Manitowish Waters, WI

No matter what brings you to our beautiful home in the Northwoods, you’ll leave with memories to last a lifetime. Manitowish Waters is a four seasons outdoor recreation destination, with each season offering unique activities and experiences.

Winter in Manitowish Waters means adventuring on the incredible snowmobile trails, finding peace and solitude on the ski and snowshoe paths, ice fishing on the lakes, sipping warm drinks at local taverns and restaurants, and of course, cozying up next to the fire almost everywhere you go. People travel from all over the country to enjoy the woods, the water, and endless miles of trails for all your passions.


The Lake Superior Chippewa Indians were the first people to have an impact on this beautiful area. Establishing a camp on the east shore of Manitowish Lake, they made sugar, fished, raised corn, picked berries and buried their dead in the area.

In 1860, government officials established township boundaries and noticed the valuable timber resources and chain of lakes convenient for floating logs to sawmills. By 1884, canoe flotillas looking for timber had established the first white settlements in what is now Manitowish Waters, and in 1887-1888 the dam was built to hold chain waters for logging and river driving.

In 1927, the Town of Spider Lake was officially established; it was renamed Manitowish Waters in 1940. Then, in 1946, cranberry farming began around Wild Rice Lake, establishing what is now a significant business in Manitowish Waters.   Five cranberry marshes operate along Alder Lake Road and Cranberry Boulevard.

Manitowish Waters made headlines with the Universal Studios production of Public Enemies (released July 1, 2009, starring Johnny Depp) involving historic Little Bohemia Lodge and John Dillinger’s 1934 shoot-out with the FBI.

Today, the Manitowish Waters area is the ideal spot to “get away from it all.” Located in Northwestern Vilas County in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, Manitowish Waters is known for its quiet, less stressful surroundings perfect for a family vacation, reunion, romantic getaway, hunting or fishing excursion, or leisure day trip. With a year ’round population of roughly 700, Manitowish Waters sees quite an increase throughout the seasons from a combination of seasonal residents, second home owners and vacationers.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 36.4 square miles (94.4 km2), of which, 30.4 square miles (78.6 km2) of it is land and 6.1 square miles (15.7 km2) of it (16.69%) is water.


The population in Manitowish Waters is 582. There are 20 people per square mile aka population density. The median age in Manitowish Waters is 59.8, the US median age is 37.4. The number of people per household in Manitowish Waters is 1.8, the US average of people per household is 2.6.

Family in Manitowish Waters

  • 69.4% are married
  • 8.5% are divorced
  • 2.5% are married with children
  • 6.4% have children, but are single

Race in Manitowish Waters

  • 97.6% are white
  • 0.0% are black
  • 0.0% are asian
  • 0.6% are native american
  • 0.0% claim Other
  • 1.9% claim Hispanic Ethnicity
  • 0.0% Two or More Races
  • 0.0% Hawaiian, Pacific Islander

In the town, the population was spread out, with 16.1% under the age of 18, 2.8% from 18 to 24, 21.5% from 25 to 44, 30.2% from 45 to 64, and 29.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51 years. For every 100 females, there were 113.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $37,500, and the median income for a family was $49,375. Males had a median income of $36,518 versus $20,114 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,042. About 5.9% of families and 10.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.1% of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.


Manitowish Waters is served by the Manitowish Waters Airport (D25). Located one mile south of the city, the airport handles approximately 6,200 operations per year, with roughly 96% general aviation and 4% air taxi. The Manitowish Waters Airport is accessible by private or charter plane, and is attended year ’round. 


If you have children or would like to start a family, North Lakeland School is a public pre-K–8 school in Manitowish Waters. Our community also boasts the North Lakeland Discovery Center and its 60-acre lakefront property used as a community gathering place to explore the region’s extraordinary wildlife, culture and history and as a “class-room” for its impressive outdoor education curriculum.

Public elementary/middle school in Manitowish Waters: 

  • NORTH LAKELAND ELEMENTARY (Students: 160, Location: 12686 COUNTY HIGHWAY K, Grades: PK-8)

Colleges/universities with over 2000 students nearest to Manitowish Waters: 

  • Northcentral Technical College (about 79 miles; Wausau, WI; Full-time enrollment: 3,356) 
  • Michigan Technological University (about 93 miles; Houghton, MI; FT enrollment: 6,078) 
  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (about 103 miles; Shell Lake, WI; FT enrollment: 2,414) 
  • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (about 111 miles; Stevens Point, WI; FT enrollment: 9,089) 
  • University of Wisconsin-Superior (about 115 miles; Superior, WI; FT enrollment: 2,302) 
  • University of Minnesota-Duluth (about 118 miles; Duluth, MN; FT enrollment: 10,612) 
  • The College of Saint Scholastica (about 118 miles; Duluth, MN; FT enrollment: 3,762)


Hospitals and medical centers near Manitowish Waters: 

  • DAVITA – NORTHERN STAR DIALYSIS (Dialysis Facility, about 16 miles away; WOODRUFF, WI)

Outdoor Points of Interest

Manitowish Waters is your four seasons outdoor recreation destination. People travel from all over the country to enjoy the woods & water and endless miles of trails for all your passions – biking, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Built around the “Legendary 10 Lake Chain” you can ski, tube, surf, or fish on a new lake each day you are here. 

