Entering Otter Lake shortly after launch

Otter Lake

The channel back to Otter Lake

Leaving Otter Lake and looking at the sign marking the entrance

The end of Taylor Lake looking towards Rainbow Lake. Government Island is to the left.

Looking east at Taylor Lake after entering Rainbow Lake

Rainbow Lake looking at Onaway Island

The Wisconsin Veterans Home

Entering Nessling Lake

Looking east at Rainbow Lake

Nessling Lake looking west to McCrossen Lake

McCrossen Lake

Turtles at a resort

Entering Round Lake

East view of McCrossen Lake

Round Lake looking north

Paddling towards Lime Kiln Lake which starts past the buoy

Entering Columbia Lake

Looking east towards Lime Kiln Lake and the County Q bridge

Looking south on Columbia Lake

The channel to Dake and Miner Lakes

Cleghorn Rd Bridge

Entering Dake Lake

Dake Lake looking south

Entering Miner Lake

Looking north at Miner Lake

Looking at the South Bay in Miner Lake

Entering Dake Lake again

Great water clarity

Looking southwest in Dake Lake

Colombia Lake paddling west

Entering Long Lake

Looking east at the beginning of Columbia Lake

Looking towards Long Cove

Looking south at Long Lake. The Crystal River flows out at the south end. This lake is the least friendly to kayakers as boats speed up and down this lake more than any other lake on the chain.

Paddling towards Beasley Lake

Entering Beasley Lake–all lakes are no wake from this point forward

Looking east at Long Lake

Beasley Lake

Bass Lake

The channel to Young Lake and Whispering Pines Rd bridge

Young Lake

Small creek flows from Ottman Lake

Looking southwest on Young Lake

Entering Beasley Creek which connects the upper and lower lakes. The creek is too shallow to paddle

Whispering Pines Rd. Bridge over Beasley Creek

Great water clarity

Water deep enough to paddle again

Entering Lake Orlando

Looking towards Beasley Creek

Canada geese gathering on a shallow part of Lake Orlando

Entering Knight Lake

Knight Lake

The channel to Manomin Lake

Manomin Lake entrance and Knight Lane Bridge

Looking back towards Knight Lake

Manomin Lake

Paddling towards Pope Lake

Pope Lake

Channel to Marl Lake

Excellent water clarity when entering Marl Lake

Marl Lake

Take-out at Marl Lake Rd. This is the most popular kayak launch–parking is very challenging


Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes

Peter Johnson
August 4th, 2023
Taylor Lake Boat Ramp
Marl Lake Kayak Launch
7.0 miles
4 hours
Water Level:
Warning! Many rivers are dangerously high. Please read the following bulletin.

The Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes are some of the most pristine lakes in the entire state. The water is extremely clear and the lakes are surrounded by great scenery, especially the Upper Lakes. The lakes are fairly easy to paddle, and you can choose how long or short you want your trip to be and can either start/finish at the same spot, or start and finish at different launches. Admittedly, Rainbow, Round, Columbia, and Long Lakes aren’t as pleasant to kayak with boats speeding up and down the lakes. The remaining lakes have no wake ordinances and the upper lakes do not have any powerboats at all.

This trip started at the Taylor Lake Ramp since the wind was blowing west. Shortly after launching, there is an inlet to Otter Lake. After paddling Otter Lake, the trip continued west into Rainbow Lake, one of the bigger lakes on the chain. The water became more choppy due to multiple boats speeding and pulling tubes or water skiers.

After Rainbow Lake, the water gets narrower and it’s back to no wake when passing through Nessling and McCrossen Lake. After Brown’s Point the trip continues into Round Lake which allows wake, and Limekiln Lake which does not allow wake. There is a fairly narrow and busy channel below County Q and by the Indian Crossing Casino, a popular bar and grill.

After the channel is Columbia Lake which is once again busy with boaters. The trip headed south to a channel that connects with Dake and Minor Lakes. Both lakes were a lot quieter and very pleasant to paddle. They’re both no wake which deters a lot of powerboats, although they are allowed at low speeds.

The trip continued through Columbia Lake into Long Lake, which is the headwaters for the Crystal River. The lake is extremely busy and has a lot of wake from speeding boaters.

After Long Lake, there is a channel to Beasley, Bass and Young Lake. Beasley and Bass are very calm. At the north end of Bass Lake there is a narrow channel to Young Lake, which is a small but peaceful lane.

After visiting Young’s Lake, the trip proceeded to Beasley Creek, which is very clear but shallow and kayaks have to be walked. Beasley Creek connects the upper and lower lakes. At the end of the creek is Lake Orlando, the first of the Upper Lakes heading west and the best lake to paddle in the chain. The shores become more undeveloped as the state owns most of the shoreline.

After Orlando Lake is Knight Lake, a channel that leads to Manomin Lake, Pope Lake, and the most popular upper lake, Marl Lake.

Although the water is mostly clear throughout the chain, the water clarity is near perfect on the upper lakes. The mostly natural shorelines combined with no motorboat traffic creates the perfect environment for paddlers. The forests along the shores add to a picture perfect setting.

The Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes are the finest set of lakes in Central Wisconsin and are very enjoyable to kayak. If you’re looking for a leisurely paddle at your own pace with terrific scenery and crystal clear water, these are the lakes that you definitely want to check out!

Addendum from the Webmaster:

Thanks Peter for the review!  WisconsinRiverTrips.com is always very appreciative of guest reviews, and if you the reader is ever interested in submitting one, you can use this online form

Note, not all the lake names are shown correctly on Google Maps.  Readers may want to use the following map instead as a visual reference.  The Crystal River is located just downstream from the Chain O’ Lakes and is also good for kayaking.

Trip Map

Overview Map


How did your trip turn out? Questions or comments? Feel free to leave your feedback.

Be notified when future paddle reviews go live by subscribing!
Contact WisconsinRiverTrips.com