Mirror, Mirror, on the Water: A Tranquil Paddle at Mirror Lake State Park

By Mary Fairchild

Mirror LakeChelsea Boots appreciates the serenity of Mirror Lake as she quietly discovers the oak/pine forest reflection before her for the first time.

…there is rarely a wind-stirred ripple on the water’s still surface—

Mirror Lake is a narrow river-like waterway between tall cliff-sided gorges that is about 4 miles long. An impoundment of Sauk County’s Dell Creek near the Wisconsin Dells, it is a 137-acre manmade lake that begins where Dell Creek flows under the Highway 23 bridge northeast towards the Wisconsin River .

In 1966 the state bought most of the land on the west end of the lake and opened up Mirror Lake State Park .  Some families have kept their land and rustic cabins along Mirror Lake and the Seth Peterson Cottage. designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, has been restored.

The overlooks at the Seth Peterson Cottage have been the chosen sites for weddings over the years. The cottage now offers nightly rentals and open house tours are the second Sunday of each month from 1-4pm.  In fall there is also a pontoon boat tour of the lake as well as hors d’oeuvres around the cottage fireplace.

The west end of the lake was once a popular resort area where Al and Lou Ringling enjoyed fishing when taking time off from the circus (Baraboo’s Ringling Riverfront).  Still a good fishing lake, the main fish species are bluegill, crappie, large mouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.
Mirror Lake
From the west end, Mirror Lake flows through the “Upper Narrows” where steep sandstone cliffs tower on each side. Protected by the cliff-sided gorges and towering oak and pine, there is rarely a wind-stirred ripple on the water’s still surface—just like a mirror.
After the “Upper Narrows,” the water opens up wide at the Mirror Lake State Park boat landing and beach. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and pontoons are available through commercial development on the lake (Boat Rentals).

Just south of the beach, Blue Water Bay, or Gray’s Slough, is a wildlife habitat. Here a short trail leads up to the amphitheater where, last October, Chelsea was married (A Rustic Wedding at Mirror Lake State Park)..

Just past the interstate bridge(I-90), on the south side, is the “Devil’s Post Office.” Photographed by the late, and local, H.H. Bennett, the area has many springs including the Allendale Springs that make the ice unsafe during the winter.  At the end you will be at the dam which forms Mirror Lake.

About three hours north of Chicago, Mirror Lake is a serene, dreamy paddle.  Any manually propelled vessel that’s not furnished with a motor or sail (canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and rowboats…) is exempt from registration requirements in the state of Wisconsin.  Depending on where you “put-in,” however, you may need to purchase a state park sticker.  The beauty of owning a small boat is that you can really put it in almost anywhere and you don’t need to use a boat ramp.  There are locations for free parking and easy put in at each end of the lake.


  1. Nestled Deep in Wisconsin’s Woods: A Rustic Wedding at Mirror Lake State Park
  2. Giant Fiberglass Statues: Do You Know the Muffler Man?
  3. Boat Registration in Illinois: Chicago Style
  4. Boater Registration in Illinois:  What’s Whitewater Got to do With it?
  5. Forest Service and Public/Private Partnerships:  Selling us Access to our own Investments
  6. While Vacationing in the Dells
  7. Baraboo’s Ringling Riverfront
  8. International Sea Kayak Guide Snubs Registered Maine Guides: American Canoe Association’s Cover-up
  9. Baja Winter Kayak Expedition:  Wind, Waves, and Lipstick (El Norte rescue)
  10. Chicago River Kayaking:  Don’t Get Caught Up Creek Without a Paddle (Safety issues on Chicago River)
  11. Paddle/Hike/Play



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