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Lakes in Wisconsin?
Old 01-30-2021, 11:40 AM   #1
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Lakes in Wisconsin?

We are nearing retirement. We do not want to live in Iowa a minute longer than necessary. We have a son in Chicago and a son in Minneapolis. We want to be closer to both and we love the outdoors, healthy food, lakes, etc. Can anyone who lives on a lake in Wisconsin and loves it tell me about their lake? Pros? Cons? We are considering Lake Geneva.... a bit closer to Chicago because that son is married and are expecting a baby girl in June. I want to be close enough to babysit for an evening etc.... but not too close to get on their nerves.



Thank you in advance!
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Old 01-30-2021, 11:46 AM   #2
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I grew up in Kenosha and love lake Geneva. In summer the traffic is bad because of all the tourists.
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Old 01-30-2021, 12:04 PM   #3
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How is lake traffic? I think I could handle car traffic but I love to be out on the water and do not like crazy busy...dangerous...lake traffic.
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Old 01-30-2021, 12:48 PM   #4
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How is lake traffic? I think I could handle car traffic but I love to be out on the water and do not like crazy busy...dangerous...lake traffic.
I am no expert on Lake Geneva. (Despite living not so far away, I have only been there a couple of times.) However, here is a photo I took on a muggy Monday in Aug., 2019. Looks pretty benign.
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Old 01-30-2021, 12:52 PM   #5
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How is lake traffic? I think I could handle car traffic but I love to be out on the water and do not like crazy busy...dangerous...lake traffic.
Minnesota here, but we look a lot like Wisconsin. The basic rule is that the size of the lake and its driving time from population centers drive development and, hence, boat traffic, often lubricated by alcohol.

Gull Lake, near Brainerd MN is a poster child for a heavily developed and busy lake. https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/vi...4.2691185&z=12 I wouldn't live in a property there if it was given to me.

We are about 100 miles farther north on a smaller lake, but still 9 miles end-to-end. There is no commercial development (bars, stores, fuel) on the lake and, except on summer weekends, boat traffic is quite light. We get skiers, those obnoxious jet skis, but (unlike Gull) never plagues of boats rafted together and full of drunks.

I suggest that you pick a few counties of interest, then call the county planning department. I'm sure they will be happy to help you bird-dog some candidates.
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Old 01-30-2021, 01:14 PM   #6
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Out-to-lunch....great pic....that looks like my kind of boat traffic....


We also are very much wanting winter activities....hiking...snow shoeing...skiing.. yoga....fitness classes.
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Old 01-30-2021, 01:16 PM   #7
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Back when we lived in WI, and had a boat, we trailered it to Lake Geneva a couple times on a nice summer weekend day.

Of course those days were super busy and the water was very choppy from boat wakes. You had to get to a launch point very early because all boat parking was gone quickly.

Out of an entire year, the ďworstĒ nice summer weekend days would only be a handful of the 365 you would get living on the lake, so I donít think I would worry about them too much. Maybe take a day trip those days and enjoy the lake when all the Illinois folks go home for the work week.
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Old 01-30-2021, 01:22 PM   #8
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OP - are you considering buying a home lakefront property, or something that you would trailer your boat to a launch site ?

The lakefront is nice, and expensive.
Trailer choice means lots of choice of housing and makes using some other lake a natural choice.
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Old 01-30-2021, 01:30 PM   #9
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Definitely would prefer to live on the lake...my husband hates to pull the boat out of the water and we enjoy just jumping in any time to take a quick spin. We currently have a condo on The Lake of the Ozarks. Love our condo and our view but our children live too far away to visit often..... and I would not call Lake of the Ozarks much of a healthy environment.... you really have to look for good places to eat and in the summer it is too hot to hike.
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Old 01-30-2021, 01:36 PM   #10
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I have friends that just bought on a lake is wisconsin. Couple unforseen issues: namely theres a snowmachine trail that goes throught their property. When they asked their insurance company about it their insurance company told them to block it and enforce it or they would drop their insurance. SO thats fun. Also, they are very distant from medical/911/EMS so they said they will be out of there when they turn 70 or sooner if their health turns. No thoughts on getting a vaccine where they are, infact you cant get a covid test within a couple hours I think. Cell reception was zero. Big ordeal. Heating is super expensive and they have a supplementary woodburning furnace they were told not to mention to their insurance company also. ALSO! Their cabin inspector at purchase was apaprently worthless bc they have the have new i dunno the big A frame things that hold the roof? They need new ones so they are going to have to have to roof jacked up and those redone. Per the structural engineer. SOunds convenient and cheap

Upsides are its stunningly beautiful and quiet. very quiet. Their views are unbelievable. They are outside a ton snowshoing and ice fishing and regular fishing. Also they required to big outlay to purchase equipment and build a barn to hold it. The cabin wasnt built to be yearround I guess. Plowing and blowing and snowmachine etc.
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Old 01-30-2021, 02:20 PM   #11
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Most of the lakes have houses that you can rent for a week or more via AirBNB/VRBO-type sites. We had been considering buying a lake house, and rented places for a week or two in order to try out different lakes to get a feel for the vibe. I have friends who live full time on various lakes (Beaver, Oconomowoc, Okauchee, Kesis, a few others) and from hearing them talk, the experience is very different. Might be worth renting a few places before making a final decision?
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Old 01-30-2021, 02:27 PM   #12
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This is kind of a random suggestion: take a look at Green Lake.

