Mixing it up: Area lakes offer options

Vacationers spend time on the beach at Detroit Lakes during the community's annual Fourth of July gala, one of the larger celebrations in the surrounding area. Kelly Smith / The Forum

By Tracy Briggs

Most people think Minnesota is over exaggerating calling itself “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” But in true Midwestern fashion, the state is actually being too humble. Minnesota has 11,842 lakes over 10 acres in size according to the Department of Natural Resources. (That number grows to more than 20,000 lakes if you account for those under 10 acres.) While having slightly fewer lakes, both North and South Dakota also have plenty to brag about when it comes to waterways that range from serene to action packed.

But how to you find the lake destination right for you? It might depend on your favorite lake or lake-related activity. Are you a beachgoer, an angler or someone who just likes to build bonfires lakeside? Whatever you choose, nearby lake destinations have you covered.

For Beach Lovers

If the idea of laying out a big towel and soaking up the rays on a sandy beach makes you melt into a pile bliss than consider charting a course to these destinations. If you’d like to stick close to a major city, try Park Point Beach in Duluth and experience the shores of state’s biggest lake, Superior. Or consider the Twin Cities region – it’s full of beaches that allow you to take a dip one minute and be downtown only moments later. The most popular lake destinations right in the heart of Minneapolis and St. Paul include Lakes Calhoun and Harriet.

Closer to the Fargo-Moorhead region, Detroit Lakes has a popular beach right in the heart of town. In North Dakota, both the Jamestown Reservoir and Lake Sakakawea provide ample room for beach lovers to relax. In fact, Lake Sakakawea is North Dakota’s largest manmade lake and boasts more shoreline than the state of California. Lake Poinsett, one of the largest lakes in South Dakota, has become a popular tourist destination for those who enjoy the water…or just stay on the beach.


For Action Seekers

Paddleboarding is one of the biggest trends in lake recreation. Paddleboards are available to rent at some area lakes. Special to Forum News Service

For those seeking a more active lake vacation, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards can be found for sale or rent in most if not all of lakes country.

According to Explore Minnesota, paddleboards are the biggest trend in lakeside fun. Stand-up paddleboards are available for rent at several state parks, including Minneapolis city lakes, Bryant Lake, Fish Lake and Baker regional parks in the Twin cities metro area. In the Brainerd Lakes area, the MN Surf Company offers rentals and lessons.

In North Dakota, canoes, kayaks and more are offered on larger lakes and even the Missouri River. With a view of the Black Hills in the distance, South Dakota’s Sylvan, Deerfield, Sheridan, and Pactola Lakes are all great places to go stand-up paddleboarding. If you like it really slow, start on Deerfield Lake — a 435-acre no-wake lake where boats are limited to 5 mph and under.

For the more serious adventurer, head north to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota where canoe and kayaking adventures can be custom-designed based upon levels of experience and daring. If you’d like more relaxed boating adventure on the lake, consider a narrated boat tour. Itasca State Park has a popular guided tour and so does Voyageurs National Park. Cruises are also being offered in the Brainerd area on Gull Lake.

For Anglers

With all of those lakes, there’s bound to be a lot of fish, right? Right. The most popular catch include walleyes, northerns, bass and muskies.

So where are they biting? Just about everywhere. First get yourself a license to fish or if you’d rather have a guide to help you along, consider booking a fishing charter on one of the big lakes, Lake of the Woods or Lake Superior in Minnesota or Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. Devil’s Lake is also a popular spot for anglers in North Dakota. Or visit The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area in Yankton, South Dakota where Fishing is just one of the attractions at the largest marina in the state.

For Nightlife Lovers

Nightlife can mean dancing and drinks under the stars or telling ghost stories around a campfire while listening to the loon’s haunting call. Just about any lake in the tri-state area is suitable for campfires – but be sure to check local fire safety regulations.

If you’d like the best light show Mother Nature has to offer, you can occasionally catch the Northern Lights on the shores of Lake Superior. But if you’d like to get out and socialize a bit more, you have plenty of choices. Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge is a legendary hotspot in Minnetonka, Minnesota. It features six different bars, nine dining areas, volleyball courts, and live music. Spanky’s Stone hearth in Frazee, Minnesota, a popular bar and restaurant on the shores of Rose Lake, specializes in barbecued ribs. Lund’s Landing in Ray, N.D. is recommended by those who like a resort experience. In South Dakota, Oak Wood Lakes Lodge is a popular choice for parties including weddings and reunions.


All of the Above

Some people go to the lake to enjoy nature, including watching and listening to loons. Photo by Kip Earney

If you like to mix it up a bit consider a lake located in a state park, such as Father Hennepin on Mille Lacs Lake, Lake Bemidji and Maplewood. After a day of swimming, boating or fishing you can mix it up a bit by hiking, horseback riding or just looking at the scenery around you. North Dakota’s state parks, as well as South Dakota state parks offer similar amenities.

For more information about lake destinations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota visit the states tourism department websites.