Complete Guide to Lake Wissota State Park
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Lake Wissota State Park is a great outdoor attraction for anyone seeking camping, hiking, snowshoeing, horse riding, and related outdoor adventures. The adjacent 6300-acre lake offers excellent grounds for swimming, kayaking, boating, paddling, fishing, and canoeing opportunities.
The State Park itself is a dense, man-made pine forest occupying slightly 1000 acres of land. Nature and wildlife in Lake Wissota co-exist in perfect harmony, making this one of the best State Parks to visit in the north. There are numerous recreational outdoor activities you can engage in at, and around this park.
There are miles of hiking trails to explore, lots of fishing opportunities, and numerous camping adventures here. Whenever you find yourself in northern Wisconsin, close to Chippewa Falls, read this complete guide to visiting Lake Wissota State Park if you want to have a fulfilling experience.
History of Lake Wissota State Park
Lake Wissota State Park has been under the management of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural resources since it became a park in 1961. When the Lake opened to the public, it became one of the favorite spots to spend a weekend camping or enjoying other outdoor activities within the northern Wisconsin region. Chippewa Falls City, one of the best places to visit and stay in the region, is just a few minutes south of the Lake.
Lake Wissota is the 12th largest lake in Wisconsin. The Park is the 13th largest in the State. The Lake was formed by the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Chippewa River after the dam was commissioned by the Wisconsin-Minnesota lighting and power company in 1917.
The lake was named Wissota after combining the first letters of Wisconsin and the ending letters of Minnesota. To date, this Lake stands as the jewel and pride of Chippewa Falls City.
Chippewa Falls City
Chippewa Falls city is named so because of its location on the Chippewa River. The name Chippewa is a rendition of the Ojibwe name coined by the Native Americans who called these lands home. As the European settlers came to the North seeking lumber resources, they started impacting their influence on the natives.
They built railroads and soon established a commerce center in Chippewa Falls. Chippewa Falls city became incorporated in 1869 and stills retains the title of the county seat of Chippewa county today.
The Wisconsin Glacier in Lake Wissota State Park
When taking a tour inside the park you will learn more about how the park and Lake Wissota were formed from the information centers erected on different hiking trails. The region was formed over 10,000 years ago when the last of the recorded Wisconsin glacier melted and carved out the Chippewa River Valley.
In the process, sand and gravel were deposited on top of Cambrian sandstone. The Cambrian sandstone had been existing in the park for more than 600 million years before this event happened. These deposits created two distinct landmasses with varying fertility levels.
The fertile land where the mineral-rich soil and sand landed became the grounds from where the dense pine forest sprouted. Maple and birch trees can also be found here. The plains produced prairies and oaks. When hiking through the trails in the park, you will notice how different these landmasses are, even though they exist in the same location.
Native People in Lake Wissota State Park
The Native people in the region used the river valley for transportation and as a source of livelihood (through fishing). The Chippewa Lumber and Boom company owned most of the lands that surrounded the park in the mid-1800s.
The company cleared most of the land for agricultural use. By the time the land shifted ownership to the State, only a few acres stood still in the southern part of the park, close to the Yellow River.
Lake Wissota State Park Camping
Camping is one of the main activities to enjoy in Lake Wissota State Park. There are Family campgrounds and group campgrounds here. Each campground is designed to accommodate disabled access, with important amenities placed within reach.
There are 116 family campgrounds in Lake Wissota State Park and 58 of them have electrical hookups. Every campsite is spacious and secluded, under dense pine foliage, giving you the privacy and space you need to enjoy the camping expedition with your family.
Some of the amenities in the family campground in Lake Wissota State Park include flush toilets, shower facilities, and dump stations. There is a large common playground that can be utilized by every camper here. The individual camper pads are quite level, making it easy to park a motorhome and create a good camping site.
The group campground in Lake Wissota State Park is located in the southern section. This is ideal for people camping in groups as the campsites are not as isolated as those in the family campground area. There are two tent sites here and each tent can accommodate up to a hundred people.
Amenities in the group campground include a common shower building, dump stations, and common playgrounds.
