Nestled in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest, the Whitewater and Rice Lake area offers endless recreation activities including hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, kayaking, boating, and more!
To help you explore the area, we have compiled this guide based on some of the best resources available from the Wisconsin DNR, Walworth County, the City of Whitewater, the Whitewater Lake Facebook Group, Discover Whitewater, the Ice Age Trail Community, the local area Breeze newspaper, and more!
The following article will reference various locations and link to different maps. Below is a Google Map to help you get your bearings and start planning your next adventure!
State, County, & City Parks
The Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit spans over 22,000 acres and provides most of the recreational opportunities in the area. There are over 100 miles of biking, hiking, nature, and horseback riding trails as well as areas to paddle, boat, camp, swim, hunt, and fish.
The Walworth County’s Park Division manages Natureland Park, Price Park, Veteran’s Park, and White River County Park. Natureland Park is the closest and is located at the southern end of Whitewater Lake. Natureland Park spans 122 acres featuring 4 hiking trails, picnic tables, and a rental shelter and log cabin.
The City of Whitewater manages Starin Park, Cravath Lakefront Park, Trippe Lake Park, Moraine View Park, and Effigy Mounds Preserve. View Park Map.
Some boat launches have parking, while other do not. Please prepare accordingly. For the operation of a motorized boat, a boat license is required in the state of Wisconsin
You put in at the Rice Lake Boat Ramp and explore the 144-acre lake. A state park vehicle pass is required when parking within the state park.
Whitewater Lake has multiple boat launches – State Park Boat Launch off of State Park Road, Cruise Lane Boat Launch, one off of Krahn Dr., and another off of R&W Townline Road. A state park vehicle pass is required when parking within the state park.
There are numerous lakes in the area that can either be fished by boat or along the shoreline. Make sure you have a fishing license! Ice fishing is permitted during the winter. Make sure you monitor the thickness of the ice and the conditions.
Covering 705 acres, Whitewater Lake is the largest lake in the area and reaches a depth of 40+ feet. It is a great place to fish for panfish, perch, northern pike, largemouth bass, and walleye. You can launch your boat at one of three access points or fish the shoreline within the state park.
Covering 167 acres, Rice Lake reaches a depth of 11+ feet and is adjacent to Whitewater Lake. It is a great place to fish for panfish, northern pike, and largemouth bass. You can put your boat in at the public boat launch or fish the shoreline within the state park.
Covering 70 acres, Cravath Lake reaches a depth of 10 feet and is near downtown Whitewater. It is a great place to fish for panfish, northern pike, and largemouth bass. You can fish the shoreline within the Cravath Lakefront Park.
Covering 625 acres, Tripp Lake is the largest lake in the area and reaches a depth of 20 feet. It is a great place to fish for panfish, northern pike, largemouth bass, and walleye. There is a free boat launch and an accessible fishing pier.
Covering 17 acres, Ottawa Lake reaches a depth of 16 feet. It is a great place to fish for panfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. There is an accessible fishing pier, a non-motorized boat launch, and shoreline access points along the lake.
Covering 105 acres, Spring Lake is located in Palmyra and reaches a depth of 11 feet. It is a great place to fish for panfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and northern pike. There is a public boat launch and beach.
The State trails, Ice Age Trail, County Park trails, and City of Whitewater trails provide a variety of hiking trails varying in length, difficulty, and scenery. We recommend researching each trail on your own before embarking on your journey! The following is a list of area hiking trails as a starting point for your research.
Kettle Moraine State Forest Hiking Trails
The Kettle Moraine State Forest offers a variety of hiking trails in Whitewater, Eagle, Palmyra, and Ottawa.
The closest trails located in Whitewater include:
The Rice Lake Nature Trail is the closest located just off Kettle Moraine Drive and features a 0.5-mile trail that goes along the edge of a small pond.
The Lone Tree Bluff Trail is just northeast of the lake and features a scenic overlook and a self-guiding Nature Trail.
The John Muir Trail System is located a bit further northeast off County H north of US Highway 12 and features hundreds of miles of biking trails. If you choose to walk these trails, make sure to be on the lookout for bikers and be courteous when passing each.
The Nordic Trail System is located a bit further northeast off County H north of US Highway 12 near the John Muir Trail System. The Nordic Trail System provides six different hiking trails. No hiking is allowed when the trail is open for skiing.
