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Lake Phalen and the Phalen Chain of Lakes provide the City of St. Paul with a major source for water-based fun. The lakes officially included in the chain from south to north are Lake Phalen, Round Lake, Keller Lake, Spoon Lake, Lake Gervais and Kohlman Lake. The Twin Cities area is well-known for having an abundance of lakes and parks, including the Phalen-Keller Regional Park. Lake Phalen's 198 acres is the centerpiece of the Phalen portion of the jointly operated park. The park offers nearly every type of recreation along the lake's four-mile shoreline. Immediately to the north, straddling the city limits in Ramsey County, 72-acre Keller Lake is bordered by the Keller Regional Park. The combined park covers nearly 750 acres.
A canoe or kayak trip from Lake Phalen north via Keller Creek is particularly delightful. The circuitous water route first leads through 20-acre Round Lake. A channel continues on to Keller Lake. Keller Lake then empties into tiny seven-acre Spoon Lake, then on to 235-acre Lake Gervais near the municipality of Little Canada, outside of the Regional Park boundaries. A channel leads to Kohlman Lake, but there is no other public access to this lake. Until 1913, Lake Phalen provided most of St Paul's water.
Both Lake Phalen and Round Lake are enclosed within the Phalen Park area. Every type of recreational activity has been planned for the park, with playgrounds, picnic areas, a recreation center, softball, baseball and volleyball fields, an ice skating rink, an 18-hole golf course, swimming beach, concession stand and nature trails. The St. Paul Sailing Program, operated through the city's Parks and Recreation Department, holds sailing lessons at the Lakeside Activities Center, while rowing and sculling classes are taught at the Beach House. The University of Minnesota holds several rowing meets here yearly. Gas-powered motors are not permitted at Lake Phalen, although electric trolling motors may be used. A boat ramp is provided at the lake for launching personal boats, and two fishing piers are provided on Lake Phalen.
The eastern half of Lake Keller falls within Keller Regional Park, while the western shoreline is private property. Lake Keller offers another golf course, more playgrounds and picnic areas, including one on an island in the lake. An archery range is located between the golf course and the channel between Phalen and Keller lakes. Another boat ramp is provided on Spoon Lake. Although Lake Gervais is mostly private property, little Lake Gervais County Park along the western shore holds another swimming beach, picnic areas and playground, and fishing pier; it is connected to the Phalen-Keller Regional Park via Spoon Lake. Of the six lakes, Lake Gervais receives the most motorized boat traffic and is popular among property owners for water skiing and water sports. Seventy-five-acre Kohlman Lake can only be accessed from Lake Gervais and is shallow and weedy, but often good for wildlife viewing.
One of the area's major claims to fame is the fishing access available to visitors. Fishing piers are available at all of the lakes in the Lake Phalen chain, except Kohlman Lake. Much of the shoreline in the public areas is mowed grass suitable for shore fishing. The lakes hold a healthy population of largemouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike, channel catfish, crappie and bluegill. Lake Gervais actively managed for walleye and tiger muskie. Ice fishing is popular during the winter months, once the ice reaches sufficient depth. The fishing piers provide access for wheelchairs, and children enjoy trying their luck from the convenient docks.
Canoes and kayaks are ideal for exploring the Lake Phalen Chain of Lakes. The meandering channel from Lake Phalen to Round Lake provides a scenic view of nature interrupted only by the walking trails nearby. Round Lake offers a quiet place to make a few casts into the shallows or from the fishing pier. Quiet paddlers may be lucky enough to see bald eagles along the north shore of Keller Lake. The entire area attracts a variety of songbirds and small mammals along with a number of waterfowl.
The channel leading northward to Keller Lake is crossed by two different hiking trails: the Phalen Regional Park series of trails and the Gateway State Trail. Ample parking areas are available so the trails can be accessed from several different points. A few sections of boardwalk traverse the creeks and wet areas. More sections of walking trail are planned along the shore of Keller Lake and up to Spoon Lake, with improvements to the pedestrian walkways under two highways still in the planning stages. At the south end of Lake Phalen, the lakeside trails intersect with the seven-mile Bruce Vento Regional Trail along an abandoned rail right-of-way. The trails are used by pedestrians and mountain bikes in summer and cross-country skiers in winter.
The Phalen Chain of Lakes is an ideal getaway in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The metroplex offers a variety of cultural venues and attractions that will please the most cosmopolitan of visitors. Four historic theaters and a newly-renovated Orchestra Hall produce a regular cornucopia of performances year-round. Enjoy ballet at the Cowles Center for the Performing Arts. Get your fill of art in all of its forms at Walker Art Center or Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Or chose to visit one or several of the more-than-60 museums located in the area. Two of the most outstanding are the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Children's Museum.
A wide range of choices in lodgings greets the visitor to the Twin Cities: elegant hotels, quaint city bed & breakfasts, economy lodgings, extended stays and private guest rentals. A wealth of dining options are available to suit every taste, with plenty of ethnic food establishments and unusual shops located throughout the city. The area's number one tourist attraction, the Mall of America, draws 40 million visitors a year. Business is booming in the Twin Cities, so prime real estate around the lakes may be hard to find. The next time an opportunity arrives to visit the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, come paddle the Phalen Chain of Lakes.
*Statistics listed are for Lake Phalen only. Lake Phalen is the deepest lake; the others are much shallower.
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