Mirror Lake I
Mirror Lake State Park to Lake Delton
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While not technically the first paddle for us, this was the first paddle we posted (back when Miles Paddled was just a place to jot some notes down for future reference). So, details and images were leaner back then they are today. That said, for posterity, these early trips are a reminder to revisit them.
May 24, 2008
Put-In + Take-Out:
Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo, Wisconsin (closer to Lake Delton and the Wisconsin Dells Area)
Total Time: n/a
Miles Paddled: 9.25
What we liked:
Mirror Lake is an absolutely beautiful (albeit, small) body of water situated just southwest of the Wisconsin Dells/Lake Delton area. It’s a great place for beginning paddlers to get their feet wet since it’s quite shallow and there is a no-wake restriction, making it paddler friendly. Winding around the outer banks of the lake that branches off in many directions, you’ll come across a lot of wildlife and beautifully manicured property. The historic Ishnala Supper Club is perched high above the lake offering what must be a beautiful view of paddlers like us below.
We put in at Mirror Lake State Park which is the most accessible put-in to the lake. While we’re not huge on lake paddling in general, what’s cool is that Dell Creek connects Mirror Lake to Lake Delton. The creek is narrow and pretty. Not too far after exiting Mirror Lake just under the Ishnala Road bridge, you’ll come to a spillway/dam that must be portaged. It takes a bit of work to get up on the concrete landing (with slippery rocks below) and then climb the stairs with your canoe or kayak in tow so it’s best to have a hand in making this portage.
The channel between Mirror Lake and Lake Delton known as Dell Creek, is very cool. As you paddle through a tree covered canopy, you’re surrounded by the kinds of rocks and bluffs you’d expect in the Dells. The creek continues on until the rather impressive Highway 94 bridge and into the man-made Lake Delton.
During the summer months, you’re bound to be greeted with all sorts of activity on Lake Delton. If you’re lucky (or time it right, I suppose) you could catch the Tommy Bartlett Water Ski Sky and Stage Show, which on this day, we were in luck. Even as the Dells has evolved, Tommy Bartlett is one of the oldest attractions still drawing crowds. We caught the show and a hell of a lot of sun and then unfortunately, while sitting out in our kayaks in the middle of the lake, I drop my sunglasses in the water.
Ironically, a rather historic event happened two weeks after our trip, Lake Delton drained into the Wisconsin River. On the morning of June 9, a 400-foot section of the dike wall broke, draining the entire lake. It drew national attention and much has been written about the accident and the effects on the Dells, specifically tourism.
It was a pretty shocking sight as evidenced by videos like these and having just enjoyed our time there, it was surreal. Not to make light of the situation but as people combed the lake-bottom for long forgotten (and lost) treasures, I figured that surely someone found my sunglasses. I expected to see someone wearing them during a news interview but I have no confirmation of that happening.
What we didn’t like:
Mirror Lake has some really interesting features but I would stay away from the large marshy area in what I would call the West leg of the lake. It’s pretty mucky to paddle through.
And losing my sunglasses wasn’t all that awesome either.
If we did this trip again:
Mirror Lake State Park is a beauty of a park but Mirror Lake is really the centerpiece. The beaches are great, offering easy water access. The camping is on par with what you’d expect at any State Park in the southern part of Wisconsin during the busy season (busy State Parks = noise). The park also offers a lot of trails for hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. Of course, there is also opportunity for fishing but I have no idea how that is or how the drainage will effect that in the coming years.
When Lake Delton is one day refilled of course, I would highly recommend this as a different kind of diversion in the Dells area (not that the Dells needs anymore diversions). The Dells are beautiful and it’s worth packing your kayaks if you’re heading to the area and might have a couple of hours to spend on the water.
You can also rent canoes or kayaks at Lake Delton Watersports. We stopped in to ask some questions and they were really friendly (and very accommodating, offering up parking and a put-in/take-out). Of course, if you’re heading up for a day trip and the weather doesn’t cooperate, we always recommend visiting the original Monk’s downtown. The charm of old has been polished and the menu tweaked but the burgers are still pretty good and you can still shake the dice.
Lastly, we’d take much more sunscreen. With no clouds in the sky, it got hot and we got crispy.
Mirror Lake II: Mirror Lake State Park to Lake Delton
Dell Creek: South Avenue to Dellwood
Camp: Mirror Lake State Park
Good People: Friends of Mirror Lake
Map: Mirror Lake
Outfitter: Dells Watersports
Wikipedia: Mirror Lake State Park
Miles Paddled Video: