The Nicolet National Forest brochure describes Laura Lake this way: "If you could create a perfect campground what would it include? For setting, maybe it should lie between two beautiful lakes. Of course, the lakes would be clear, with good fishing and excellent swimming. There would need to be a trail circling one of those beautiful lakes for scenic walks. And naturally, there would be no development on either lake. Sound perfect? Don't bother creating it. It already exists at Laura Lake."
That's quite a claim, but Laura Lake fully lives up to the Forest Service's billing. It was a long drive getting there, and I was hoping for the best while pulling in, remembering how other highly touted campgrounds had turned out to be duds. But as I pitched my Eureka! tent at campsite #10, I was ecstatic at what I saw. I knew I had found a winner in the great North Woods of Laura Lake. But, campsite #10 is not the only winner here. All the sites are winners. The campground is divided into three sections. The first campground road houses sites #1#15, though they appear in reverse order as you enter. Nine of these sites are stretched along Laura Lake. Overhead is a beautiful mix of maples, paper birch, yellow birch, basswood, a few oaks, and evergreenshemlock, spruce, and balsam. Ferns, grass, and small trees provide ample privacy between the well-separated campsites that are a bit back from the water. However, the water can be easily accessed from your camp. The sites away from the water are even more private and are used less often. A pump well lies at the end of the loop near the small boat launch on Laura Lake.
Campsites #16#26 are stretched along the next campground road. The lakeside sites sit atop a hill. Campers park and take steps down to some of the sites, also located in very attractive woods. Again, the sites away from the water are more private. Campsite #25 is set in the woods away from the water and everyone else. A pump well is located at the beginning of the road. The third area lies at the end of the dead end and houses campsites #27#41. The first few of these are the farthest from the lake but are also widely separated from each other. Campsites #37, #38, and #39 are lakeside.
Vault toilets are conveniently situated throughout the long and narrow campground. Laura Lake often fills on weekends, but this place is special enough to justify a little effort to get here during the week and hold your site down. A closer look at Laura Lake will reveal the crystal-clear water promised by the Forest Service. Furthermore, the lake is completely encircled by national forest land, making for a natural landscape. The 110-acre lake is an "electric motors only" lake, adding to the pristine experience. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish can be caught from Laura Lake. The 50-acre Gordon Lake, just a walk away, also has a boat ramp. Gordon Lake also has largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish in good numbers. The swim beach here is scenic enough to match the surroundings. A grassy lawn rises from the sand and is complemented with picnic tables. Nearby woods offer shade for those who don't want to be in the water.
The final piece to the puzzle is the Laura Lake Trail. This footpath officially begins near the turn to the Laura Lake boat ramp. It passes the isthmus of land between Gordon Lake and Laura Lake, then works around to near the shore of Laura Lake, keeping within sight of the water. A short spur trail leads north to Bog Lake. A contemplation bench marks the halfway point. Watch for osprey or loons on the lake. Chances are you will already have heard a loon by the time you take to the trail. The Forest Service came through on this trail as they did on their campground description, but don't believe everything you read.
To get there: From the junction of US 8 and Highway 32 in Laona, head north on US 8 for 15.2 miles to Forest Road 2163. Turn left on FR 2163 and follow it 5 miles to dead end at the campground.
Address: Laura Lake, 4978 Highway 8 and 32, Laona, WI 54541; (715) 674-4481, www.fs.fed.us/r9/cnnf
Open: May 1 through October 15
Individual sites: 41
Fee: $10 per night
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication