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Ranking the Biggest & Largest Lakes in Minnesota

largest lakes in minnesota

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 Lakes, but today we’re only talking about the biggest ones!

Because despite all the famous bodies of water in Minnesota, there’s 15 that tower above the rest. Except since we’re talking about lakes, maybe we should say descend below the others?

Who knows… but we do know that this wild state of ours is filled with big lakes and awesome trvia.

What is the largest lake in Minnesota?

We combed through the publicly available data on the Minnesota’s DNR website and other reliable sources to rank the biggest bodies of water in Minnesota.

The following table lists the largest lakes in Minnesota. You can click on any of the lakes to find out everything you ever wanted to know about these huge lakes!

The #1 Biggest Lake in Minnesota: Lake Superior (31,700 square miles)

Lake Superior is the biggest lake in Minnesota, and it’s enormous.

At over 1,000 feet deep, 160 miles wide, and 350 miles long, it’s the only “Great Lake” in Minnesota, and the largest of the United State’s five Great Lakes.

Lake Superior is actually the largest freshwater lake in the world*, covering an astounding 31,700 square miles. That’s over 20 million acres!

And while those stats might be hard to wrap your head around, any Minnesotan who’s ever driven the long and beautiful drive up Minnesota’s North Shore, or stood at the Great Lake’s southern-most tip in Duluth, or gazed over Superior’s endless horizon from the top of the gorgeous Palisade Head, can vouch for the awe-inspiring size of Minnesota’s largest and most legendary lake.

*Technically, Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake as measured by surface area. If you measure by volume, it’s the third largest. Baikal Lake out in Russia’s Siberia is so deep that it has about twice as much water. Although it only covers a piddly 39% of Lake Superior’s surface area, so take that!

PS – Want to check out the beautiful Lake Superior for yourself? Here’s our 19 favorite things to do on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Lake Superior Stats:

  • Surface area: 20,288,000 acres
  • Max Length: 350 miles
  • Max Width: 160 miles
  • Max Depth: 1,333 feet
  • Average Depth: 483 feet

(Stats source)

2. Lake of the Woods (1,680 square miles)

Lake of the Woods straddles the U.S. / Canadian border, about 100 miles directly north of Bemidji.

And while it’s only the second biggest lake in Minnesota, that still makes it absolutely massive by any normal state’s standards. Lake of the Woods is approximately 70 miles long and 59 miles wide. This makes it the sixth largest lake in the United States, and the largest that isn’t considered one of the five Great Lakes!

In fact, it actually claims another impressive title for the lakes of Minnesota – Lake of the Woods has the longest shoreline of any lake in the world.

The official shoreline measurement covers 25,000 miles. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, consider that number is just the outer shoreline; Lake of the Woods has 14,552 tiny islands (mostly on the Canadian side) which triple the total shoreline measurement to over 65,000 miles.

Aside from the stats, Lake of the Woods is nicknamed the “Walleye Capital of the World” and considered a Fisherman’s paradise. It’s also the only way to reach Minnesota’s quirky Northwest Angle, without entering Canada.

Lake of the Woods Stats:

  • Surface area: 1,074,560 acres
  • Max Length: 68 miles
  • Max Width: 59 miles
  • Max Depth: 210 feet
  • Average Depth: 26 feet

(Stats source)

3. Red Lake (451 square miles)

Red Lake is the largest lake entirely within the borders of Minnesota.

Red Lake totals 440 square miles and is 273 feet deep. It’s located near the aptly named town of Red Lake, just about 25 miles north of Bemidji.

Interestingly, Red Lake is almost split in two by a large Peninsula that’s part of the nearby Native American reservation. A small passage of water connects “Upper Red Lake” to “Lower Red Lake” and makes this combined body of water the third largest in Minnesota.

Red Lake Stats:

  • Surface area: 288,800 acres
  • Max Length: 30 miles
  • Max Width: 24 miles
  • Max Depth: 273 feet

(Stats source)

4. Rainy Lake (360 square miles)

Rainy Lake is the fourth largest lake in Minnesota and the last of the major lakes straddling Minnesota’s Canadian border.

It sits next to Voyageurs National Park, and its watershed includes Minnesota’s famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area and parts of Superior National Forest. The most populated nearby town would be International Falls, MN, whose economy relies on the lake’s westernmost river to make hydroelectricity.

The Lake itself has a maximum length of 50 miles and a maximum width of 30 miles. Counting all its nooks and crannies, it’s total surface area is 360 square miles.

Rainy Lake Stats:

  • Surface area: 230,400 acres
  • Max Length: 50 miles
  • Max Width: 30 miles
  • Max Depth: 160 feet
  • Average Depth: 35 feet

(Stats Source)

5. Mille Lacs Lake (207 square miles)

Mille Lacs is one of the most popular vacation lakes near the Twin Cities.

It’s located about 1.5 hours from Minneapolis, and anyone who’s ever made the drive up to Mille Lacs or the popular Brainard/Nisswa area has likely driven along the Mille Lacs shoreline.

While doing so, you’ll see an expansive lake that covers 132,516 acres, or 207 square miles. Interestingly, despite its size, Mille Lacs is a relatively shallow lake, with a maximum depth of just 42 feet.

In the summer, Mille Lacs is one of the state’s most popular fishing lakes, and that party continues all the way through winter, when locals pack the frozen surface with countless ice fishing huts.

Fun trivia: Mille Lacs Lake is home to the smallest Wildlife Refuge in the United States. Two tiny islands at the center of the lake are protected breeding grounds for endangered birds.

Mille Lacs Stats:

  • Surface area: 132,516 acres
  • Max Length: 18 miles
  • Max Width: 15 miles
  • Max Depth: 42 feet

(Stats source)

6. Leech Lake (161 square miles)

Leech Lake sits just over 1 hour north of Brainerd, MN and Nisswa, MN.