Firewood at the Park
Adhere to the park’s rules and regulations on firewood and fires inside Lake Wissota State Park. There is a concessional stand where you can buy the firewood you need to use at your camping site.
Lake Wissota State Park Activities
The unique combination of the forest and Lake presents wonderful outdoor opportunities. Camping, fishing, boating, and hiking are some of the major recreational activities you will be engaging in at this Park.
Lake Wissota Water Sports
In sections where the shore is shallow, swimming is allowed. They have marked out sections where swimming is not allowed, particularly where there are tall cliffs and rocks are jutting from the water.
The water is very clean and you can see the bottom of the lake as you stand on the cliff. Scuba diving has gained popularity over time because of this reason. Diving equipment can be rented in Chippewa Falls or from the park’s office.
There are many places with tall cliffs where daredevils go to plunge into the lake. Do not be tempted, since there is no lifeguard on duty at any of the swimming locations here. The beach is a good place to link up with others and enjoy swimming in the turquoise waters of Lake Wissota.
A visit to this place would not be complete without hiking to the top of the bluffs to get a sweeping view of the surrounding landscape and the horizon.
We put together a Wisconsin State Parks Bucket List Free Printable for you – to keep track of all the state parks and nature areas you visit. Get it here: Crazy Camping Girl FREE Wisconsin State Parks Bucket ListDownload
Lake Wissota Beach
The beach at Lake Wissota State Park is clean, with erected bathrooms and changing areas close to the shore. Sunbathing and lounging are common activities, especially in the evening as they try to capture the glorious sunset. The shoreline is shallow, inviting visitors for a refreshing swim.
If you are camping in this park, take an evening stroll on the sandy beach to enjoy the feel of smooth sand grains seeping through your toes. You should note that the beach is quite a walk from your camping site, especially if you are in the family campground. The views are amazing though, and if you are fond of hiking, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Lake Wissota State Park Fishing
Fishing in Lake Wissota is an all-year affair. Catch and release for smallmouth and largemouth bass is an exciting recreational activity with the park. You are not permitted to fish for shovelnose sturgeons and paddlefish.
Other fish that can be found in Lake Wissota include walleyes, whitefish, sauger, cisco, rough fish, ruffe, white perch, rough goby, bullhead, muskellunge, panfish (sunfish, crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, and pumpkinseed), northern pike, trout and catfish. Kindly adhere to the fishing regulations outlined by Lake Wissota’s WDNR office.
You can rent fishing equipment and boats in Chippewa Falls or ask at the park’s office for advisory. Motor trolling is limited and allowed to up to three hooks, baits, or lures per angler.
Boating, Kayaking, Paddling, and Canoeing in Lake Wissota
The lake offers a perfect setting to engage in all types of water sports and related recreational activities. There are 7 boat landing spots within the Park’s domain. Kayaks, boats, and canoes are available for rent in Chippewa Falls or at the Lake.
Lake Wissota is a calm lake and great for kayakers, including beginners. The expansive water mass gives you the chance to experience diverse natural landscapes, both on the water, and in the forest surrounding the lake from the comfort of your kayak.
Hiking At Lake Wissota State Park
Hiking inside the State Park is another popular activity. You will find many miles and hiking trails within the boundaries of the park and along the Lake Wissota shoreline. Cycling, walking, and running are common occurrences as most of these trails are paved and moderate.
Beaver Meadow Nature Trail
Length: 1 mile
The Beaver meadow trail is a short, moderate trail that is ideal for beginners. The trail takes visitors through abandoned beaver ponds that make this one of the most scenic trails in the park. When the flowers are in full bloom, you can take stunning photographs on this trail. The trail is ideal for families (even those with small children).
There are markings along the way to help you keep track of your walk. An observation site overlooking the lake has been set up as well. In marshy areas, they have erected wooden walkways to help you move around without the risk of falling into the mud or murky waters. You will also come across a natural spring and an ancient river bed.
The Jack Pine Trail
Length: 0.75 miles
This trail begins at the parking lot near the group campground and takes you through dense pine foliage. Be on the lookout for wildlife. The paths are well-spaced and well-marked. The terrain is okay, apart from some muddy sections here and there (especially after a downpour). You will also find yourself hiking close to the shore of the Lake and documenting beautiful sceneries.