So, Lake Geneva is very nice, but heavily touristed. It has been a target of visits from the moneyed class in Chicago since the 19th century. So, it is old-timey and twee, and nice to visit. AFAIK, there is still mail delivery by boat! But, of course, it is expensive and crowded with tourists.

I would say that Green Lake has a vaguely similar character, but an order of magnitude less touristy.
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Old 01-30-2021, 02:38 PM   #13
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We loved Lake Michigan for the 26 years we lived near Chicago. I take it you want a small inland lake. Madison is a nice city between two small lakes. Door County was our favorite place to visit in WI.
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Old 01-30-2021, 04:35 PM   #14
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Thinking Madison might be a good option as the afternoon goes on. My son thinks we would be bored quickly at Lake Geneva....and it might be too pricey.

Madison seems to have a couple of lakes.....I really would like to be on a lake...I need the views and serenity!



Thanks for all of the responses so far....limited cell reception is definitely not going to work for me...I already deal with that kind of crap in Iowa!
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Old 01-30-2021, 04:56 PM   #15
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Lake Geneva lakefront is massively expensive, and then the taxes on top, whew! I donít think there would be any internet issues tho, it is not a sleepy backwater. Have you ever been there?

We loved boating on Green Lake, that is usually where we took our boat. It would also get busy on the weekend but nothing like Lake Geneva. Green Lake is mostly clear (for lake water) and very deep but there isnít much to the town or general area.

We lived just outside Madison for 15 years and when we first got our boat we would take it out on Lake Mendota but, after early summer, the water would be murky and be full of algae. After a couple of years we didnít go out there much anymore. Lake Monona was shallower and worse. Madison lakefront also very expensive but Madison has lots to do and is close to Milwaukee for extra activities. I donít think Madison is close enough to babysit in Chicago without an overnight stay but certainly is convenient via interstate to both Chicago and Minneapolis.
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Old 01-30-2021, 05:21 PM   #16
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... I need the views and serenity!
Have you considered rivers? Our back yard overlooks a river, we are separated from the main channel by an island, and the river has no commercial boat or barge traffic. We see maybe one boat a week in the summer, plus a few kayaks and canoes. Eagles and Great Blue Herons live on the island. It's great fun to watch eagles eating fish while perched in one of our backyard oaks.
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Old 01-30-2021, 05:45 PM   #17
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Lake Geneva lakefront is massively expensive, and then the taxes on top, whew! I don’t think there would be any internet issues tho, it is not a sleepy backwater. Have you ever been there?

We loved boating on Green Lake, that is usually where we took our boat. It would also get busy on the weekend but nothing like Lake Geneva. Green Lake is mostly clear (for lake water) and very deep but there isn’t much to the town or general area.

We lived just outside Madison for 15 years and when we first got our boat we would take it out on Lake Mendota but, after early summer, the water would be murky and be full of algae. After a couple of years we didn’t go out there much anymore. Lake Monona was shallower and worse. Madison lakefront also very expensive but Madison has lots to do and is close to Milwaukee for extra activities. I don’t think Madison is close enough to babysit in Chicago without an overnight stay but certainly is convenient via interstate to both Chicago and Minneapolis.
Yeah, you pay dearly for that lake frontage, which IIRC is taxed by the linear foot. Most of the privately-developed lakes in the southern and south-central parts of the state have housing cheek-to-jowl, which I personally don't care for.

If I were looking for an exurban retirement area in south-central Wisconsin with great outdoor recreation, I'd check out Baraboo. If you enjoy power boating, Lake Wisconsin is a wide spot in the Wisconsin River that's popular for mechanized water sports. Wisconsin Dells is just to the north, Devil's Lake to the south, an awesomely beautiful lake (but in a state park and non-motorized). There are two state parks outside of the Dells, also quite scenic.

Baraboo has a decent hospital, and UW has a big medical center less than an hour away. And, Baraboo is 15 minutes from I-90-94. It's pretty close to equidistant from Chicago and Minneapolis.

The landscape is Driftless, very scenic.

I'm near Oconomowoc, in an area known as the Lake Country. I love it, but it's quite expensive if you want to live on a lake.
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Old 01-30-2021, 09:02 PM   #18
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When you take the boat tour on Lake Geneva they point out the houses where the rich and famous live. Baraboo and Madison are also nice.
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Old 01-30-2021, 10:23 PM   #19
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When you take the boat tour on Lake Geneva they point out the houses where the rich and famous live. Baraboo and Madison are also nice.
An interesting historical detail about Lake Geneva is that several old-time Chicago beer barons and their families had vacation properties on Geneva Lake (the city is Lake Geneva, the lake is Geneva Lake). Black Point, now a state historical site, is the most famous. Of course, it was also a playground for the Wrigleys of chewing-gum fame; the Vick family for whom Vapor Rub is named also has property there.

Another neat thing about Geneva Lake is that it's completely surrounded by a foot path, so you can stroll past the stately manors at your leisure.
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Old 01-30-2021, 11:18 PM   #20
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Some residents tried to get the path closed because it goes across some of their front property. That was unsuccessful as I remember because there needs to be a public right of way around the lake. We have walked on the path many times. Most homes sit so far back you never see or come close to the residents. When I took the tour on Catalina Island in California Wrigley’s also owned s house there.
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