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The Woman Lake Chain in northwest Minnesota includes four lakes and covers 5,502 acres. Sprawling across Cass County slightly south of the Chippewa National Forest, the chain is set against the backdrop of some of Minnesota's most beautiful countryside. With thousands of acres of water for boating, swimming and fishing, the Woman Lake Chain is sure to become a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts as well as families looking for an "up north" getaway.
The Boy River flows through the chain and is the primary inflow. It enters the western side of Child Lake near the town of Hackensack. Covering 316 acres, Child Lake has four and a half miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 29 feet. The river flows on into 30-acre, 14 foot deep Little Woman Lake, also known as Squaw Lake or Squaw Bay. Connecting Child Lake with Woman Lake, Little Woman Lake is by far the smallest lake in the chain, and is sometimes not mentioned separately.
Woman Lake has 4,782 acres of water, making it the largest lake in the chain and one of the larger lakes in the northern part of the state. Woman Lake has a maximum depth of 54 feet and a littoral zone of over 40 percent; the littoral zone is the portion of the lake with a depth under 15 feet. Woman Lake has an average water clarity of ten feet and along with the other lakes in the chain, it is classified as mesotrophic or moderately fertile. The Boy River flows out of Woman Lake and into 406-acre Girl Lake. With a maximum depth of 81 feet, Girl Lake, in the town of Longville, is the deepest lake in the chain. There is a dam at the outlet of Girl Lake.
Access to the Woman Lake Chain is from several public boat launches, including some maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Two concrete boat ramps provide access to Woman Lake, and a city-owned ramp gives access to Girl Lake. Boaters can travel from Girl Lake along the Boy River and into Woman Lake. Child Lake has an earthen ramp on county land. The chain of lakes is a popular place to boat, water ski, jet ski, paddle and sail.
The lake chain is full of fish, but Woman Lake and Girl Lake are particular favorites with anglers. Yellow perch, black crappie, largemouth bass and muskie are caught in the lakes. Sunfish, rock bass and smallmouth bass are also present. The Minnesota DNR manages the walleye fishery, and catch and release efforts have resulted in increasingly healthy populations of walleye. Late September through October is the best time of year to fish on the chain.
Seasonal residences, permanent homes and vacation rentals as well as real estate for sale can be found around the lakes of the Woman Lake Chain. The chain still has undeveloped sections of shoreline. Increasing pressure from development, however, resulted in a group of concerned citizens banding together in 1976 to form the Woman Lake Association. In 1978, property owners from Girl Lake and Child Lake joined the organization, creating the Child, Girl, Woman Lake Property Owners Association. The POA has been very instrumental in studying and improving the water quality on the chain of lakes.
Child Lake is ten miles east of Hackensack, and Girl Lake is in the Town of Longville. Restaurants, shops and amenities are available all along the chain. The Town of Longville is known as the Turtle Racing Capital of the World. Every Wednesday during the summer, 300 to 400 turtles take to the street to compete in a race that crosses the town's Main Street. Visitors to the Woman Lake Chain can (and should) take a break from playing on the water to watch the turtles race.
The Deep Portage Conservation Reserve is another great way to spend the day at Woman Lake. Just under 30 minutes from the lake, the reserve includes 6,307 acres of forests, hills, rivers, lakes and bogs. Over ten miles of trails for hiking and cross country skiing criss-cross the reserve which sits on the shore of 100 foot deep Big Deep Lake.
The Forest History Center, an hour's drive from the Woman Lake Chain, is a re-created turn of the century logging camp. Guests can spend the day visiting the blacksmith, clerk, cook and lumberjacks and tour a 1930's Minnesota Forest Service Patrolman's Cabin. Trails and interactive exhibits round out the day.
Itasca State Park encompasses over 32,000 acres and over a hundred lakes, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Less than an hour from Woman Lake, the state park has campgrounds, hiking trails and a visitor's center. The Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center has exhibits about the 2,552 mile long river, and visitors can see the river start its journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether it is the lure of northern Minnesota's wilderness, quirky turtle racing or fishing, the Woman Lake Chain has something to please everyone. Add boating, swimming and playing on thousands of acres of water, and Woman Lake, Girl Lake and Child Lake are sure to delight the entire family.
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