Length: 1.4 miles
From the parking lot, ignore the lake access timber boardwalk and follow the well-marked trail to the lake. You will be walking under the cover of tall pines in a very spacious (ATVs and Snowmobiles use this route frequently), very level trail. You will come across ancient effigy mounds on your way to the lake.
Prairie Wildflower Nature trail
Length: 0.5 miles
This is a short trail that is located in the middle of the park. It takes you through a wilderness of beautiful wildflowers and prairies. A walk on this trail when the flowers are blooming is heavenly.
Length: 2 miles loop
Just before the group campground on the south-eastern section of the park, the staghorn trail is the perfect starting point in exploring the park because it easily intersects with other trails. If you decide to stick on this trail, you will have a 2 miles loop that takes you to the shoreline of the Lake.
Red Pine Trail
Length: 1.5 miles
The Red Pine trail runs through a section of red pines and a meadow before intersecting with the Plantation trail in the North, the Lake trail in the West, and the prairie wildflower in the south. You start your walk past the road leading to the family campground and head north.
Eagle Prairie trail
Length: 0.5 miles
You are likely to encounter many cyclists looking for off-road adventures on this trail. It is a wide, leveled trail with just a few rugged sections to make the hike/cycling more exciting. You get onto this trail from the intersection of the Red Pine trail of the Fox trail.
Length: 1.4 miles loop
This trail covers a surface area that looks like a square, just north of the Red Pine trail. Actually, to get to this trail, you have to connect from the Red Pine trail or if you are coming from the overlook, you can also use the Lake Trail by heading north.
Golfing at Lake Wissota
Golf lovers and enthusiasts will be pleased to know that there is an 18-hole golf course on the shores of the Lake. This course is located in Chippewa Valley, near Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire, on Lake Wissota’s Golf and Events property.
When camping inside Lake Wissota State Park, you will be allowed access to the course at a fee. Residents of the Inn on Lake Wissota get a complimentary golf cart when playing on these grounds. Other golf courses close to the park include the Timber Terrace Golf course, and the Ojibwa Golf and Bowl course.
Black bear sightings in Lake Wissota State Park
Black bear sightings are not very common in the park today. However, be on the lookout, especially if you are camping here in the winter season. Also, if you are camping in a tent, ensure that you keep your supplies (food and valuables) in bear-proof containers.
These containers will also protect your essentials from other small animals such as raccoons, elks, and squirrels. If you encounter a black bear while hiking in this park, do not provoke. Do not wander from the pre-designed trails into the woods, unless you are very familiar with the area.
Wildlife in Lake Wissota State Park
Some of the wild animals you may encounter inside the park include white-tailed deer, otters, muskrats, beavers, mink, woodchucks, and red foxes. Most of these animals (especially the deer) have grown accustomed to human interaction and would not hesitate to visit your campsite at night to check if you have kept your food safely.
Some of the amphibians and reptiles you may come across include the American toad, the non-venomous red-bellied snake, and painted turtles.
Butterfly lovers will be pleased to find a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Butterfly species you should hunt for include mourning cloaks, monarchs, Eastern giant swallowtails, red-spotted admirals, white-striped black butterflies, dark-barreled twin-spot carpet butterflies, Tussock moths, grass veneers, northern walkingsticks, and the Virginia Ctenucha moth.
Bird-Watching in the Park
Bird watchers have a great time here as well, thanks to over 200 species of migratory and non-migratory birds inside the park. If you are a serious bird-watcher, get a list of the species you ought to see from the park’s office, and then proceed to tick them off one by one as you come across them.
Some of the species you should find include the Pied-billed and Slavonian grebes, doves, nighthawks, hummingbirds, soras, coots, woodcocks, blue jays, eastern bluebirds, skuas, gulls, sandpipers, and the bald eagles. Close to the lake, you will see different duck species, pelicans, herons, cranes, geese, swans, and waterfowls.
Lake Wissota Nature and Vegetation
The predominant forest cover here is pine trees. Both red and white pines do very well in this region. Ferns, sweet clovers, lupines, trefoils, lead plants, sulfur cinquefoils, jewelweeds, autumn olives, wild strawberries, milkweeds, soapworts, bladder champions, burdocks, bonesets, blazing stars, and other numerous wildflowers, plants, and herbs grow within the boundaries of the park.
