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Spanning the border from Minnesota into the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, Lake of the Woods is an enormous body of water over 68 miles long, 59 miles wide, with 25,000 miles of shoreline - the world's longest lake shoreline. The western part of the lake is mostly open water, while the eastern part is dotted with more than 14,500 islands inhabited by bear, moose, bald eagles, and other wildlife. The shoreline of Lake of the Woods increases to 65,000 miles with inclusion of its mind-boggling number of islands. About one-third of the lake's 950,400 acres are in Minnesota.
Part of Minnesota's land portion of Lake of the Woods, known as the Northwest Angle, is separated from the rest of the United States due to landmark treaties dating back to 1783 when Great Britain recognized American independence. The Northwest Angle is the northernmost land in the contiguous United States. It can be reached by boat from Minnesota or by traveling over Canadian land. Subsequent treaties to shape the U.S.-Canada boundary kept the Northwest Angle in Minnesota.
The largest tributary to Lake of the Woods is the Rainy River. Water exits the lake through the Winnipeg River and eventually makes its way to the Hudson Bay. Because the lake is in international body of water, water levels are regulated by the International Lake of the Woods Control Board, which is part of the International Joint Commission. The United States and Canada signed a treaty in 1925, known as the Lake of the Woods Convention and Protocol, that established elevation and discharge requirements.
A glacial lake remnant, Lake of the Woods has been around for thousands of years, though modern human contact was initiated in 1688. Jacques De Noyon, an explorer from Quebec, was the first white man to set sight on this beautiful lake. After his arrival, there are no further recorded expeditions before 1732, when Pierre La Verendrye and 50 of his men came to the lake. At that time, the northern Minnesota portion was populated by Assiniboine, Cree, Monsonis, and Sioux Native American tribes. Two islands are named for the unfortunate ensuing event: caught in the middle of tribal warfare, twenty of the La Verendrye party were killed. The islands are both called Massacre Island. Over the years, Lake of the Woods continued to build in popularity until October 4, 1910, when a forest fire burned through northern Minnesota and took the lives of 43 people. After their deaths, another population boom hit the lake, and people claimed every inch of land they could. Since that time, the Lake of the Woods has experienced considerable growth and a spike in tourism.
Lake of the Woods is so large that it is necessary to pick a part of the lake and stick to it. Everyone's a winner here, though, and the lake offers myriad outdoor activities for nature lovers. Begin your trip with a hike on one of the lake's nature trails, the shoreline is riddled with meandering paths, challenging terrain, and manicured trails designed to provide you awesome views and breathtaking vistas. Wind your way through acres of wildflowers, pick berries, and watch as bald eagles swoop above your head, pelicans dive for their next meal, and pileated woodpeckers knock on wood all around you. Bear, deer, moose, and timber wolves make their homes in nearby forests, and if you watch the lakeside quietly and carefully, you'll see beaver, mink, and otter frolicking in the waters and catching their next meal. Cameras are an absolute must, as the views you are afforded are once-in-a-lifetime.
The lake is home to many beaches, so perhaps the best way to start a day on the water is with your toes in the sand and the sun on your face. After a warm sun bath, make a choice between jumping into the cool, refreshing lake waters or taking a boat out to enjoy the lake's secluded coves. Canoes and kayaks dot the surface, their passengers intent on catching a glimpse of bathing water birds and aquatic animals. Powerboats are another popular option, and during the summer months, water-skiers and tubes can be found tied behind the powerful engines.
Fishing is a perennial favorite, and the superb walleye fishing has earned Lake of the Woods the moniker "Walleye Capital of the World". Other fish in abundance are northern pike, sauger, smallmouth bass, lake sturgeon, crappie, perch, and muskie. Many records, both official and personal, have been set here, though a day out on Lake of the Woods is more than just the daily catch. Become one with nature as you bait and cast, enjoying the blue waters and blue skies that stretch for miles.
In the winter, Lake of the Woods takes on a life of its own and becomes a premier winter playground, offering ice fishing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and plenty of snow for snowman building and snowball fights. Cross-country ski your way across miles of deserted, tranquil trail, or try your hand at some fast-paced snowmobiling to cover more terrain. If the family is involved, try your luck with snow shoeing, an old-fashioned pastime that's regaining footing.
After a long, cold day out in the snow, nothing will feel better than a mug of hot cocoa in front of the fire and a lake view out your window. Such are vacations at Lake of the Woods - quiet, yet action-packed, tranquil, but full of energy. Winter or summer, time spent at this glacial lake is exactly what you make of it, so plan your days and make it the best vacation you could imagine.
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