The following trails are located within 30 minutes of the Whitewater & Rice Lake:
Bald Bluff Nature Trail (Palmyra)
Emma Carlin Trail System (Palmyra)
Paradise Springs Nature Trail (Eagle),
Scuppernong Trail System (Eagle)
Stony Ridge Nature Trail (Eagle)
Stute Springs Nature Trail (Palmyra)
Ice Age Trail
Hike the Ice Age Trail part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and choose how far you’d like to hike (view Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Hikers Resource Map). By Whitewater Lake, the Ice Age Trail picks up off Clover Valley Road, crosses Hi-Lo Road, County Highway P, Esterly Road, and Highway 12. Depending on how far you want to go, there is a parking lot off of Clover Valley Road, Esterly Road, and Highway 12. Otherwise, you can just park off the side of the road. If you have two cars, you can always stage a car at the beginning and at the end.
Located just south of Whitewater Lake, Walworth County’s Natureland Park spans 122 acres, provides multiple viewing areas of Whitewater Lake, and features 4 hiking trails varying in length from .5 miles to 1 mile (View Natureland Park Trail Map).
There are various biking routes in the area from off-road trails to paved trails.
Whitewater Lake Bike Loop
Check out the Recreation Map for a 10-mile bike path around the lake. The path loops around the lake primarily on the lake access roads as well as a few joining county highways. Along the path, you can stop the Natureland Park for a rest and restrooms, Scenic Ridge Campground Store for a snack, Lake Home Info for are resources and maps, Rice Lake Boat Launch and Park for a rest stop, and Whitewater Lake Beach for a rest and/or restrooms.
Discover Whitewater's Ultimate Bike Path
Discover Whitewater shared an Ultimate Bike Path Route that is approximately 28-30 miles of road cycling. Starting from Cravath Lakefront Park, you will stop by the Flowing Well, Dr. O.R. Rice Picnic Area, the Avant Cycle Cafe, the UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve.
Whitewater Bike Paths
Stop by the Whitewater Area Chamber of Commerce and the Whitewater Tourism Council's office to pick a Bike brochure detailing biking routes within biking distance from downtown.
The following biking routes all begin at Cravath Lake Park:
Fremont Loop (15 Miles)
Cold Spring Loop (18 Miles)
Whitewater Lake Loop (19 Miles)
Palmyra Loop (30 Miles)
Lime Center Loop (33 Miles)
Turtle Valley Tour (45 Miles)
The City of Whitewater provides a downloadable Bicycle Map and Safety Guide.
Off-Road Biking Trails
The Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit provides 30+ miles of biking trails. The biking trails are typically open mid-April to mid-February but are closed during wet conditions. For up-to-date trail conditions, call 262-594-6202. Trail passes are required.
The John Muir Trail System is the closest located off of County Highway H north of US Highway 12. It offers 5 loops ranging from 1.25 miles to 12 miles.
If you are looking to explore further, there are two connecting trails between the John Muir Trail System and the Emma Carlin Trail System. Both are about 6 miles.
The Emma Carlin Trail System is located on County Highway Z south of Highway 59 in Palmyra. There are various color-coded trails from 3.5 to 8 miles.
The Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit offers 87+ miles of horse trails (View map). Trail passes are required.
According to the Wisconsin DNR, the following trails are available:
Moraine Ridge Trail: Spans from Country Road P in Whitewater through Palmyra through Eagle and to Ottawa.
Palmyra Trail Loops: Features the Horseriders Campground with 56 horse campsites and 8 loops of various sizes.
·Eagle Trail Loops: Features 4 trail loops ranging from 0.7 to 1.6 miles.
Ottawa Bridle Trails: Features 5 trail loops ranging from 0.7 to 24 miles.
Cross Country Skiing
The Nordic Trail System in Whitewater and McMiller Trail System in Eagle are open for skiing when there is enough snow. A state trail pass is required. No hiking, pets, or snowshoes are allowed on these trails when they are open for skiing. For the latest trail conditions, call 262-594-6202.
The Nordic Trail System is the closest located off of County Highway H north of US Highway 12. There are six different trail varying in length and difficulty.
The McMiller Trail System located in Eagle near the McMiller Sports Center. The McMiller Trail System features five trails varying in length and difficulty.
Some of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is open for hunting (Learn more). Make sure you have your hunting licenses and are familiar with the hunting regulations.
Target shooting is only permitted at the McMiller Sports Center.
