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In a land with thousands of lakes, a spot like Ann Lake might be overlooked. But this lake in Minnesota's Central Region might well be the perfect spot for you! Located about five miles west of the town of Mora, Ann Lake has been drawing outdoor enthusiasts for many years. The sparsely-developed lake is a well-known fishing hotspot with 1,700 acres of State Wildlife Management Area encompassing much of the south shore and a portion of the northeast lakefront. Here is a place to truly get away from the summer crowds and city traffic.
The 653-acre lake is home to black crappie, northern pike, walleye, perch, bluegill and largemouth bass. Minnesota Division of Fish and Wildlife stocks walleye fingerlings each year, but the big sport fish appear to breed naturally in Ann Lake. Two public boat launches provide access, and a resort along the shore rents fishing boats. In winter, ice fishing takes center stage and ice shanties appear, seemingly overnight. While large area lakes like Mille Lacs appears to get most of the attention, smaller lakes like Ann Lake give up the same fish and face a lot smaller crowd.
Ann Lake's sandy bottom makes the shallows ideal for swimming. Residents and visitors enjoy all types of watersports such as water skiing, tubing, pontooning, power boating and sailing. Canoeing and kayaking are particularly popular among the several coves and adjoining wetlands. Ann Lake is an idea spot to view wildlife; the Wildlife Management Area shelters both wetland and forest wildlife such as deer, bear, pheasant, rabbits, squirrels, raccoon, turkeys, ducks, waterfowl, songbirds and native raptors. The Wildlife Management Area is open for hunting in season and nature stalkers with cameras year round. The country roads provide smooth surfaces for cycling - a delightful afternoon pastime particularly in the autumn when the leave begin to turn.
Even the most dedicated lake lubbers feel the need to leave the lakefront once in awhile. Just a few miles to the west of Ann Lake, the Rum River State Forest offers primitive camping, hiking paths and plenty of trails for snowmobiling. Local snowmobiling clubs have maps of groomed trails and sponsor group rides and events. The Rum River Canoe Route flows through the State Forest from its origination in Mille Lacs Lake. A Native American-owned casino is located just a few miles north of Ann Lake and provides a nice change of pace from fishing, swimming and boating. The small towns around the lake can provide bait, snacks, ice and minimal groceries. The larger towns often have festivals planned several times a year that are great fun and sometimes quite unusual. One of the most amusing is held at Aitkin, 60 miles to the north. This famous early winter festival, dubbed the World Famous Fish House Parade is, according to parade organizers, an outgrowth of a "keen sense of humor sharpened by dry Scandinavian wit and hardened by long Minnesota winters." The day after Thanksgiving, the wildly-decorated fishing shanties are loaded onto trucks, hay wagons and other conveyances and paraded through town accompanied by costumed 'fishermen'. The parade leads off a festive weekend featuring live music, food, contests and craft sales.
The Ann Lake area has a long history, with Native American tribes inhabiting the lakes region well before French-Canadian trappers and fur traders arrived for the Hudson Bay Company. The American Fur Company took over the trade and eventually was replaced by lumbering interests. This period of fast growth created towns, camps and legends. Every small town has a few legends to tell of a trapper, lumberjack or river drover who has become larger than life over the years. Local historical societies have collections of pictures, newspaper clippings and hand-written accounts of Minnesota as the frontier of European civilization. Most towns are smaller than they were a hundred years ago during the lumber booms. And some, like nearby Mora, have evolved into a modern small city.
Five miles east of Ann Lake, Mora was named after the Swedish city of Mora - original home of many of the early settlers. In honor of their heritage, Mora commissioned a large Dala Horse. The Swedish folk-art horse, painted the traditional red, is 22-feet tall, 17-feet long and 6-feet wide and holds a place of honor in a city park. The Mora Aquatic Center contains two pools and water features that will amuse youngsters on an afternoon. The Kanabec (County) History Center holds restored school buildings, a farm equipment exhibit and exhibits of an Ojibwe Winter Encampment, Logging Camp, a 1930s kitchen and Lost Towns of Kanabec County - those that have disappeared. The History Center also produces a winter speaker's series, photography workshops and more. Mora offers all services, boutique shops, restaurants and movie theaters.
Vacation rentals near Ann Lake are often available. Most are private residences, usually on the lakefront. A few resorts exist in the area - many are fishing oriented. Real estate agents are available to help you find the perfect piece of lakefront property. So, plan the drive 75 miles north of the Twin Cities to Ann Lake. Take a week to relax and unwind. There's a prize catch with your name on it!
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