The lake is located entirely within the Chippewa National Forest, and it covers over 100,000 acres with a maximum depth of 156 feet.

Leech Lake is a popular Minnesota fishing lake. Not only is the lake known for a plentiful supply of walleye, largemouth bass, northern pike, jumbo perch, and muskie, but Leech Lake’s sprawling shape includes lots of bays and inlets that are perfect for finding that hidden fishing spot.

Leech Lake Stats:

  • Surface area: 103,039 acres
  • Max Depth: 150 feet


(Stats source)

7. Lake Winnibigoshish (88 square miles)

“Lake Winnie” or “Big Winnie” covers 58,544 acres, with a maximum depth of 78 feet.

Located right next door to Leech Lake and about 3.5 hours North of Minneapolis, Lake Winnibigoshish sits entirely within the Chippewa National Forest. As a result, it’s shoreline consists of mostly undeveloped forest, making Lake Winnie a popular location for lake resorts.

Lake Winnibigoshish Stats:

  • Surface area: 56,471 acres
  • Depth: 69.8 feet

(Stats source)

8. Lake Vermillion (61 square miles)

Lake Vermillion sits near Ely, Minnesota, about 3.5 hours north of the Twin Cities.

Like many Minnesota lakes, Lake Vermillion is known for its Walleye and Muskie fishing. This along with its setting near northern Minnesota’s boundary waters makes it a popular lake for visitors.

Lake Vermillion Stats:

  • Surface area: 39,271 acres
  • Max Length: 24 miles
  • Max Width: 10.4 miles
  • Max Depth: 76 feet
  • Average Depth: 25 feet

(Stats source)

9. Lake Pepin (46 square miles)

If you didn’t know better, you might think Lake Pepin was just the part of the Mississippi River that divides Minnesota and Wisconsin. And it sure looks that way on first glace…

But this unique body of water is actually a unique geologic formation, which, over the past 10,000 years, has migrated from St. Paul all the way down to Red Wing, Minnesota. It now covers a 46 square mile area stretching from the edge of Red Wing down to Reeds Landing.

Sure, the Mississippi River cuts right through the entire thing, but by golly, the experts swear its a lake. We’ll take their word for it, which makes Lake Pepin the 9th largest lake in the state of Minnesota.

Lake Pepin Stats:

  • Surface area: 29,248 acres
  • Max Depth: 60 feet
  • Average Depth: 21 feet

(Source stats)

10. Namakan Lake (38 square miles)

Namakan lake is 16 miles long and 7 miles long, making it the 10th largest lake in Minnesota. It’s located in Voyaguers National Park, although the majority of the lake itself sits on the Canadian side the border. The lake features several campsites, but in true Voyaguers fashion, they’re only accessible by water.

Namakan Stats:

  • Surface area: 24,066 acres
  • Max Depth: 150 feet
  • Average Depth: 44.5 feet

(Stats source)

11. Kabetogama Lake (38 square miles)

Kabetogama Lake is the largest lake located entirely within Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park.

Kabetogama is known for its clear blue waters and pristine shorelines. In fact, of the lake’s nearly 100 miles of shoreline, only a small 10 mile area on the southernmost side has been developed. The rest consists of beautiful woodland and tons of islands scattered throughout the waters.

Kabetogama Stats:

  • Surface area: 24,034 acres
  • Max Depth: 80 feet
  • Average Depth: 29.9 feet

(Stats source)

12. Saganaga Lake (29 square miles)

Another lake in the northern Minnesota’s boundary waters area, Saganaga Lake is a large lake covering over 18,000 acres. With a maximum depth of 280 feet, Saganaga is officially the deepest lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Saganaga Stats:

  • Surface area: 18,766 acres
  • Max Depth: 280 feet

(Stats source)

13. Cass Lake (24 square acres)

Located just 20 miles southeast of Bimidji, Cass Lake is nearly 16,000 acres large with a maximum depth of 120 feet.

Like most lakes in the area, it’s popular for recreation, including boating, fishing, camping, and swimming.

Cass Lake Stats:

  • Surface area: 15,598 acres
  • Max Depth: 120 feet

(Stats source)

14. Lake Minnetonka (23 square miles)

With a maximum depth of 113 feet and a sprawling footprint that covers over 14,000 acres, Lake Minnetonka is the largest lake near the Twin Cities.

But thanks to its location just 30 minutes west of downtown Minneapolis and an endless collection of million dollar homes dotting the lake’s landscape, Lake Minnetonka might be best known as one of Minnesota’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Lake Minnetonka Stats:

  • Surface area: 14,205 acres
  • Max Depth: 113 feet
  • Average Depth: 30 feet

(Stats source)

15. Otter Tail Lake (23 square miles)

Otter Tail lake is part of the Otter Tail River Chain located near Fergus Falls in Central Minnesota. Interestingly, while the lake has a maximum depth of 120 feet, over half of the lake is less than 15 feet deep.

Otter Tail Stats:

  • Surface area: 14,078 acres
  • Max Depth: 120 feet

(Stats Source)

Summary – The 15 Biggest Lakes in Minnesota

Lake
Surface Area (acres)
Lake Superior 20,288,000
Lake of the Woods 1,074,560
Red Lake 288,800
Rainy Lake 230,400
Mille Lacs Lake 132,516
Leech Lake 103,039
Lake Winnibigoshish 56,471
Lake Vermillion 39,271
Lake Pepin 29,248
Namakan Lake 24,066
Kabetogama Lake 24,034
Saganaga Lake 18,766
Cass Lake 15,598
Lake Minnetonka 14,205
Otter Tail Lake 14,078
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