Vilas County, is the other.) The two-mile scenic Ben Bendrick Drive along the eastern shore of Trout Lake has wonderful views and picnic areas.
Amenities: Boat ramp, hiking trail, well, vault toilets and a dump station. There's also a paved bike trail that connects to Boulder Junction and Sayner.

Northeastern Wisconsin

Name: Veterans Memorial Park
Location: Fourteen miles northwest of Crivitz in Marinette County. From Crivitz take County Highway W west 10.2 miles and turn right onto Parkway Road. Follow Parkway Road 3.1 miles to the park.
Why go? On hot summer days there may be dozens of swimmers below Three-Foot Falls, cooling off in the river as it bounces off rock edges.
Amenities: The park is accessible to the disabled, fishing, camping, picnicking facilities, restrooms and hiking trails.

Name: Whitefish Dunes State Park
Location: 3275 Clark Lake Road, Sturgeon Bay.
Why go? The park has a relaxing beachfront with three miles of sandy shores and rocky bluffs to explore at this day-use park. A boardwalk keeps your feet dry on a walk through wetlands. Explore the dunes, read about archaeological digs here and travel sown the road to scenic Cave Point County Park.

South Central Wisconsin

Name: Big Green Lake, Green Lake County
Location: Three locations: Dodge Memorial Park – County Highway K; Sunset Park, County Highway A; Hattie Sherwood Park, Lawson Drive.
Why go? Big Green Lake is the deepest natural inland lake in Wisconsin. Clear water and vast area make this a favorite spot for many people – local and abroad. The City of Green Lake on the north shore has many smaller shops, restaurants and other attractions. All area parks are monitored weekly for bacteria by the Green Lake Sanitary District from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
Amenities: Each site has bathrooms and sandy beaches. Hattie Sherwood Park boasts a diving pier and lifeguard.

Name: Cox Hollow and Twin Valley lakes, Governor Dodge State Park
Location: From Madison, take Highway 18 west about 48 miles to Dodgeville.
Bear right and travel three miles north on State Highway 23. The park entrance is on your right. You can also reach the park via Highway 23 south from Spring Green or north from Mineral Point. Hikers and bikers can get to Governor Dodge by way of the Military Ridge State Trail. There's a surfaced access trail from the Military Ridge to the park just east of County Highway Z.
Amenities: Both beaches have bath houses. Cox Hollow has a concession stand and adjoins hiking and mountain bike trails. Both lakes have pet swimming and picnic areas.

Name: Yellowstone Lake State Park beach
Location: From Madison, head west on Highway 18/151. Near Mount Horeb, take the Highway 78 exit south to Blanchardville. Cross the Pecatonica River. At the top of the hill turn right on County Highway F about eight miles to Lake Road. Turn left and follow the sign to the park office about one mile down the road on the right side.
Why go? The 455-acre manmade lake offers fun for swimmers, personal watercraft, boats, kayaks, canoes and anglers. Since 1997, more than 400,000 pounds of carp have been removed from Yellowstone Lake. The lake has become clearer and has an abundant population of crappies and walleye.

Southeastern Wisconsin

Name: Pike Lake
Location: The Pike Lake Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest is about two miles east of Hartford via State Highway 60. Turn south on Kettle Moraine Drive.
Why go? Pike Lake is a 446-acre, spring-fed kettle lake. A designated swimming area is marked with buoys from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Amenities: Bathhouse, picnic area, shelter, parking.

Name: North Beach
Location: From I-94, take Highway 20 east to downtown Racine. Turn north on Main Street (Highway 32), then right (east) on Kewaunee Street that dead ends at North Beach Park on Lake Michigan.
Why go? This beach boasts more than 2,500 feet of sandy shoreline. If watching the beautiful Lake Michigan horizon can't hold the kids' attention, a 20,000 square-foot play structure awaits them.
Amenities: Volleyball courts, concession stand, bathhouse, picnic area, shelter, restrooms, fishing and playground.