Picnic Inside Lake Wissota State Park
There are picnic areas and 4 shelters inside the Park. These shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis and they can be reserved online. Each shelter has water stations and flush toilets.
Lake Wissota State Park Hunting
Hunting is allowed in the park on specific dates and seasons. You should check with the park’s office or Wisconsin’s State Park hunting and trapping regulations about this. Sometimes the park opens several sections of the park for hunting while closing down others.
Gun, archery hunting, and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park from November 15th to December 15th. Closed areas are restricted. Updates on which sections are open and closed are posted at the park’s office. You should always adhere to the hunting and trapping regulations when enjoying this activity within the park.
Click here to see the map of the hunting and trapping grounds in Lake Wissota State Park.
Mill Bluff State Park in Winter
The park is open all year round and hikers are encouraged to visit during the winter season. Be advised that not all the trails may be usable during this time. In some instances, the park’s management will mark and close off some sections to create cross-country skiing routes.
The trails marked for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing are not made available for normal hikers during the winter season.
Lake Wissota State Park and Dogs
Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles. Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds, trails, roads, and outlying areas of the parks. They must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times, if they are not under control at all times, they can be seized and subject to local laws on stray animals.
ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t microchipped. If you do lose your pet you can contact the Chippewa County Humane Society at (715) 861-5748.
Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations.
Other animals like deer, chipmunks, squirrels, gray wolves, skunks, fishers, elk, and porcupines can be found there.
Pets are not allowed in the following places:
- Picnic areas and picnic shelters
- Main Beach
- Marked Nature Trails
No Pets are allowed on the ski trails when they are snow-covered.
Of course, if your dog is a service animal, those rules do not apply.
Attractions Near Lake Wissota State Park
There are other notable attractions you should visit whenever you are in Chippewa Falls or camping in Lake Wissota State Park.
The Leinie Lodge and the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Learn more: https://www.leinie.com/av?url=https://www.leinie.com/
You will get a chance to visit the lounge where a local family has kept the beer brewing tradition for over 153 years. When you walk into the lounge, you will enjoy numerous collectibles and wearables that have made this a must-visit location when visiting Lake Wissota State Park.
Learn More: https://www.chippewafalls-wi.gov/your-government/parks-recreation-forestry/irvine-park-zoo
There are 500 acres of land here filled with numerous outdoor adventures. There is a zoo, a waterfall, a kayaking area, and hundreds of walking miles. The zoo has all sorts of animals, including a tiger, bison, hyena, bear, and all kinds of duck and geese.
Other attractions inside the park include a seasonal petting zoo, the Glen Loch overlook, a seasonal Christmas village, picnic areas, and many more.
River Bend Vineyard and Winery
Learn More: https://www.riverbendvineyard.com/history
Looking forward to tasting fine (and free) wine in Chippewa Falls? Visit the River Bend Vineyard and Winery for a local brewing experience. It is a small family-owned and family-operated winery that produces some of the best wines inside the County.
Other campgrounds close to Lake Wissota State Park
You will rarely miss a reservation in Lake Wissota State Park. However, if, for some reason you do, or you simply want to sample other camping experiences, the following camping grounds close to the park will fit the bill nicely.
Pine Harbor Campsite
Distance from Lake Wissota State Park: 1.59 miles
Location: 7181 N Pine Harbor Dr, Chippewa Falls WI 54729
There are 45 camping sites here, 9 being tents only. 20 of the sites have full hookups, electricity, and water. Toilets, shower facilities, laundry facilities, and a dump station are available. The campground is also pet-friendly.
Oneil Creek Campground
Distance from Lake Wissota State Park: 3.73 miles
Location: 14912 105th Ave, Chippewa Falls WI 54729
This is a large campground with over 391 sites. 90 of those are tent sites. The grounds are spacious as well and you can drive in a big rig quite comfortably. Amenities you will find here include elec-water hookups, laundry facilities, tables, grills, flush toilets, showers, and a common playground. Pets are welcome to camp here.