The Kettle Moraine State Forest features over 87 miles of snowmobile trails spanning Walworth, Jefferson, and Waukesha counties. The opening and closing of the trails are determined by the county. To see if the snowmobile trails are open, check out the Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report or contact the county club for more information.
In addition, the Moraine Ridge Trail spanning from LaGrange through Palmyra and Eagle to Ottawa is open for snowmobiling.
There are plenty of area lakes and rivers to paddle your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.
If you are considering venturing out on an area lake, be mindful of the wake conditions. Depending on your experience, you may feel more comfortable on some lakes than others. For example, Rice Lake often has much less of a wake than Whitewater Lake. Whitewater and Rice Lake both have public boat launches and access points.
If you have paddled a river before, you know water levels, conditions, and paddling time can vary. It is better to be prepared just in case. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks! Also, make sure to check weather conditions before venturing out.
You put in at the Rice Lake Boat Ramp and paddle 144-acre lake.
Turtle Lake is no wake on weekdays 6:00 pm to 10:00 am and no wake on weekends from 2:00 pm to 10:00 am. Launch from the Turtle Lake Public Boat Launch which has approximately 6-10 parking stalls.
Whitewater Lake has multiple boat launches – State Park Boat Launch off of State Park Road, Cruise Lane Boat Launch, one off of Krahn Dr., and another off of R&W Townline Road. A state park vehicle pass is required when parking within the state park. The southern end of Whitewater Lake beyond Bird Island near Natureland Park is no-wake and is great location to paddle. Alternatively, put in at the Whitewater Lake Beach and paddle the no-wake channel.
Ottawa Lake is located about 30 minutes away from Whitewater Lake. Ottawa is 17-acre lake that does not allow motorized boats, so it is perfect for paddling! A boat launch is available with the state park and a vehicle pass is required when parking there.
Depending on how far you want to go, there are multiple put in and take out points along the Bark River. Start at Princes Point Wildlife Area, paddle about 7 miles, and exit at Burnt Village Park. Alternatively, put in at Burnt Village Park, paddle about 5 miles, and exit River Road Wayside. After the River Road Wayside, the Bark River connects with the Rock River and there are various points you can take out in Fort Atkinson including the boat launch and/or Lorman Bicentennial Park (View Wisconsin River Trips map).
Little Turtle Creek
You can put in at S. County Line Road, paddle about 4 hours, and take out at Country Road N (Learn more).
The Rock River spans Dodge, Jefferson, and Rock Counties. If you head north of Whitewater, there are various access points in Fort Atkinson (Learn more).
The Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit offers two swimming beaches – one at Whitewater Lake and another at Ottawa Lake. The beaches are open 6am to 11pm.
Snowshoeing trails are available. You can primarily snowshoe on the hiking trails that are not open for skiing. The Wisconsin DNR recommends the following snowshoeing trails: Emma Carlin Trail System, Connector Trails between John Muir and Emma Carlin, the John Muir Trail System, the Ice Age Trail, and the area nature trails (i.e., Bald Bluff Nature Trail, Lone Tree Bluff Nature Trail, Paradise Springs Nature Trail, Rice Lake Nature Trail, Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, Stony Ridge Nature Trail, and Stute Springs Nature Trail).
Whitewater is Walkable community from Downtown to the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater to the west side. Discover Whitewater provides a fantastic brochure detailing the various walking routes throughout the community. Alternatively, stop by the Whitewater Area Chamber of Commerce and the Whitewater Tourism Council's office for a brochure.
The walking loops take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. A few of the walking loops include:
UW-W Campus Loop (2.4 miles)
Downtown Loop (1.8 miles)
Historic Loop (1.7 miles)
Indian Effigy Mounds Loop (3.5 Miles)
Cravath & Trippe Lakes Loop (1.5 Miles)
Whitewater Creek Trail (3/1 Miles)
If one of these recreation activities sounds like fun but you don’t have the equipment, there are area rentals. Please check the hours of operations and rental availability before heading to the rental location.
Here are a few local rentals and what they have to offer:
Eagle Springs Pub – Kayak and canoe rentals for Eagle Springs to Lulu Lake
JNT Parkside Marina – Kayak, paddleboard, canoe, rowboat, and pontoon rentals for Whitewater Lake.
Backyard Bike & Ski Shop – Rents bicycles and cross country skies.
Quiet Hut Sports – Rents cross-country skis and snowshoes.
We hope this list of recreational activities helped get you started on planning your next recreational adventure in Whitewater, WI and the surrounding area.
Have fun exploring!