Lakes in Minnesota

Why is Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes? How many lakes are there?

Minnesota is often referred to as the “Land of 10,000 lakes.” The North Star State didn’t just get the name as a marketing ploy. After spending a few days here, you’ll learn quick that this name holds up!

Let’s explore how Minnesota got this nickname, the actual number of lakes in the state, and the reasons behind their abundance.

How did Minnesota get the nickname ‘Land of 10,000 lakes’?

The origin of Minnesota’s nickname can be traced back to the early 20th century. It was coined as a marketing slogan to attract tourists to the state. The term “10,000 lakes” was used figuratively.

It conveys the idea of an abundance of lakes and encourage people to visit and explore the natural beauty of Minnesota.

There is also a reference dating back to 1856, when the editor of the Minnesota Weekly Times returned from a three-month trip out east and wrote fondly of coming “back to the bosom of our own loved and now doubly prized Minnesota, feeling that here as well as elsewhere beat kind and genial hearts, and spring warm and generous impulses.”

He went on to refer poetically to Minnesota as “the land of Lakes and blooming flowers.” The state’s myriad lakes and waterways had clearly left an impression on early settlers and visitors.

The first mention of Land of Lakes in News Print

But does it stick?

Lake Shetek State Park Causeway

How many lakes are actually there in Minnesota?

The state of Minnesota is indeed home to a remarkable number of lakes. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there are approximately 11,842 lakes that are at least 10 acres in size.’=

This count includes lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water. If you count the smaller lakes, it would significantly increase this number.

What about Wisconsin and their claim to have more lakes than Minnesota?

During an interview on the radio, Sara Meaney, the ex-tourism secretary of Wisconsin, confidently stated that Wisconsin had a greater number of lakes compared to Minnesota. According to our Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wisconsin is documented to have 15,074 lakes.

However, Minnesota categorizes a body of water as a lake only if its area is equal to or larger than 10 acres, while Wisconsin does not have a minimum requirement for classifying a body of water as a lake. 

So there you have it! Minnesota has more because Wisconsin will call anything a lake!

Why are there so many lakes in Minnesota?

Minnesota’s unique geography and glacial history formed most of the lakes. The landscape was sculpted by glaciers during the last ice age, leaving behind thousands of depressions that eventually filled with water, forming the lakes we see today.

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What is the difference between a lake and a pond?

While lakes and ponds are both freshwater bodies, there are some distinguishing characteristics that set them apart. 


Lakes and ponds are formed through various processes. Lakes are usually a significant surface area and greater depth compared to ponds. They are often formed by geological processes such as tectonic activity, glacial activity, or volcanic action.

They can vary greatly in size, from small lakes to enormous ones like Lake Superior. Lakes usually have a distinct ecosystem and support a wide range of plant and animal species.


Ponds, on the other hand, smaller bodies of water with a limited surface area and shallower. They can be created by processes like beaver damming, geological depressions, or human excavation.  

Ponds usually support a different range of flora and fauna compared to lakes.

Lake Superior

What is the largest lake in Minnesota?

Lake Superior, situated on the northeastern border of Minnesota, is the largest lake in the state.

Lake Superior is not only the largest lake in Minnesota but also the largest of all the Great Lakes. It has a surface area of around 31,700 square miles. The lake holds about 3 quadrillion gallons of water, making it the largest freshwater lake globally in terms of surface area.

Lake Superior offers a wide variety of recreational activities for visitors and locals alike. It is a popular destination for boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

The beautiful shoreline and scenic views along the North Shore of Lake Superior attract nature enthusiasts and photographers.

What are some other Larger Lakes in Minnesota?

After Superior you can visit Upper and Lower Red Lake (288,800 acres), Mille Lacs Lake (132,516 acres), Leech Lake (111,527 acres), Lake Winnibigoshish (58,544 acres), Lake Vermilion (40,557 acres), Lake Kabetogama (25,760 acres), Mud Lake (23,700 acres), and Cass Lake (15,596 acres).

Where is the best places to see Lakes in Minnesota?

One of the best places to see lakes undisputed in Minnesota is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or the BWCAW to locals.

This area is a canoe in area on the boarder of Minnesota and Canda’s Quetico National Park. The area is made up of smaller that are connected by small portages, allowing you to cross from one to the other.

Itasca State Park Peir

How many state parks in Minnesota have lakes?

State parks play a significant role in preserving Minnesota’s natural beauty and providing opportunities for outdoor activities.

Many state parks in Minnesota are fortunate to have lakes within their boundaries. The exact number may vary, but numerous state parks, such as Itasca State Park, Bear Head Lake State Park, and Lake Maria State Park.

What recreational activities can be enjoyed at these state parks?

State parks with lakes provide a range of recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming, boating, and canoeing.

Hiking trails around lakes offer scenic views and opportunities for nature walks. These parks are great places to relax and immerse oneself in the natural beauty of Minnesota.

If you are a MN Resident, you can fish for free from shore on MN lakes.

Why do Minnesotans love their lakes?

Lakes hold immense cultural and recreational importance for the people of Minnesota.

Lakes are deeply ingrained in the culture and identity of Minnesotans. They are cherished as symbols of the state’s natural heritage. Many Minnesotans, including myself, have fond memories of spending time at lakes. It brings a piece of calm.

Minnesotans take full advantage of their lakes. From swimming and boating to ice fishing and cross-country skiing, lakes provide year-round fun!

Paddleboard on a Lake

What are some popular lake-related activities in Minnesota?

Some popular lake-related activities in Minnesota include fishing for walleye, bass, and northern pike.

You can also waterskiing and tubing, sailing, and enjoying beach picnics and bonfires. Ice fishing and snowmobiling attract many during the winter months.

So Why is Minnesota the Land of 10,000 lakes?

The answer is simple, because there are over 10,000 bodies of water larger than 10 acres in Minnesota. Visit any town, and you’ll be hard pressed to not find a single lake. Many have more than one!

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