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Lake Winnebago
2006 image from space
Location Wisconsin
Coordinates 44°02′14″N 88°27′02″W / 44.03710°N 88.45052°W / 44.03710; -88.45052Coordinates: 44°02′14″N 88°27′02″W / 44.03710°N 88.45052°W / 44.03710; -88.45052
Primary inflows Wolf River, Fox River
Primary outflows Fox River
Basin countries United States
Surface area 137,700 acres (55,700 ha)
Average depth 15.5 ft (4.7 m)
Max. depth 21 ft (6.4 m)
Surface elevation about 746 feet above sea level
Settlements Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Neenah and Menasha
Location in Wisconsin
Sunset over Lake Winnebago, taken from near the top of the Niagara Escarpment near the East shore
Fishing near the shore of Lake Winnebago, taken from the Stockbridge Harbor
From space (July 1996). The string of clouds in the upper left of the image runs almost perfectly north-south, with north being at the bottom of the image.
Looking west at the north end of Lake Winnebago taken from near the top of the Niagara Escarpment on an observation tower at High Cliff State Park

Lake Winnebago is a large freshwater lake in eastern Wisconsin. It is the largest lake within the state.[1]



Lake Winnebago is about 30 by 10 miles (48 by 16 km), and has a surface area of 137,708 acres (557.28 km2).[2] It has 88 miles (142 km) of shoreline.[2] It is the largest lake completely within Wisconsin. It has an average depth of 15.5 feet (4.7 m) and a maximum depth of 21 feet (6.4 m).[2]

The lake is characterized by having many shallow reefs along the west shore, and a drop-off type shoreline on the east.[2] There are several islands along the west shore.

Lake Winnebago has two primary tributaries, the Wolf River and the Fox River. It is drained by the Fox River which flows north towards the Bay of Green Bay and serves as part of the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway. Lake Winnebago is part of a larger system of lakes in Wisconsin known as the Winnebago Pool.

Cities on its shores include Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Neenah and Menasha. Cities that draw their drinking water directly from Lake Winnebago include Oshkosh, Neenah, Menasha and Appleton.


The lake is a remnant of Glacial Lake Oshkosh approximately 12,000 years ago.[3] Ice blocked water from entering Lake Michigan at Green Bay, and the glacial lake ponded against ice since it had no outlet.

The Niagara Escarpment is a few miles east of Lake Winnebago. The softer Ordovician rocks that under lie the lake have eroded away, and the stronger Silurian rocks stand as a ridge that formed the lake basin.[4]

Locks and dams

Lake Winnebago is not man-made, but its level was raised by two dams erected in 1850. The lake level is today regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

There is a system of seventeen locks that connect Lake Winnebago to Lake Michigan. This lock system is located along the lower Fox River and starts at the North West corner of Lake Winnebago in the city of Menasha and ends at the mouth of the bay of Green Bay. One of the locks, the Rapid Croche Lock, is permanently sealed as a barrier to prevent the movement of sea lamprey upstream, and only three of the remaining locks are operational.[5]


Many annual events take place on the Lake Winnebago Pool, including concerts, power boat events and pleasure boating rallies.

Pleasure Boating

Along with the Upper lakes of Big Butte des Morts, Winneconne, Poygan, the Wolf River and the upper and lower Fox River it is a popular pleasure boating area.


Lake Winnebago has a variety of state, county and city parks. High Cliff State Park is the only state park on Lake Winnebago. The park is in the North East corner of Lake Winnebago. The park offers camping, hiking trails, beautiful views of Lake Winnebago, a marina, beach, observation tower and picnic areas. Camping is available at Calumet County Park and Columbia County Park (Fond du Lac County). Visitors can see effigy mounds which overlook the lake at High Cliff and Calumet County Park. Lakeside Park located in Fond du Lac is on the southern border of Lake Winnebago and has a variety of attrations on the 400-acre lot incluling picnic areas, shelters/gazebos, playground, deer park, ball diamonds, marina, and boat launch ramps. Train rides, an old fashioned carousel, bumper boats, aqua bikes, and canoes are available for rides. There is also a petting zoo open Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day.


Lake Winnebago is one of the more heavily fished lakes in the state.[2] Many fisherman consider it one of the nation's top walleye fisheries. Other species present include bluegill, largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, perch, burbot, white bass, freshwater drum, channel catfish, flathead catfish, and smallmouth bass.

Ice fishing

Ice fishing is popular on Lake Winnebago. It is not uncommon for 10,000 cars parked on Lake Winnebago during the ice fishing season.[2] Expansion cracks on the ice are bridged. Many cities along east and west shores plow roads on the icy surface.[2] Sauger and walleye predominate, with rare perch and white bass catches.[2]

The spear fishing season for sturgeon is in February. The first season of regulated sturgeon spearing was in 1903, when an eight-pound limit was introduced.[6] All sturgeon spearing was banned from 1915 until 1931. The lake had the largest population of sturgeon in the United States in 2003.[6] The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulates the number of fish taken each year.

Fishing in other seasons

Early spring (between May 5 and June 30) is dominated by walleye and sauger fishing.[2] Sauger, also known as sand pike, bite the best in cooler water.[2] June fishing is the peak time for white bass, and July for perch. Fishing declines in fall.


The steamer B. F. Carter made a trip from the east shore to the west shore at Oshkosh every two weeks in the 1880s during the summer season.[7]


  1. ^ Lakes, United States Department of the Interior, Retrieved September 21, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Folz, Dan (January 1989). Fishing Lake Winnebago. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  
  3. ^ Lake Oshkosh Drainage; Steven Dutch; Natural and Applied Sciences; University of Wisconsin–Green Bay; Last updated April 29, 2005; Retrieved January 14, 2007
  4. ^ The Niagara Escarpment; Steven Dutch; Natural and Applied Sciences; University of Wisconsin–Green Bay; Last updated June 18, 1999; Retrieved January 14, 2007
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Bergquist, Lee (February 7, 2003). With spearing season ahead, fish in Lake Winnebago system could number up to 50,000. Retrieved 2007-01-14.  
  7. ^ Page 8 (2007-05-17), Looking Back, Chilton Times Journal  

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