Attractions and Recreation: Things to See and Do

BIKING: There are miles and miles of paved trails for biking at Manitowish Waters. Trails lead from Airport Road to the North Lakeland Discovery Center and on to Boulder Junction through the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest . There are several nice lakes along the way where bikers can stop to rest and enjoy a picnic. Mountain Bikers will find the WinMan trails and trails at the Discovery Center perfect for the whole family. These silent sport trails are for hiking, fat biking, snowshoeing, and skiing.

CRANBERRY BOGS: 5 cranberry marshes produce delicious cranberries with tours available.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: The groomed WinMan trails invite skiers on the 6.8 miles of trails for skate skiing and 7.4 miles for classic skiing.

FISHING: The 10 lakes surrounding Manitowish Waters provides exciting fishing opportunities, and don’t forget ice fishing in the winter.   The lakes offer a wide variety of fish from musky, walleye, large and smallmouth bass to crappie and bluegills. Bring your gear and have a great time out on the lakes.

HIKING: Explore the trails or take a leisurely stroll on one of the trails and enjoy the clear clean air of the Northwoods.

HUNTING: Thousands of acres of public land for hunting a wide variety of game.

KOLLER MEMORIAL PARK: The Frank B. Koller Memorial Park is located in the center of Manitowish Waters on the shores of Rest Lake. Relax in one of the chairs by the water or the gazebo. There are picnic tables and grills so bring your lunch and have a picnic by the water. There are five docks for boats, a fishing pier, a small swimming area, a bandstand, modern restrooms, and parking.

MUSIC in the PARK: Enjoy a variety of music at Koller Park every Sunday from 4pm to 5 pm beginning the end of May through the beginning of September.

SNOWMOBILING: Lots of snow make the Manitowish Waters trails a great place for your winter vacation.. Groomed trails lead through northern Wisconsin and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan offering a network of over a thousand miles.

WATER SKI SHOW:  The MW Skiing Skeeters perform a free water ski show every Saturday at 7pm at Rest Lake Park.

Great Lakes or Chains

Manitowish Chain of Lakes

Located in the heart of scenic Vilas County, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes is truly a northern Wisconsin vacation paradise. The chain consists of ten sparkling lakes known for great fishing along with breathtaking beauty and quiet seclusion for swimming, canoeing, camping, and bird watching. With a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants, and outdoor activities, the Manitowish Waters area is the perfect spot for a relaxing vacation or weekend getaway, any time of the year.

Surrounded by tall pines and beautiful, rolling countryside, the Manitowish Chain of Lakes is one of the most popular lake chains in Wisconsin’s Northwoods region. The ten pristine lakes which make up the chain include – Island Lake (1,023 acres), Rest Lake (809 acres), Clear Lake (555 acres), Manitowish Lake (496 acres), Wild Rice Lake (379 acres), Alder Lake (274 acres), Spider Lake (272 acres), Little Star Lake (245 acres), Stone Lake (139 acres), and Fawn Lake (74 acres). Visitors to the lakes can also enjoy the Manitowish River which connects the ten pristine bodies of water. The Manitowish River begins at High Lake in the city of Boulder Junction, flows through the chain from Rest Lake to Alder Lake, and then on to the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County. A dam on Rest Lake marks the beginning of the chain. With numerous access points, boat landings, and many canoe-in (overnight) campsites, paddlers can design the perfect camping vacation. Great opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially eagles, abound.

The Manitowish Chain of Lakes offers a combined 58.5 miles of stunning shoreline and a total of 4,074 acres of beautiful water for just about every recreational pursuit you can imagine. All of the lakes are known for great fishing with an abundance of musky, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, crappie, perch, and bluegill. Little Star Lake is the deepest lake in the chain with a maximum depth of 67 feet. Little Star lake is also home to Little Bohemia Lodge where John Dillinger had his famous shootout. The majority of the Manitowish lakes offer public access to the water which can vary from a modern concrete boat launch to a gravel slope in the lake. Stone Lake and Fawn Lake are only accessible from Clear Lake. Boating, swimming, snorkeling, and waterskiing are all popular pastimes on the lakes.

Art Centers, Community Centers, and ETC

Manitowish Waters Community Center:

5733 Airport Road and Hwy. 51 / P.O. Box 267, Manitowish Waters, WI  54545

The Manitowish Water Community Center inside the Town Hall, accommodates up to 200 people and is available to rent.

Amenities include:

  • Tables and Chairs
  • Full Kitchen w/stoves and refrigerator/freezers
  • Ample parking

There are regularly scheduled events at the Community Center throughout the year.

  • Monday Morning Art Classes
  • Monday Night Bingo during the summer months
  • Thursday Cribbage

Community Playground Park

Located at the Community Center on Airport Road, 1 mile south of CTH W. Public restrooms near tennis courts 24/7 or inside the Community Center when the building is open. Lions Pavilion adjacent to playground (request for use may be made with Town Hall). For information call; 715-543-8400.

  • One-acre playground
  • Sun shelter with picnic tables
  • Picnic tables
  • Water fountain next to Community Building (and inside near restrooms)
  • Bauer Field Baseball Diamond
  • Golf driving field (bring your own equipment; first come first served)
  • Tennis courts
  • Paddleball court (equipment available in attached building)
  • Situated on the M.W. paved hike/bike path (parking available)
  • Adjacent to Frank B. Koller Memorial Library

Vilas County cranberry marsh tours are offered every Friday mid-summer to early fall.

Average Home Price Sold

2018 Ave Price Sold: $496,897.47

2021 Ave Price Sold: $628,033.33

2023 Ave Price Sold: $777,950.00

To find out more about Vilas county and all the wonderful things that the Northwoods has to offer click here.