Lakes are Wisconsin’s mountains. They’re the hearts of their ecosystems and the focal points of surrounding communities. Growing up on a lake defines a person in all aspects of their life, from the things they learn and the way they have fun to a deeper appreciation of the reciprocal exchanges between humankind and the environment. Everyone who grows up on Big Green Lake owes a part of themselves to the lake. And everyone who visits aims to find that connection for themselves.
It starts at the beaches, where a family of four looks to relax on a sunny day and, later, a couple of teenagers lose themselves under the blue moonlight. Whether at Hattie Sherwood Beach, Dodge Memorial County Park, or Sunset Park, it doesn’t take a yacht or a fishing pole to make your own fun in the water.
That said, if you’re the sailing type, then by all means yacht the day away. Big Green has 7,346 acres to explore. If yachting isn’t your thing, consider the easygoing kayak or the breakneck action of a speedboat. There’s waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing to be had.And if fishing is more your style, Big Green Lake provides some lunkers. Walleye and northern pike, lake trout, bass, and panfish roam somewhere in the 237-foot-deep lake (Check out the Green Lake Fish Chart for specifics). It’s not always straightforward, but they say the worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work. Then again, humorist Don Marquis said, “Fishing is a delusion entirely surrounded by liars in old clothes.” I wonder if that applies to ice fishing, also a prominent part of Green Lake culture.
Wisconsin winters often transform Big Green Lake into a glistening wonderland. The snow-rimmed glass of lake ice provides opportunity for ice boating, where wind-powered sleds sail across the surface like greased otters on polished hardwood, often achieving speeds over 50 miles per hour—the sleds, not the otters.
Or if you prefer things at a slower pace, there’s ice skating at Deacon Mills Wharf. Here, children try to figure out the difference between walking and skating in stiff-legged waddles occasionally leading to awkward falls. Their parents then rush over to help them up and encourage them to try again. All the while, couples glide along, hand in hand, taking turns stealing kisses from one another.
Whimsical for some, dynamic for others, all mixed with awe, Big Green Lake has a prevailing sense of romanticism about it that’s often captured in the wind drawing its voice out across the water. Though lake life doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, its appeal is universal. I’ve heard it called the good life, but there’s much more to it than that. There’s an inspiration to do some-thing intimate and discover what in life matters most to you. A lake isn’t a mirror, it’s a crystal ball, and we all know ourselves better after looking into it.
Kyle Jacobson is a writer and senior copy editor for Green Lake Magazine.