Minocqua is one of the easiest places to get out on the water in northern Wisconsin—the area is home to one of the largest concentrations of freshwater lakes in the world, so there’s plenty to explore. Here’s what you need to know if you’re canoeing, kayaking, or boating in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

How many lakes and waterways are there in the Minocqua Area?

The Minocqua Area is home to more than 2,300 lakes and bodies of freshwater, so it’s easy to find a great place to paddle, boat, fish, or swim. The Northern Highland-American Legion (NHAL) State Forest itself is home to more than 900 lakes, and Minocqua’s famous chain of lakes is a popular spot for boating and fishing.

See more information about watersports in Minocqua here.

What can I do on Minocqua’s lakes?

Canoeing & Kayaking

With so many lakes and rivers, canoers and kayakers will find a wide range of paddling options in the Minocqua Area, from quiet lakes suited for beginner paddlers to more challenging rapids for those with more experience. The NHAL is Wisconsin’s largest state forest and has 130 canoe and remote campsites available, as well as nearly 70 lakes that are designated as “Wilderness,” “Wild,” or “Scenic.” Many of the NHAL’s lakes don’t allow motorized boat traffic, so you’re sure to find peaceful paddling.

 If you’re new to paddling, don’t worry—head out on the Tomahawk River, where you’ll find long stretches of flat, calm water and lots of great opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Learn more about canoeing and kayaking in Minocqua  here.


The Minocqua Chain of Lakes offers thousands of acres of water to explore across several lakes, including Lake Minocqua, Lake Tomahawk, Mid Lake, and Lake Kawaguesaga. Public access to the chain is available from boat landings on Minocqua Lake, Lake Tomahawk, and Lake Kawaguesaga. (Most lakes in the Minocqua Area offer public boat landings—check-in at the Visitors Center or with your lodging property for more information

Lake Minocqua is also a great boating destination because there are iconic waterfront restaurants like The Thirsty Whale and The Boathouse that offer parking for your boat.

Where can I rent boats, canoes, and kayaks?

Coontail in Arbor Vitae offers full-day, multi-day, and weeklong rentals of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and water carpets—delivery is available for a fee within 30 miles. If you’re looking for a pontoon or a motorboat, BJ’s Sportshop in Minocqua has several options available (including fishing boats, if that’s how you like to spend your time on the water).

Many lakeside lodging properties also offer canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and boats to their guests for free or for a small rental fee. Some properties with boat and watercraft rentals include:

Visit our lodging page to see more lodging properties that offer the use of boats or personal watercraft (you can sort listings by amenities like daily rentals, boat rentals, boat launches, and more.)

What about fishing?

Anglers have hundreds of lakes to explore in the Minocqua Area. See the latest fishing reports and information on fishing guides here.