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Sailing the Wisconsin River’s Lakes in 2024

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Planning Some Sailing Adventures for 2024
I made a resolution in January 2024 to sail on the lakes that are part of the Wisconsin River during the upcoming season.  I hope to overnight on a lot of these little ventures.  Looking at Google Maps has helped me figure out what lakes there are along the river; most are formed by hydroelectric dams.  Most look like they will be interesting to experience, some… maybe not.  I think this will be a fun challenge for this coming sailing season. 

I’ve sailed a lot in the past couple years on Lake DuBay near Mosinee and on the Stevens Point flowage near my home.  I’ve ventured only once onto Lake Petenwell. 

I likely will not develop a schedule, but more likely will be more spontaneous, with an eye on weather forecasts.  I’ll announce the intended sailing ventures on Facebook posts if people have an interest in joining in.  


When returning this week from a day of skiing in the U.P, I had a couple hours to kill so I ventured a bit into the Northwoods to check out some targets.  My first stop was a boat launch on the Rainbow Reservoir. I’d never seen the lake… it looks inviting… when it melts. 😁


I think I can park overnight at the boat launch… no signs were seen restricting that. 

Ice fishermen are just left of the island in the above photo… here’s a closeup:


My next lake to check out was Tomahawk Lake. It isn’t part of the Wisconsin River but is just two miles west of the river. I suspect the water of the lake eventually ends up in the Wisconsin River. I think it’s worth exploring. 


There is a good boat launch in the tiny town of Lake Tomahawk. 

I realized that Tomahawk Lake is part of a good sized chain of lakes, including Minaqua Lake. There is a “Throughfare” channel between the lakes with a bridge. I could lower the masts… or use my ski boat instead to explore this popular chain of lakes. 



My next stop was to look again at a lake (or flowage) that has a lot boat campsites. I drove by this boat launch last fall.  This lake/flowage is west of the Wisconsin River but eventually flows into it via the Willow River:






Again, it provides a very nice boat launch and large parking area, with no signs prohibiting overnight parking. 



So that’s my research so far. 

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Some More Exploring of Lake Possibilities

I was in the mood to take a drive today. The sky was clear, the sun was bright, late February temperatures were in the low 60’s… not typical in Wisconsin.  I decided to take a look at another lake of the Wisconsin River: Castle Rock Lake, just south of Petenwell, (Petenwell is the second largest lake in Wisconsin.)  I especially wanted to check out some boat launches.  That provided my excuse for taking an afternoon drive. 


Castle Rock Lake is roughly 11 miles long and over 4 miles wide… 26 square miles and about 60% the size of the larger Petenwell.  It looks like it could be a bit busy in summer, but with its size there is plenty of room for sailing and camping.  I will try to sail on Castle Rock Lake as early as I can… sometime in May (I’ll be traveling nearly all of June.)  I look forward to experiencing it; it looks beautiful. 

I enjoyed my drive today. I went on a number of roads I’d never been on before, drove through a state park I didn’t know about, and saw some of the lake I’d not seen before.  I noticed on Google Maps a parking area for a trail called Big Hill Trail.  It’s located on the most northern end of the lake, just south of the highway bridge between the Petenwell and Castle Rock lakes.  I decided to stop and check it out. 

This region of Wisconsin is at the south edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet whose meltwaters dramatically shaped the land some 10,000 years ago.  The area has a number of “castle” shaped rock formations left by the enormous erosion of the glacial meltwaters.  The Big Hill is one of those formations.  I had the wrong shoes for hiking, especially on a sandy slope so I only hiked up to the bottom of the rock formation.  I did not know it was there, even though I have driven by it many times when I worked west of this area. Here are a couple photos I took on the trail (the rock hill peeks out of the trees in the center of the photo.)




I shall explore the trail more another day.  Near the north end of Castle Rock Lake is a boat landing so I stopped to check it out.  The water level is drawn down several feet on the Wisconsin River flowages and lakes during the first three months of the year to prepare for the springtime snowmelt, which will not be very dramatic this year.  One can see the sand “islands” with stumps on the other side of this narrow part of the lake.  The pile of buoys will be placed to mark the river channel.IMG_2640.thumb.jpeg.6c9a324c02f5df2d37a0e3a27c4affdb.jpeg


At another boat launch the “beach” illustrates the water drawdown. 


That is all the photos I took today.  I’m not sure which Castle Rock Lake boat launches provide parking for overnight sail-camping.  I think further roadtrip exploring of the lake is needed… and it’s a reason for a nice motorcycle ride this spring. I saw a few motorcycles today with temps in the sixties, but I’ll wait a while. 

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