Fair Hill Campground
Distance from Lake Wissota State Park: 4.86 miles
Location: 225 Edwards Street, Chippewa Falls WI 54729
This is an RV-only campground. The 28 sites here are spacious and well elevated. 14 of the sites have full hookups. Other amenities you can find here include water, toilets, showers, and dump stations. The campground is pet-friendly.
Country Villa Motel Campground
Distance from Lake Wissota State Park: 7 miles
Location: 10765 Cty Hwy Q, Chippewa Falls WI 54729
6 of the 25 tents here are tent sites. The rest are large, neat, and well-leveled grounds for your motor home. Most of the tents sites are under large pines, providing a great canopy and extra privacy for your family. Amenities here include electric hookups, tables, grills, toilets. showers and laundry facilities.
Restaurants Near Lake Wissota State Park
The best place to enjoy good food and a good drink when camping inside Lake Wissota State Park is in Chippewa City, just a few miles south or in Eau City further away. Here are some of the restaurants we think you should consider visiting while camping inside Lake Wissota State Park.
Loopy’s Grill and Saloon
Style: American Bar, Pizza
Location: 10691 Highway 29 Chippewa Falls, WI 54729
The log grill offers travelers a rustic and warm welcome to sample some of the best drinks and foods Chippewa has to offer. They are well known for their tasty homemade pizzas and their warm ambiance. You can either choose to stay inside and enjoy the entertainment from a live band or sit on the terraces to enjoy the stunning views of the Chippewa River.
The Fill-Inn Station
Style: American Bar, Pizza
Location: 104 W Columbia St, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729-2347
The menu in this restaurant is dynamic and exciting. They allow guests to chip in and build their own pizza! Check out their wide food options and order a local drink as the waiter helps you choose what to eat.
The Chippewa Family Restaurant
Location: 1701 Kennedy Rd, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729
The chicken dumpling in this restaurant is among their signature dishes. It serves American cuisines with a homely touch. They have a lot of food options here. The spacious premises gives you enough space to wiggle and enjoy the surrounding views as you wait for your order to be prepared.
Location: 324 N Bridge St, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729-2407
This is the best Mexican restaurant here. The decor inside the restaurant is certainly eye-catching. And so is the food. They serve vegan-friendly dishes and a host of other numerous cuisines imported from the Mexican culture.
Best hotels to stay near Lake Wissota State Park
Chippewa Falls has amazing hotels and fine establishments where you stay in luxury while still enjoying the great outdoors. Here are some of the best hotels to stay in near Lake Wissota State Park.
Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, Chippewa Falls
Location: 1021 West Park Ave, Chippewa Falls, 54729, WI
The Country Inn is a luxury hotel that is great for families seeking a more grandeur experience while visiting Lake Wissota State Park. It is strategically located downtown, and within a driving distance to all the attractions Chippewa has to offer. The highlight of the hotel is an indoor pool and complimentary continental breakfast. Pets are not allowed inside the facility.
The Inn On Lake Wissota
Location: 16649 96th Avenue, Chippewa Falls, 54729, WI
This is another beautiful hotel that offers a rustic, outdoor atmosphere. You will be sleeping in rooms that overlook the Lake, offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding. If you love golfing, the hotel organizes golf games and tournaments in the nearby 18-hole course. If you are staying in this hotel, you will get a complimentary golf cart as you play.
Hampton Inn and Suites Chippewa Falls
Location: 12707 30th Avenue, Chippewa Falls, 54729, WI
As a Hilton brand, you expect absolute luxury when visiting the Hampton Inn and Suites in Chippewa Falls – and that is what you get. The five-star hotel is located next to the I-53 and close to other attractions in Chippewa.
There is an indoor pool here as well, and a ton of luxury amenities that will make you feel pampered during your stay here.
Places To Stay Nearby
Directions to the State Park
Lake Wissota State Park is only 7.4 miles away from the heartland of Chippewa Falls. Head northwest on N bridge St toward W Grand Area and continues onto County Hwy SE. Take the 2nd exit at the traffic circle and turn onto County Hwy OE. Make a right turn and drive on into Lake Wissota State Park.