Lakes of the Ottawa National Forest

I love getting out to explore new places.  Ever since I began my U.P. journey 16 years ago, I've been digging into new hills, shorelines, waterfalls, and trails.  None has been as prolific as the region's vast numbers of inland lakes.  Lake Superior is great and all, but the interior of the U.P. is full of smaller lakes to explore. Many are quite scenic, and more often than not you'll have them all to yourself.


This is particularly true of the Ottawa National Forest, which happens to be one of my favorite places to visit and explore.  The ONF claims to have over 500 named lakes and ponds, which is quite a lot more than I imagined.  How long would it take to paddle them all?  Has it been done?  And more to the point, is it even possible?  If anyone is going to find out, it'd be me. 

crazy paddle.jpg
Lake Thirteen fall paddling.jpg

As of June 11, 2022 I have visited 130 different lakes in the Ottawa National Forest.  I've also paddled on several dozen others elsewhere in the U.P., but those don't count towards this goal.  I'm probably further along than 99% of the Forest Service's visitors and still have a long ways to go!  To count towards my goal, I either have to paddle on the lake (obviously), swim in it, or snowshoe/ski on it in winter.  That last one is easier said than done considering the vast majority of back roads in the Ottawa NF aren't plowed, making lakes tough to access.

A lot of lakes are completely inaccessible by road, even in the summer.  Fortunately, I built a packraft so even those lakes can't escape me for too long.  The most difficult lakes will be private ones.  Can't really get around that too easily unless I can hike in through CFA or Ottawa NF land or Misery Paddle Tour my way in via wetlands or rivers.  Don't tempt me...

Below is a list of the lakes I've been to so far.  Hit me up if you've ever visited some of the rarer ones.  I'm always interested to hear how people got on out there!  If you need intel on any of these lakes, I'm more than happy to let you know whether you're making a big mistake and to make waves towards better options elsewhere.

  1. Allen Lake

  2. Anderson Lake

  3. Arc Lake

  4. Balcomb Lake

  5. Bass Lake

  6. Beatons Lake

  7. Beitner Lake

  8. Bender Lake

  9. Big Lake

  10. Big African Lake

  11. Big Bateau Lake

  12. Bob Lake

  13. Bond Falls Flowage

  14. Brush Lake

  15. Buck Lake

  16. Bud Lake

  17. Chamberlain Lake

  18. Chapman Lake

  19. Chief Edwards Lake

  20. Cisco Lake

  21. Clark Lake

  22. Clear Lake

  23. Clearwater Lake

  24. Club Lake

  25. Cougar Lake

  26. County Line Lake

  27. Courtney Lake

  28. Crooked Lake

  29. Cub Lake

  30. Deadman Lake

  31. Deer Lake

  32. Deer Island Lake

  33. Dorothy Lake

  34. East Bay Lake

  35. Echo Lake

  36. Elsie Lake

  37. Erickson Lake

  38. Estes Lake

  39. Fisher Lake

  40. Fishhawk Lake

  41. Florence Lake

  42. Forest Lake

  43. Frog Pond

  44. Fuller Lake

  45. Gasley Lake

  46. Germain Lake

  47. Glare Lake

  48. Glimmerglass Lake

  49. Glitter Lake

  50. Golden Lake

  51. Grosse Lake

  52. Hager Lake

  53. Hannah Webb Lake

  54. Harding Lake

  55. Hay Lake

  56. Hehe Lake

  57. Helen Lake

  58. Hemlock Lake

  59. High Lake

  60. Houser Lake

  61. Howe Lake

  62. Indian Lake

  63. Irish Lake

  64. Jay Lake

  65. Jingle Lake

  66. Kentucky Lake

  67. Killdeer Lake

  68. Kunze Lake

  69. Kvidera Lake

  70. LaCrosse Lake

  71. Lake Gogebic

  72. Lake On-Three

  73. Lake Sainte Kathryn

  74. Lake Thirteen

  75. Lake Twentyeight

  76. Liluis Lake

  77. Lindsley Lake

  78. Little African Lake

  79. Little Nesbit Lake

  80. Little Wolf Lake

  81. Long Lake

  82. Loon Lake

  83. Louise Lake

  84. Lower Dam Lake

  85. Madelyn Lake

  86. Mamie Lake

  87. Markey Lake

  88. Marion Lake

  89. Mattie Lake

  90. Moon Lake

  91. Mountain Lake

  92. Morley Lake

  93. Mule Lake

  94. Nesbit Lake

  95. Norway Lake

  96. Paulding Pond

  97. Penegor Lake

  98. Perch Lake

  99. Poor Lake

  100. Prickett Lake

  101. Quiver Lake

  102. Record Lake

  103. Robbins Pond

  104. Robinson Lake

  105. Rock Lake

  106. Rookery Lake

  107. Roost Lake

  108. Sandy Lake

  109. Saunder Lake

  110. Silk Lake

  111. Skyline Lake

  112. Snap Jack Lake

  113. Spree Lake

  114. Still Lake

  115. St. George Lake

  116. Sucker Lake

  117. Sudden Lake

  118. Tanlund Lake

  119. Taylor Lake

  120. Tepee Lake

  121. Thousand Island Lake

  122. Toots Lake

  123. Very Sudden Pond

  124. Victoria Reservoir

  125. Violet Lake

  126. Weary Lake

  127. West Bay Lake

  128. Winslow Lake

  129. Wolf Lake

  130. York Lake