★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Moon Lake

Touring Moon Lake in Marquette County:
A beautiful little lake surrounded by a lot of solitude, a quiet float atop its tranquil waters will be sure to restore your spirits.

Moon LakeBy Sheila from Waukesha
A Miles Paddled contributor

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: June 19, 2017

Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty:

Put-In + Take-Out:
Fern Avenue public boat launch, northwest of Montello, Wisconsin
GPS: 43.80289, -89.3701

Time: Lake time!
Total Time: n/a
Miles Paddled: 1.5

Painted turtles, songbirds and fish.


I’ve been swimming at Moon Lake (which also goes by the name “Birch Lake”) since I was a child. It is so lovely – very peaceful, yet wild. The water itself and the surroundings are just so refreshing!

Moon Lake is located between I-39 and the town of Montello, but you’d have to know of it first before finding it since it’s a little hidden. My family only knew about it because my great uncle was once the caretaker there back in the 1950s. Today, it’s totally undeveloped but for one small building that was originally built for my uncle (but he died before he could occupy it, and I think it was donated to a boy’s club/camp).

Only 71 acres large, it doesn’t attract too much company and even better for paddlers, motorboats are prohibited. Its maximum depth is 12′, but on average it’s only 5′ deep. The lake is privately owned, but there is one public access with a boat launch and one tiny beach accessible by a path through the woods – or better yet, a short paddle.

What we liked:
There is a special clarity, peace and beauty that are inherent to this lake. There were no weeds when we paddled the lake, and it has a sandy bottom with relatively clear water. We saw lots of lotus plants, which was a special treat. A sloped entrance leads you from the woods to where you land the boats.

The unique thing about being in a boat, especially an individually maneuvered little boat like a kayak, is how it helps you discover all the different facets of an area that you had not even considered exploring back when “you just went there” – in let’s say, a car. For instance, while out on Moon Lake, my friend and I found out, through paddling, that there is actually another untouched part of the lake that we could easily navigate to and dock our kayaks so we could swim. We could see the beach across the lake and hear our kids splashing, but the sound was rather faint and the abundant foliage of the oaks and the graceful lines of lotus stems surrounded us with natural delight. The world was slow, and we were alone, at peace, protected from civilization. We floated on the gentle water and it was as if we were the last human beings on earth! For my friend, it was her first shot at summer, and I think the experience in the boat helped to bring a needed calm after much frustration from her job. For me, it was a revelation. I’d been coming to Moon Lake since I was a toddler, including many years as an adult, and I realized that I actually never knew this lake!

Also, Kilby Lake Campground is right next to Moon Lake. It’s a nice laid-back campground, with a pool and really friendly people. They offer really cute cabins, too. The last night we were there, the sky was very dark, with an intensity of stars popping out. We built a fire and just stared into it and then up at the sky. While we were enjoying this I heard in the distance what sounded like packs of wolves calling to each other. I think they were coyotes and I think they were calling from the other side of Moon Lake. Howling at the moon next to Moon Lake… How plaintive, yet wild and mysterious! Something else I never knew.

What we didn’t like:
Nothing really. This lake is magical!

If we did this trip again:
It’s best to go out early morning or later in the evening, especially if the weather is really warm, because there can be some noise in the afternoon from kids swimming or families on the beach.

Related Information:
General: Wisconsin DNR
Camp: Kilby Lake Campground

Photo Gallery:

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