Minnesota is well-known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Actually, it’s more than that. The state contains 11,842 lakes that are 10 acres in size or larger.
If you add in the over 6,500 rivers and streams around the state, there’s a lot of room for boaters on Minnesota waters. With that much to choose from, there is no shortage of destinations for boaters to hit the water. The advantages for boaters are numerous.
“I think it’s just the convenience of having a lake or river about 30 minutes from most residents of the state,” said Stan Linnel, the Boating and Water Safety Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “People have a lot of water to choose from for a lot of different reasons.”
Not only does Minnesota have an abundance of lakes and rivers to choose from, but it’s easy to get on the water too.
“Boating is a long standing Minnesota favorite pastime,” said Alyssa Ebel, the public relations director for Explore Minnesota. Public boat accesses are abundant on the state’s nearly 12,000 lakes and numerous rivers.”
The opportunities include more than just motor boating.
“Paddlers will enjoy the canoe and kayak routes on rivers, streams, and lakes,” said Ebel. “Houseboating opportunities abound in the northern part of the state. Even folks who don’t own boats can find a lot of rental shops, too.”
Don’t forget water skiing. “Minnesota is the birthplace of water skiing, which was invented in 1922,” said Ebel.
“The southern region of Minnesota includes destinations like Lake Okabena, which is popular for windsurfing,” said Ebel. “It also includes Lake Pepin, which is known as the ‘birthplace of water skiing.'”
Al Heitman lives on Lake Zumbro, just north of Rochester, which is a popular boating destination. Plans are in the works to make Zumbro even more popular for boaters.
“The lake has filled in some, so what we’re trying to do is hollow out some of the mud and silt that’s built up,” said Heitman. “There are some places that used to be navigable, but you can’t boat in anymore. They’re trying to get things back near 6 feet in most places again.”
Heitman said his family bought a cabin cruiser a year ago and are trying other lakes in the area.
“We like to boat on Wabasha,” said Heitman. “There’s a nice sand dune they built from dredging in the lake, so it’s a fun area to boat in.”
Sail boating is a popular pastime with Phil and Jan Olson of Lake City.
“We’re out of the marina here (in Lake City),” said Phil. “We’ll just said around wherever the wind takes us on Lake Pepin. We’ve been sailing since around 1997, and we enjoy the peace and quiet, just being able to ride the winds.”
Lake Pepin is one of the more popular boating stops in southeast Minnesota.
“We live in town here, so we’re pretty lucky,” said Phil. “It does stay pretty busy here, but there’s a lot of room on Pepin.”
The northeast part of the state features a large number of places to choose from.
“You’ll find the nation’s largest freshwater lake, which is Lake Superior,” said Ebel. “Lake Vermillion, which is 44,000 acres. Don’t forget Voyageurs National Park, which includes lakes like Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand Point and Crane Lake. Voyageurs is the largest freshwater-based park in the nation, at more than 218,000 acres.”
The northwest includes popular destinations like Lake of the Woods, Leech Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish. The central region features Brainerd Lakes Area, Lake Mille Lacs and Big Sandy Lake.
The DNR’s Linnel said it’s important for outstate boaters to remember there are a lot of opportunities even in the metro area.
“There’s tremendous opportunities,” he said. “Lake Minnetonka is probably the most heavily used recreation lake in the state. It has 14,000 acres and 140 miles of shoreline right in the metro.”
Different lakes, different opportunities
Figuring out the most popular destinations depends on what folks are heading to the lake for.
“Even small lakes like Calhoun and Harriet get a lot of use from paddlers,” said Linnel. “If you’re looking at fishing, you’ll try some of the big lakes like Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. Some of these lakes are actually so large they won’t seem crowded. You can go a long way without seeing another boat.”
Minnesotans do love their boats.
“Usually, we’re the highest per capita for registered boats in the nation,” said Linnel. “I think we’re roughly third in the nation in terms of the number of registered boats in the nation.”