The Manitowish Waters Challenge
Recently, Northerly Collective curators, Becca + Elizabeth, spent the day on the Manitowish Chain of 10 Lakes completing the Manitowish Waters Challenge - swimming in all 10 lakes as an annual celebration of summer in northern Wisconsin. The challenge is at your own speed and on your own time (seriously, any day works!). We just highly recommend summer.
As you cruise the water trying to complete this local bucket list item in ONE day, we suggest chatting with the local crowd, learning which sandbars to relax on, where the late night destinations are, and... just maybe, you will make such great friends along the way, you’ll scrap the challenge altogether. But that’s the point, get out and enjoy. While everyone has their favorite honey holes to jump in, here are our suggestions.
Northerly recommends: pack a cooler with beverages + snacks, bring extra beach towels, pack a few swimsuits, download our boat playlist, blow up a floatie, remember a coozie or insulted tumbler, and wear sunscreen (you’re welcome mom!)
Pick up some nutrients for a long day on the water in town – coffee at Dixie’s Coffee House, breakfast at Aurora Borealis Restaurant (get the huevos ranchoes!!), or Bloody Mary’s + nachos from The Pea Patch. With the boat loaded up, head across the lake to Fox Island to begin the challenge. Jump in the water, drift on a fun floatie (our favorites: watermelon tube or popsicle tube), or just relax on the boat. Before leaving Rest Lake, head to Serbin Park for a bathroom break and a quick wade on the sandbar. If Dock ‘N Shop is anchoring on the lake, float by and check them out. Follow them on Facebook + Instagram to see where they are docking for the day.
Beach your boat at the campsite, just off the small bay on the southwest portion of the lake. Quiet and secluded, with sun all day, this is the perfect place to splash in the water. This hidden gem is the spot to steal a smooch from your sweetie. Protected from the wind, if you’re a little chilly, head here.
Fawn Lake is a small but mighty lake. Great fishing and wildlife can be found across the waters. Slow your motor and find a spot to safely jump. We recommend the cannonball or Baywatch dive, but whatever your style… ready, set, go.
Being a few hours into the Manitowish Waters Challenge, it’s time to get creative. After cruising under the Clear Lake bridge, find the rope swing near the quiet bay on the southeast side. Nicknamed “the most hidden rope swing on the chain”, it will appear in plain sight and you’ll wonder how you’ve missed it all summer. When the fun is over, cruise across the wide open waters to the campsites, nestled into the northwest shore, to crack a beer or grab a snack from your cooler (need a great cooler, we suggest a Yeti Hopper).
Time seems to slow when the water opens up to Island Lake. Being the largest lake on the chain, there are plenty of nooks and crannies to discover. Cruise the shoreline and day dream about your future cabin, hang a hammock on one of the small islands to watch the sunset, or park in a quiet bay and cool off. Enjoy your time on the water here.
While our hearts are still broken since the Voss’ bridge was taken down, we’ve discovered a few new favorite spots to jump in. Beach your ship on “the narrows”, located in the central portion of the lake or float and jump in the deep + spacious northern bay. Before heading into the next lake, tie your boat up at The Lower Unit Bar + Grill at Greer’s Pier Marina for lunch (carnitas tacos!) and a signature cocktail (we love black mambas). If you came unprepared, check out the store inside for a new sweatshirt, swimsuit, flip-flops, or ice cream. Ice cream is necessary on every boat day, or every day of life.
Head under the 51 bridge (yell so it echoes!) into the next body of water – Manitowish Lake. Take the plunge in the middle, wherever you feel like stopping, or tie up on the sand bar directly out of the entrance to the Alder channel.
Little Star Lake
Possibly our favorite lake on the chain, Little Star Lake is a popular lake on a hot, sunny day. Being spring fed keeps the water clear and the beer cold. Float your boat into Dago Bay on the western shore. Find the sand bar here to throw your anchor and relax. We recommend floating the day away as you stare at the big blue. Another favorite spot is Little Star Beach. If you’re completing the MW Challenge on a summer weekend, this is where the party will be at. Party starts at sunrise and ends long after sunset, so you’ll have plenty of time.
Stay right as the Alder channel opens up into Alder Lake. As you hug the northwest shoreline, locate the sandy beach area – the perfect place to let the dogs get some exercise, hang out, and if you’re near the campsite there’s even a “rustic toilet”, emphasis on the rustic. Before leaving Alder Lake, gather your gumption and hit the rope swing. Fair warning: it looks dangerous + is dangerous. The rope swing is hanging from a tall pine near the red + cedar boathouse on the southwest side of the water.
Wild Rice Lake
The day is almost over, but not quite – you have one more jump to go. Make the trip up the Trout River to Wild Rice Lake. Make sure to pay attention for the eagles nest, on the westside of the channel as the river opens up into Wild Rice Lake. For your last jump in the chain, float in the middle of the lake, and splash into the deeps. You did it. 10 lakes, 1 day, and 9 months to prepare to next summer’s Manitowish Waters’ Challenge.
If you're a newbie, here's a lake map.