Manitowish Waters Town History

The Lake Superior Chippewa Indians were the first people to have an impact on this beautiful area. Establishing a camp on the east shore of Manitowish Lake, they made sugar, fished, raised corn, picked berries and buried their dead in the area.

In 1860, government officials established  township boundaries and noticed the valuable  timber resources and chain of lakes convenient for floating logs to sawmills. By 1884, canoe flotillas looking for timber had established the first white settlements in what is now Manitowish Waters, and in 1887-1888 the dam was built to hold chain waters for logging and river driving.

In 1927, the Town of Spider Lake was officially established; it was renamed Manitowish Waters in 1940. Then, in 1946, cranberry farming began around Wild Rice Lake, establishing what is now a significant business in Manitowish Waters.   Five cranberry marshes operate along Alder Lake Road and Cranberry Boulevard.

Manitowish Waters recently made headlines with the Universal Studios production of Public Enemies (released July 1, 2009, starring Johnny Depp) involving historic Little Bohemia Lodge and John Dillinger’s 1934 shoot-out with the FBI.

Today, the Manitowish Waters area is the ideal spot to “get away from it all.” Located in Northwestern Vilas County in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, Manitowish Waters is known for its quiet, less stressful surroundings perfect for a family vacation, reunion, romantic getaway, hunting or fishing excursion, or leisure day trip. With a year ’round population of roughly 700, Manitowish Waters sees quite an increase throughout the seasons from a combination of seasonal residents, second home owners and vacationers.