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Otter Lake is one of more than 1,300 lakes, 73 rivers and streams, and a half million acres of forest found within northeastern Wisconsin's Vilas County. With those numbers you can be assured that fishing tops the list of activities at Otter Lake. The good news for those who don't fish is that Otter Lake and Wisconsin's Northwoods offer an endless selection of outdoor recreation. If you enjoy canoeing, swimming, camping, hiking, horseback riding, skiing or snowmobiling, you will be glad you discovered Otter Lake.
The first residents of Otter Lake and surrounding Northwoods were likely the ancestors of the Chippewa, Potawatomi and Menominee people. In 1634 the native people were visited by Jean Nicolet, the first explorer to cross Lake Michigan and travel into what would become Wisconsin. Fur traders and missionaries soon followed Nicolet, but settlers didn't come to this isolated area until the logging industry arrived in the 1880s. It wasn't until the 1920s, and the introduction of rail and automobile travel, that Wisconsin's Northwoods started to grow into the vacation and recreation area we know today.
Otter Lake is one of 22 named lakes and 35 unnamed lakes located within the small community of Lincoln. Spreading beyond Lincoln into Vilas County, Otter Lake is also one of ten lakes that make up the Eagle River Chain of Lakes (ERC). An impoundment of the Eagle and Wisconsin Rivers, the ERC covers 3,928 acres, 68 miles of shoreline and a 286,618 acre wooded watershed. Naming from west to east, the lakes are: Watersmeet Lake (107 acres), Yellow Birch Lake (192 acres), Duck Lake (106 acres), Lynx Lake (31 acres), Otter Lake (217 acres), Eagle Lake (575 acres), Scattering Rice Lake (263 acres), Voyageur Lake (143 acres), Catfish Lake (978 acres), and Cranberry Lake (924 acres).
The original Otter Rapids Dam was constructed in 1906 on the Wisconsin River with additional construction added in 1924 and 1927. Today the dam is under the operation of Wisconsin Public Service. In 1911 the Burnt Rollway Dam was constructed upstream of Cranberry Lake. At this point a unique boat hoist was installed to lift boats from the Eagle River Chain of Lakes (1614 feet) to Three Lakes Chain (1625 feet). A hoist is still in operation today adding another 7,600 acres of waterway to create the largest inner coastal freshwater chain in the world.
Eagle River Chain of Lakes is considered a world class fishing destination. Open for fishing year around, Otter Lake is rated "Class A" for muskie and walleye and is also known for its generous populations of northern pike, bluegill and crappie. Additional species include largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. If you don't have success on Otter Lake, you can fish a different lake or river every day in pursuit of perch, bullhead catfish and shiners listed among the species found in the Eagle River Chain.
Almost all major lakes in Wisconsin's Lake Superior - Northwoods Region provide public boat access or shoreline fishing. Two state-owned boat ramps can be found on Lynx Lake near the western inlet to Otter Lake. With miles of inlets, bays and islands found among the chain of lakes, canoeing and kayaking form two very popular activities. Pontoon boat rentals or guided tours offer leisurely excursions through the Eagle River Chain of Lakes with multiple marinas spread along the shores to provide all the equipment or services a boater may need.
Found at the eastern end of Eagle River Chain of Lakes, Nicolet National Forest is a treat for those interested in exploring the woodlands. Catching a glimpse of deer, wolves, an occasional black bear, bald eagles, and nesting ospreys make hiking through the pines and lake shores a wildlife adventure. Over 30 hiking trails vary in difficulty from easy quarter-mile strolls with handicap access to more difficult climbs that take you to scenic overlooks atop rocky outcrops. Residents of Otter Lake will appreciate the multiple interpretive trails, equestrian trails, mountain biking trails and National Recreation Trails that connect to extended hiking opportunities. In the winter the majority of hiking trails convert to cross-country ski trails or snowmobile trails.
Over 30 public campgrounds are available within Nicolet National Forest with facilities varying from back country camping to remote rustic cabins. Numerous private campgrounds and RV parks are found along the shores of Otter Lake placing visitors close to day trips and area attractions.
The community of Eagle River lies three miles south of Otter Lake. During the summer months you will find equestrian guides, golf, miniature golf, go-karting, tennis and bowling to entertain your family. During the winter Eagle River becomes the "Snowmobile Capital of the World." A 500-mile network of trails known as the Eagle River 500 leads snowmobilers on exhilarating rides across frozen lakes and through the surrounding forests. After a cold windy day on the trail, it will feel good to browse the exhibits of local museums, explore appealing shops or dine on a warm meal from the wonderful selection of cozy restaurants.
Attracted by limitless summer and winter activities, the majority of Otter Lake's shoreline has become developed with private residences and second homes tucked into the surrounding woodlands. Follow the shoreline of Otter Lake and adjoining chain of lakes and you will find a selection of resorts, campgrounds, vacation rentals and real estate properties you can call home for a week-end or a lifetime. Come to Otter Lake and find your home in the midst of the Wisconsin Northwoods where water, land and country air provide all the ingredients for a perfect family vacation.
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