- The Waukesha County Park System is an 8,500-acre natural resources-based system with diverse landscapes, striking natural areas, trails, lakes, ponds, and waterways.
- There are 28 city parks in Waukesha county for residents and visitors to explore and enjoy.
- 84% of Americans seek high-quality parks and recreation when deciding where to live.
- Some parks and lake access sites require a daily or annual permit to access.
- Lake Country presents many opportunities for biking, backpacking, horseback riding, taking the dogs out for a stroll, setting up camp with your family, skiing, snowshoeing, or sightseeing as you hike.
- Many events are planned for the Waukesha County Parks System throughout 2023; view the full schedule here.
- With many lakes scattered throughout Lake Country, anglers have their pick of fishing locations. I.e., Pewaukee, Delafield, Oconomowoc, and more.
- Wisconsin is one of the best states in the U.S. for rockhounding, and it’s the perfect place for anyone trying to find unique rocks, minerals, crystals, fossils, or gemstones.
Wisconsin is home to an astonishing 15,000 lakes, and Lake Country in Waukesha County is an excellent place to explore and immerse yourself in nature. Although the area is only 581 square miles, the massive amount of lakes here allows 31 sq. miles of water scattered throughout the county. Not only that, but Lake Country has some excellent parks, trails, fishing and hiking spots, and rockhounding locations for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Lake Country was the place for weekend getaways in the early 1900s for the wealthy elite traveling from nearby areas, such as Chicago and Milwaukee. However, long-time residents and those moving to WI from across the map can permanently or temporarily find a slice of lakefront heaven. One of the many benefits of living in Lake Country is how impeccably managed their Parks and Recreation system is.
Explore the recreational opportunities in Lake Country’s beautiful parks and lakes with us!
Waukesha County Parks and Recreation
The Waukesha County Park System is an 8,500-acre natural resources-based system with diverse landscapes, striking natural areas, trails, lakes, ponds, and waterways. This area of Wisconsin is blessed with lakes, 140 to be exact. There are 28 city parks in Waukesha county for residents and visitors to explore and enjoy. With so much water gracing the community, along with forests, streams, and parks, there are plenty of opportunities for recreational activities.
Quality parks and recreation positively impact people across the US. Lake Country’s well-preserved and maintained natural parks, forests, and lakes are some of the best in the United States.
Whether taking a stroll on a park trail or enjoying the water and tranquil scenery via kayaking or canoeing, Lake Country is full of ways to get outside and stay active. According to a survey conducted by the National Recreation and Parks Association, many Americans believe parks and recreation are essential:
- 84% of Americans seek high-quality parks and recreation when deciding where to live.
- 275 million Americans visited a local park or recreation facility at least one time over the past year.
- 9 in 10 U.S. adults reported that parks and recreation was an important service provided by their local government.
Fortunately, residents and tourists can reap the benefits of fresh, clean air and water because of Lake Country, Wisconsin’s striking scenery, lush greenery, and wide open spaces.
Some parks and lake access sites require a daily or annual permit to access. (* indicates vehicle fee required.)
- Eble Park Indoor Ice Arena
- Eble Park Gardens
- Fox Brook Park*
- Fox River Park*
- Menomonee Park*
- Minooka Park *
- Moor Downs Golf Course
- Mukwonago Park*
- Muskego Park*
- Naga-Waukee Park*
- Naga-Waukee Park Indoor Ice Arena
- Naga-Waukee War Memorial Golf Course
- Nashotah Park*
- Retzer Nature Center
- Ryan Park*
- Waukesha County Expo Center
- Lake Access Sites*
Many events are planned for the Waukesha County Parks System throughout 2023, including outdoor classrooms for elementary students that combine education with nature explorations and hikes, volunteer tree plantings, and a nature program designed specifically for young children 2-4. You can view the full schedule here.
Popular Trails & Parks in Lake Country
There are lots of trails and forest areas for residents or visitors to explore. Lake Country presents many opportunities for biking, backpacking, horseback riding, taking the dogs out for a stroll, setting up camp with your family, skiing, snowshoeing, or sightseeing as you hike.
- Lake Country Recreation Trail. A challenging and popular biking trail that lets you enjoy scenic views of ponds, marshes, cornfields, downtown Delafield, etc. Some visitors reported wildlife sightings, i.e., turkey, deer, cranes, and bird species. Although some sections of the bike trail are shared with traffic, many visitors stated that this isn’t the best trail for children but is more suitable for more advanced cyclists looking for a good workout. The Lake Country Recreation Trail is about 15.2 miles long and features some challenging hills.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest- Lapham Peak. Enjoy the remarkable landscape of Kettle Moraine State Forest with both natural and paved marked trails. Plenty of maps throughout the area make for easy navigation. Visitors enjoy using Kettle Moraine State Forest for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, etc. Make your way to Lapham Peak for a birds eye view of Wisconsin. Check it out during fall for an extra spectacular and colorful sight.
- Retzer Nature Center. The Retzer Nature Center is a lovely way to learn about native WI flora and fauna; it offers plenty of learning opportunities for younger children, such as the children’s garden with vegetables and vibrant flowers. The center also has a few hiking trails that perfectly display the beauty and tranquility of the prairie. A popular relaxing place to enjoy with the whole family, but keep in mind that dogs are not permitted at this particular location.
- Minooka Park. Minooka offers residents and visitors an excellently maintained area for dogs and humans alike. There are fenced-in areas for your four-legged friend to socialize and play with other dogs. New mountain bike trails were also recently added, and they have trail options for both beginner and advanced cyclists. You can also set out some towels, take a refreshing swim, and enjoy the beach.
- Cushing Memorial Park. An incredible adventure for kids, featuring a unique, heavy-duty, and expansive wood playground, offering a rustic, old-world feel. The park is situated along the Glacial Drumlin Trail, a hotspot for biking or jogging opportunities. Cushing Memorial Park also features river access if you want to get your feet wet while you’re there.
- The Ice Age Trail. A segment of about 4.7 miles of the 1,000-mile-long Ice Age National Scenic Trail makes its way through Hartland. The path that begins at Centennial Park and goes into downtown Hartland is a resident favorite. Hiking, snowshoeing, and backpacking are popular on the Ice Age Trail.
Fishing Opportunities in Lake Country
With many lakes scattered throughout Lake Country, anglers have their pick of fishing locations.
Pewaukee is an Indian word that means “Lake of Shells.” This village was first inhabited by the Menomonie, Winnebago, Sauk, and Potawatomi American Indian tribes. However, settlers didn’t arrive until 1836, when they began establishing their homes along Pewaukee Lake. Deacon Asa Clark was one of the earliest settlers and became a prominent name in Pewaukee.
Clark arrived in Milwaukee and joined a partnership to open the first sawmill on Pewaukee Lake. Later in 2838, the partnership was dissolved, and Clark opened another mill. In 1844, the lime and stone industry was booming and continued to flourish for years. Blacksmith and wagon shops were established to serve the increasing population and the number of workers that grew with it.
Not too long after a railroad extension from Milwaukee in the 1880s, Pewaukee began attracting many summer travelers. The unparalleled natural beauty and countless fishing locations made it an excellent place for visitors to soak up time, and why residents are so enthusiastic about Lake Country living.
Today, Pewaukee is still known as a fishing enthusiast’s fantasy and provides some of the best musky fishing in southeast Wisconsin.
Oconomowoc is an Indian word that means “falling water” or “waterfall.” The Oconomowoc River links over a dozen lakes in Waukesha County; it’s also known as one of the most-used and most valuable recreational resources in the Badger state. It covers 139 square miles in Wisconsin’s most heavily populated corner and features 17 lakes.
The system features multiple marquee fishing destinations Oconomowoc, Okauchee, Pine, and Lac La Belle, and smaller Fowler, Moose and Keesus, and Beaver. In addition, you can find some giant muskies in the state, along with largemouth bass and panfish.
Nagawicka Lake is located in Waukesha County within the lines of Delafield; the 981-acre lake is easy to access from Milwaukee and surrounding areas. It’s just off the major expressway I-94, a popular destination for watersports and fishing. Residents and visitors can catch various fish species, including panfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.
Hunting Opportunities in Lake Country
Wisconsin’s vast natural resources include various grasslands, wetlands, and forests, making it an ideal location for hunting. Many areas are open to public hunting, such as particular state forests, state recreation areas, managed forest areas, and even some federal lands. Many sites near Lake Country offer hunting opportunities.
Rockhounding in Lake Country, WI
Wisconsin is one of the best states in the U.S. for rockhounding, and it’s the perfect place for anyone trying to find unique rocks, minerals, crystals, fossils, or gemstones. Wisconsin is home to several interesting stones you can collect, such as geodes, Petoskey stones, agates, obsidian, Jasper, limestone, plagioclase, quartzite, catlinite, moonstones, and many more.
Lake Country’s best rockhound spots are stream beds, quarries, river gravels, lakeshore beaches, mining dumps, and glacial moraine gravels.
For example, Lapham Peak State Park in Delafield is an excellent spot to find minerals like quartz crystals and other exciting finds like fossils. You can also find other rocks and minerals like pyrite, galena, calcite, and sphalerite.
Kettle Moraine State Forest is another hotspot for rockhounding, as residents and visitors can discover beautiful agate, garnet, pyrite, quartz, and more.
Riverside Park in Waukesha is another rockhounding-approved area to hike and scout for shale, limestone, sandstone, and conglomerate.
Rockhounding History in Lake Country
Due to the history of glacial activity and its proximity to Lake Superior, the badger state is known for some incredible gemstones, fossils, and other unique specimens discovered in stream beds, river gravels, quarries, glacial moraine gravels, and lakeshore beaches.
The Eagle diamond was unearthed in Waukesha County in 1876.
While digging on a well site where the town of Eagles water tower now sits, workers dug up a brilliant, 12-sided stone with a “warm sunny” hue. Clarissa Woods was the resident who brought the stone to a jeweler by the name of Samuel Boynton in Milwaukee. Boynton claimed he had suspected the stone was topaz, bought it for $1.00 from Woods, then took it to be analyzed in Chicago.
That stone was the largest diamond found in the U.S. at the time, which resulted in Clarissa Woods suing Boynton but was unsuccessful. He sold the diamond to Tiffany’s in New York City for $850. He then leased the hillside where the stone was initially found. He built privacy fences and began to mine the hillside thoroughly for several years to no avail. He then salted the area with inferior gems to attract investors for his Eagle Diamond-Mining Company.
In 1889, Tiffany’s organized an exhibit, Gems and Precious Stones from North America. The event was held in Paris, and the collection of 382 impressive stones won a gold medal for the Exposition Universelle. J.P. Morgan bought it for the American Museum of Natural History. The Eagle Diamond was exhibited there until 1964 when a thief stole hundreds of precious gems during a late-night robbery. Most of the stolen jewels were recovered eventually, but the Eagle Diamond was never found. It was suspected that the diamond was cut into smaller pieces and sold.