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Lake Minnetonka's 14,000 acres contain many bays and coves, resembling a collection of smaller lakes. "Minnetonka" comes from the Sioux language meaning "big waters." Many Native Americans, including the Dakota, Sioux, Ojibwa, Cheyenne, and Iowa tribes, lived in the Minnetonka area in previous centuries. In fact, the area around the lake was considered sacred by the Native Americans and was used as a burial ground. Some of the burial mounds are still visible today - this is how the town of Mound got its name!
Lake Minnetonka has a long history as a popular resort destination. In the 1800's, railroads transported passengers from far away to enjoy the pleasures of the lake. Steamships were built that carried tourists around the lake. One of these steamships, "City of St. Louis," was the first inland steamship to have electric lights.
In the 1900's, Twin City Rapid Transit brought streetcars to the Minnetonka area. They also made boats, modeled after streetcars, to ferry people to and from destinations on the lake, including an amusement park on Big Island. Though all of these boats were eventually destroyed, one of them, the Minnehaha, has been restored and is in use today.
The lake has been well-known for many years and has been mentioned many times in history. Thurlow Lieurance wrote a song, "By the Waters of Minnetonka," based on a Native American legend. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," refers to landmarks in the Minnetonka area. And, of course, the beautiful lake was a prized spot for summer homes among many wealthy and famous people, including President Taft. Sioux legend tells of an ill-fated love between Moon Deer, a daughter of the Moon Clan, and Sun Deer of the Sun Clan. Because tribal law forbade marriage between the two clans, the lovers ran away to Lake Minnetonka, only to encounter the Chippewa, enemies of the Sioux. Fearing both the Chippewa and a return home, they took their own lives, disappearing between the waves. Many moons later when the Sioux drove the Chippewa from the shores of Lake Minnetonka, they heard a strange melody emanating from the waters. The spirits of Moon Deer and Sun Deer appeared as two lilies that grew to the sky in the light of the moon. The lovers' song can still be heard today in the rhythmic sounds of the waves and in the pines along the shore.
Today, Lake Minnetonka is still a popular place to vacation. No matter what your interests, you're sure to find something to please at the lake and in the surrounding region. For anglers, Lake Minnetonka is a paradise. The lake is a popular fishing area, with many tournaments being held there each year, and it is known for having large fish, especially muskies. Other fish species in the lake include largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.
Of course, if you don't care to go fishing, there are still plenty of other fun activities. You can zip around on a jet ski, cruise the lake on a pontoon boat, or experience the fun of sailing. Or, take a ride on the restored antique steamboat, the Minnehaha.
One fantastic place to visit is the Lake Minnetonka Regional Park, especially if you have children. The park holds many attractions, and has something for everyone in the family!.You can cast a fishing line off the pier, cool off in the swimming pond, launch your boat at the boat ramp, or walk or bike along the trails. Kids will love the amazing play area, a 20,000-square-foot area with slides, climbing nets, and other fun equipment.
The towns surrounding Lake Minnetonka hold many other attractions for any activity that you're in the mood for. Take in a show at a local cinema or playhouse, or browse the charming shops and stores, looking for the perfect souvenirs. Get some exercise on one of the hiking trails, or enjoy a fun ride on one of the trolleys in Wayzata or Excelsior. Explore the Minnesota Transportation Museum, or stroll among the beautiful flowers in the historic Noerenberg Gardens.
This beautiful lake and the surrounding region will keep you fascinated with its many wonders and attractions. Try it out; you'll be glad you did!
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