Western and Central Wisconsin

Name: Buckhorn State Park swimming area
Location: Juneau County, south of Necedah on County G.
Why go? This peninsula on the Castle Rock Flowage has many shoreline and backpack campsites. The lake and park are not heavily visited and offer wonderful sunsets.
Amenities: The park has two picnic shelters along the lake, a boat launch, fishing pier, picnic area with swimming area, grills, playground, horseshoe pits, volleyball court and a cold-water rinse shower.

Name: Sunset Lake Beach
Location: This Portage County park is located about 20 miles east of Stevens Point. From town, travel east on Highway 10 to County SS. Turn left onto SS and follow to a stop sign at Highway 161. Turn left through Nelsonville for about 3 miles to County A. Turn left (north) on A for 2 miles to MM. Turn right (east) on MM for about a mile and take a left on Sunset Lake Beach Road.
Why go? This 40-acre park is the stuff of memories. Towering pine trees shade a scattering of picnic tables near the beautiful sand beach. Families with kids will particularly enjoy the sandy lake bottom and swim raft. Parents will love the view: a long stretch of undeveloped shoreline, uncommon in this part of the state, thanks in large part to the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station along one shore. Scuba divers enjoy the 53-foot-deep waters of this 63-acre lake.
Amenities: Picnic tables, changing rooms, pit toilets, a soda machine and lots of parking.

Name: South Park Beach on Shadow Lake, Waupaca County
Location: In Waupaca on Shadow Road (County Highway K), north of Highway 10.
Why go? The lake is within the City of Waupaca, so it's easy to get to. It's also located on a slow-no-wake lake that is very quiet. Lots of community events, such as the Waupaca Triathlon, start here.
Amenities: Two swimming docks, two water slides, a playground and a new beach house with changing rooms, restrooms and showers add to your enjoyment.

Name: (Little) Silver Lake, Waushara County.
Location: Two miles east of Wild Rose on County Highway H, at the Little Silver Lake Resort.
Why go? Little Silver Lake is a 48-acre natural kettle lake with a maximum depth of 52 feet. The water quality and clarity are very good. The beach is privately owned, but is open to the public for $1 per person.
Amenities: Restrooms, concessions, some playground equipment, picnic tables and even a campground on the property. The beach is very popular with local residents as well as vacationers.

Name: Alma Beach
Location: One mile north of Alma, off State Highway 35 in Buffalo County.
Why go? Alma Beach offers a natural sand beach on the Mississippi River. The swimming area is roped off and lifeguards are on duty most of the summer. The main river channel passes along this beach so visitors can enjoy watching barges go past while resting in the shade or sunning on the sand.
Amenities: A park with tennis courts and playground equipment adjoins the beach. New changing rooms and restrooms were built a few years ago. There are lots of picnic tables. The beach is sunny with lots of shade trees around the picnic area to escape from the sun.

Name: Round Lake County Park
Location: Northern Chippewa County, located about one mile north of Highway 40 on Round Lake Road (117th St).
Why go? Families with young children will love this place as a large and gently sloping beach meets the water and remains shallow for a good distance with no drop-offs. The water is crystal clear and bluegills will delight the youngsters by swimming around their legs and often coming in for a gentle nibble.
Amenities: This day-use park was recently renovated with a picnic shelter, restrooms, disabled-accessible boat ramp and loading dock. The fishing area is located just down from the beach in a separate area. The park is a popular gathering hole for locals and area vacationers. Get a spot in the sand for your lawn chair and have a wonderful, sunny, relaxing afternoon.

Tips to enjoy your days at the beach
  • Never swim alone
  • Stay in designated swimming areas
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Wear sunglasses that absorb at least 90 percent of UV sunlight
  • Wear sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats
  • Spend part of your day in shaded areas
  • Wash your hands before eating
  • Shower after swimming
  • don't swallow the water
  • Avoid swimming after a heavy rain
  • don't swim near storm drains

To help keep beaches clean:

  • Dispose of litter in trashcans. If none are provided, pack out all of your wastes.
  • don't feed gulls and waterfowl
  • don't enter the water if you are ill
  • Change children's diapers before they enter the water
  • don't dump anything into storm drains