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Little Spider Lake covers 223 acres in Wisconsin's Lake Superior Northwoods Region. Located in Vilas County, Little Spider shares a landscape dotted with lakes large and small, dense woodlands, marshes, bogs, and rivers. Among Vilas County's 1300 lakes and streams, Little Spider Lake attracts little public attention except for those who vacation here regularly or call the lake home. Originally called Gaffrey Lake, Little Spider Lake is well-developed with homes and vacation properties sharing the shoreline with state lands. Vilas County borders Michigan's Upper Peninsula, so many of the properties this far north are inhabited only seasonally. The main outflow of Little Spider Lake, Verna Creek, flows through marsh and boggy land in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest before emptying into nearby Verna Lake. The lake remains quiet due to limited public access and should not be confused with another Little Spider Lake near Hayward, part of the Spider Lake chain.
The lake bottom near the shore in many areas is sand, making for excellent swimming. Little Spider Lake reaches a maximum depth of only 23 feet. A tract of land belonging to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources lies between two lobes of the irregular lake on the north shore, giving water access on three sides but no designated boat ramps. The DNR maintains a boat launch on the northwest side of the lake, but its location is not marked on most maps and therefore little-known. The Little Spider Lake Association maintains a launch site on the southern shore that was upgraded in 2011.
The property owners association produces special events such as the annual July 4th raft parade on Little Spider Lake for area residents, but otherwise remains low-key. Several small resorts share the lakefront with private cottages and homes, many of which are rented for short periods to vacationers. Much of the shoreline slopes steeply to the water, giving great views but some difficulty on getting watercraft to the water in many areas. The lake also contains a few sand bars that are well-known to the locals. The largest of these is often the site of an occasional boat gathering and 'party-barge' anchorage. Many of the properties have private docks and most have enough level lakeside space for the traditional campfire pit and a few lawn chairs. Zoning restrictions do not allow building in close proximity to the water and discourage tree cutting, so the vistas remain unspoiled and wooded, adding to the 'up-north' atmosphere.
Little Spider lake is excellent for fishing. Largemouth bass, muskellunge, walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch, bluegill, rock bass, crappie and panfish are all caught. Muskie and walleye are stocked in alternate years and add to the fun in all seasons, with good-sized fish caught through the ice in winter. Anglers renting a cabin for fishing can often get fishing information and even guide service through camp management. Although there are no actual bait shops on the lake, many resort proprietors sell a limited amount of bait. Because water is nearly as prevalent in the area as dry land, large numbers of bait shops and sporting good stores are found within a 10-mile radius.
Little Spider Lake is lucky enough to be near the special Black Tern Bog State Natural Area, designated in 1967 and located within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The bog hosts two little seepage lakes surrounded by about 20 acres of 'quaking' bog composed of sphagnum moss. Plants growing within the bog include common grass sedge, buckbean, sundew, bog rosemary, bog laurel, leather-leaf, the less common swamp pink, grass pink, rose pogonia, and the bog rush which is endangered within Wisconsin. Birds such as the American bittern and black tern are sometimes sighted, along with the common snipe, killdeer, sparrow, mallard and red-winged blackbirds that nest here. The Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest sprawls across several counties in large parcels, offering many old logging roads for hiking, several designated camping areas, canoe routes, cross-country skiing, and lots of space for nature observation.
The area around Little Spider Lake is a sportsman's paradise, with fishing, hunting and miles of old logging roads to explore. Many of the small resorts stay open all winter to accommodate both ice fishermen and snowmobile adventurers. In fact, all of Vilas County is known as a winter playground, with large snowmobile clubs grooming trails to connect to the total of 25,000 miles of trails in Wisconsin. Rallies, races and charity runs are regularly produced by local snowmobile clubs. The City of Minocqua, 10 miles to the south, is known for its 'Cruiserfest Bikini Races', a well-attended festival produced by the Cross-Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club. Minocqua acts as recreation hub for the area, while the small towns of Arbor Vitae and Woodruff are closer and even more convenient for picking up supplies, gas for the outboard or car, and basic groceries. Minocqua offers more than a score of choices in lodgings, from hotels and motels, to bed and breakfasts, guest cottages, resorts and many private rentals. Located 75 miles north of Wausau, Little Spider Lake is easily reached from Highway 51.
A number of nearby attractions and historical locations offer a diversity of educational entertainment in Vilas County, including the Ojibwe Museum and Cultural Center, the William J. Poupart Fish Hatchery and Trout Pond, a traditional Waswagoning Indian Viilage, the Dr. Kate Museum, the Snowmobile Hall of Fame, and the Northwoods Children's Museum. One week is not enough to truly explore the area. Real estate is available on Little Spider Lake in a variety of price ranges. A few lake access lots may be found, but more have some lake frontage. The few areas that are not developed around the shoreline are mostly wetland, supporting a variety of wildlife and adding to the natural ambiance of Little Spider Lake. This lake is easy to fall in love with, and summer visitors soon become regulars each year at their favorite guest cottage.
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