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Roosevelt Lake is the kind of place that evokes generations of memories. Located about 45 miles north of Brainerd, Roosevelt Lake is at the north end of a group of hundreds of lakes feeding the Pine River, a major tributary to the mighty Mississippi. Although many of the lakes in the Northern Lakes and Forests tourism region of Central Minnesota are well-known vacation lakes, Roosevelt Lake has matured into a quiet, heavily wooded water paradise surrounded by wildlife and birds. And, where once the nine miles of shoreline were dotted with numerous resorts and tourist cabins, now only a few remain among a large number of private homes and cottages. Many of the properties have been 'in the family' for several generations, with the older folk introducing the youngest family members to fishing, frog-catching and swimming on warm summer days.
Roosevelt Lake is long and narrow, with two distinct basins connected by a channel. Ordinarily referred to as north and south Roosevelt Lake, it is actually one body of water. Crooked Creek connects the entire lake to Lawrence Lake which is in turn connected to Leavitt Lake. Originally called Crooked Lake, the name was changed in 1919 to honor the recently deceased President Roosevelt. The surface is graced with several small islands that support waterfowl and provide nesting areas for loons. Sixty-six species of birds and waterfowl have been surveyed at Roosevelt Lake and the wooded shoreline echoes in song, especially during the spring. Evenings are filled with the choruses of frogs, and the haunting cries of the many loons own the dawn. This is definitely paradise to the few who find it. And those who call it home, even for a week or two, find a variety of activities to fill their days. All kinds of boating is available here, with the long 'reach' of the narrow lake ideal for water skiing, tubing and sailing. Pontoons, canoes and kayaks explore the bays, and fishermen cast along the shorelines and the edges of the underwater drop-offs for the many fish lurking there.
A small marina at 'The Narrows'-the narrow channel between the two basins-offers pontoon, fishing boat, paddle-board and water toy rentals. Bait can be purchased, as can a sandwich, cold drinks and even a meal nearby. A children's frog-jumping contest goes on at The Narrows every week for most of the summer. A public boat landing operated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is located along the east shoreline, with another on Lawrence Lake with access through the channel connecting the two. Anglers enjoy fishing for black crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, rock bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, cisco (tullibee), muskellunge and lake trout. The Minnesota DNR stocks some varieties of game fish on an irregular basis, but is no longer stocking lake trout due to poor spawning results; it is suspected that lowered oxygen levels during parts of the year do not allow for them to spawn naturally very well. Roosevelt Lake isn't the place to catch the prize lunkers, but its waters supply a steady catch of good-sized eating fare. The variety of panfish makes this an excellent place for children with a pole and bobber. Although the center of the lake reaches nearly 130 feet in depth, the shallows near shore offer great ice fishing, and an ice fishing contest held every winter draws plenty of participants.
Roosevelt Lake is very clear. No invasive species have invaded its waters (as of Spring 2013), a catastrophe the local lake association is attempting to prevent. A boat inspection and educational program has been instituted, and special stickers are required on all watercraft, including canoes and kayaks. The local marina works to maintain the lake's pristine status and steam-cleans all rental boats that have been taken to outside lakes before renting them again. The Roosevelt & Lawrence Area Lakes Association (RALALA) includes Roosevelt, Lawrence, Leavitt and Smokey Hollow Lakes. They not only work to monitor water quality but are active in local zoning issues and are developing a lake management plan. They have worked closely with the few developments that have been permitted to build housing along the lakeshore and have instituted voluntary septic inspection programs to prevent possible pollution.
A bird-lover's paradise, Roosevelt Lake harbors bald eagles, ospreys, common nighthawk, eastern wood-pewee, golden-winged warbler, least flycatcher, ovenbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, swamp sparrow, veery, whip-poor-will, white-throated sparrow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, red-eyed vireo, chipping sparrow, eastern phoebe, red-winged blackbird, American robin mallard, goldeneye, merganser, great blue heron, green heron, sharp-shinned hawk, spotted sandpiper, rig-billed gull and Caspian tern, some of which are species of concern for endangerment. Roosevelt Lake makes the ideal base camp for a weekend of bird watching and nature observance. Binoculars are a must, as is a good bird identification book.
The closest town is Outing. Outing was originally built at The Narrows as a place for resort visitors to gather. It has since expanded past the channel to the surrounding area. The resorts that were popular a century ago are mostly gone, as is the seaplane base, but most businesses here still cater heavily to both local property owners and vacationers. There is no shortage of restaurants or convenience-type stores in the area, along with the necessary car repairs, property improvement, boating-focused businesses, hair salons and antique shopping. One bed-and-breakfast serves overnight visitors at the lakefront in comfort, and another establishment offers RV campsites at the rear of their storefront property.
Nearby, the small town of Emily offers more businesses, a golf course, and more lakes. A large number of private owners rent their properties for short periods, and a couple of older-style resorts still have cabins available for families wishing to spend an old-fashioned 'week at the lake'. Parts of the Land O Lakes State Forest are nearby as are the Washburn Lake Ski Trails. Land O Lakes State Forest holds several campgrounds, some on other lakes but not directly on Roosevelt Lake. There is no public swimming beach on Roosevelt Lake. but the resorts and most of the private rentals have excellent sandy swim areas. Because of the large amount of public land in the area, several outdoor clubs cater to special interests; an ATV club and a snowmobile club maintain trails and encourage four-season recreation, including cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and hiking.
Real estate is available on Roosevelt Lake, including a newer development featuring shared lake frontage and building lots with restrictions. Real estate prices here are quite reasonable, particularly on older existing homes. Less than three hours from the Twin Cities and even closer to Duluth, Roosevelt Lake is the ideal spot for a weekend getaway or year-around retirement home. Such unspoiled residential and resort lakes like this are becoming rare, even in lake-rich Minnesota. First-time visitors be warned, however; once you see Roosevelt Lake, you will fall in love.
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