Exploring Wisconsin: Lake Ripley offers crystal clear waters

John Stofflet explores Lake Ripley by kayak.
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 3:00 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 25, 2021 at 8:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - One of the clearest lakes I’ve paddled around the Madison area? Lake Ripley....believe it or not. The lake is located between Highway 18 and Highway 12 in the Town of Oakland, as you’re heading East out of Cambridge.

Fort Atkinson High School students learn paddling skills on Lake Ripley near Cambridge.
Fort Atkinson High School students learn paddling skills on Lake Ripley near Cambridge.(WMTV)

Lake Ripley is 420 acres, 44 feet at its deepest, and nearly all of the lake has a sandy bottom. Outboard motor inventor Ole Evinrude sailed here as a boy before he moved off to the city.

A Wisconsin Historical Marker at Ripley Park notes the area's ties to outboard motor inventor...
A Wisconsin Historical Marker at Ripley Park notes the area's ties to outboard motor inventor Ole Evinrude.(WMTV)

On a beautiful summer afternoon, I took my 14-1/2 foot sea kayak to the lake, accessing the water beyond the swim area at the edge of Ripley Park. The beach at Ripley Park is beautiful, and the water on Lake Ripley is crystal clear.

John Stofflet kayaks on Lake Ripley, near Cambridge.
John Stofflet kayaks on Lake Ripley, near Cambridge.(WMTV)

While at the lake, I came across Rich Bostwick, who teaches a Fort Atkinson summer school class on canoeing and kayaking. He was giving his high school students pointers on the basics of paddle sports, on a lake perfect for learning those skills. What makes it so perfect? Bostwick said, “The clarity, the good sand bottom, it’s shallow all along the shoreline, until you get way out there and then it gets deeper.” He noted the wind can whip up the water at times, but if you stay close to shore, the water is shallow.

John Stofflet paddles along the Lake Ripley shoreline, near Ripley Park.
John Stofflet paddles along the Lake Ripley shoreline, near Ripley Park.(WMTV)

While he was supervising his class, as they paddled back and forth off the beach, Bostwick talked more about what makes Lake Ripley so ideal for paddlers. He described the lake as, “Very nice. Probably the clearest water quality we’ll be paddling all season--other than the high school pool. That doesn’t count,” he said with a chuckle. He added, looking out at his high school students enjoying the lake, “When I was of this age, that’s when I learned to paddle and fell in love with it. It’s something I believe in strongly. If I can get students to start doing it when they’re young, chances are it’ll be a lifelong activity for them. It’s a good gig. I like it.”

What’s not to like about life on Lake Ripley? I certainly plan to paddle these waters again some day soon.

John Stofflet paddles his kayak on Lake Ripley, off of Ripley Park.
John Stofflet paddles his kayak on Lake Ripley, off of Ripley Park.(WMTV)

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