Campsite Review: Wisconsin’s Ottawa Lake — Kettle Moraine Forest, Southern Unit, Lake View Camping

And just like that, the 2023 camping season is underway for me! Unlike previous years where we drive 5 hours north and then wonder why it’s so cold in May, the first trip of the 2023 season was close to home in south central/southeast Wisconsin at Ottawa Lake Campground.

Links to plan your own adventure:
Campground Information and Reservations
Campground Map
Kettle Moraine Hiking Trails

Part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit, Ottawa Lake Campground is one of the four campgrounds in this part of the forest. In addition to the campground, visitors can recreate with the lake and lake adjacent activities. There is a playground, areas to picnic, volleyball courts, and other ways to spend a day near a lake. This park doesn’t have any of its own hiking trails, which is okay because the Kettle Moraine forest has numerous trail systems nearby. The closest one, and the one we hiked, is the Scuppernong Trail System. I’ll cover that in a post a different day.

Where is Ottawa Lake? Located between Madison and Milwaukee, it’s an easy drive from either city.

Ottawa Lake itself is a 17 acre lake with recreation options for swimming, boating, and fishing. The lake is 16 feet deep at the deepest and hosts panfish, largemouth bass, pike, and walleye.

Now on to the campground. The campground has 100 sites (a mixture of electric and non-electric,) some walk-in sites, and a cabin for campers with disabilities. There are two shower/flush toilet buildings, one flush toilet building, and numerous pit toilet options. As far as campgrounds go, this one was loved and well kept.

This trip we stayed at site #377, highlighted in blue on the map. The campground map doesn’t give anything away, but if you compare the campground map to the Google map above, you can see that the lake is on the southwestern side of the campground. This means that sites 377, 380, 382, and 388 are the closest to the lake. Booking a campsite for lake proximity based off looking at a map doesn’t always mean you will actually be able to see the lake, and sometimes it can even mean an incredibly buggy campsite. This time, however, the assumption would pay off. Those four campsites offer a great view of Ottawa Lake.

Let’s zoom in on site 377.

The site itself is large with ample room for parking, tents, and outdoor living space. With distance between the neighboring sites, it feels very private.

The site is almost totally flat, meaning you have options for how you want to set it up.

We put our tent to the right of the picnic table, tucking it in the bushy area for even extra privacy.

Each site has a campfire ring, cooking grate, and picnic table; the amenities I have come to love and expect at all Wisconsin State Park campsites.

This time of year the site has a nice view of the lake. I’m sure the view is even better before the foliage grows in or after the leaves fall. Mid-summer, I’m not sure how much the view is blocked by growing plants.

Once you’ve made all the hard decisions about where to put your tent and which side of the campfire to put your chair, it’s time to start enjoying the lake views and sounds of wildlife. This lake is popular with birds, geese, ducks, red winged blackbirds, sandhill cranes, great blue herons, etc. It’s a lively, sometimes loud, place!

The views from the campsite are nice, but wouldn’t it be great if you could get a little closer to the lake? Well, you can! This site, and several others near the lake, have paths that lead to a longer trail along the lake. I didn’t see how far the trail went and I couldn’t find any information online about it being a sanctioned trail, but we took it anyway. (We didn’t walk the entire thing so I can’t speak to how long it actually goes.)

This trail allows for different views of Ottawa Lake.

Another great part of this campsite? The sunsets. They happen right over the lake and can be enjoyed from the campsite or the path below.

Everything done at the campsite is slightly enhanced by having a lake view. Like what, you ask?

Beer. Beer is enhanced with a lakeview. (LOVE Badger State Brewing!)

Cooking breakfast is enhanced with a lake view.

Drinking coffee is enhanced with a lake view.

Playing board games is enhanced with a lake view. (Even a lake view obscured by trees because you’re hiding from the 2pm sun.)

And there you have it, a great site with a great view. The best of many worlds in one, a well kept campground, a spacious private feeling campsite, lake views, wildlife, and sunsets. This site is one of those rare ones that immediately made the “we have to come back here” list. Until next time, 377!

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