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Lake Waconia is one of the lesser-known large lakes in the Minneapolis Metro Region. At nearly 3100 acres, the lake offers plenty of play space for water lovers. The lake often gets steady winds, making it a favorite among the sailing crowd. Lake Waconia is just far enough away from the busy city to maintain a rural atmosphere, yet close enough that all urban advantages are easily accessible. Two marinas along the southern shore make this a convenient place for urban boaters to indulge in their favorite sport every weekend. A public boat launch provides ample space for smaller trailered boats, and visiting sailors can launch from the marinas for a small fee. Lake Waconia supports all water sports including power boating, jet-skiing, water-skiing, tubing, paddling and pontooning. So popular are wind-powered sports that Lake Waconia has been at the forefront of a resurgence of sailboarding, with wakeboard regattas held here. A sailing club also holds regattas and regular sail racing for members.
There are a number of homes along the shore, but Lake Waconia is mostly surrounded by farmland. The small City of Waconia hugs the southern shoreline, and the two marinas are a vital part of the business community. Not far to the east of the city, the Lake Waconia Regional Park is under active development. Efforts are underway to expand the acreage of the park, but even in its current smaller state, the park holds a very popular sandy beach with bath house, rest rooms, picnic pavilions and volleyball court. Carver County recently acquired a historic ballroom adjacent to the park and is operating it as the Lake Waconia Event Center. A sledding hill is provided in the park, and eventual plans are to acquire nearby Coney Island offshore as an addition to the park.
Fishing is a big attraction at Lake Waconia. The lake isn't deep, so much of it is excellent fishing for black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, walleye and yellow perch. Walleye and muskellunge are stocked regularly. The DNR boat ramp is located on the northeast side of the lake, and the City of Waconia maintains a fishing pier at the small park in town. Local fishing guides can be hired to help new visitors find the fishing hot-spots on the wide expanse of water. Ice fishing is very popular, with one of the marinas renting ice fishing houses during the winter. The same marina offers bait and rental of boats and pontoons. Most winters see a small village of shanties on the ice, with virtual streets between them and a great sense of camaraderie mixed with rivalry among the 'hard water' fishermen. Ice fishing tournaments are sometimes held here.
Although there are no campgrounds directly on Lake Waconia, there are commercial campgrounds nearby, and some reports show primitive camping allowed at the Lake Waconia Wildlife Management Area on the north side of the lake. The City of Waconia has worked to develop activities to entertain both residents and visitors. An indoor water park shares space with elevated running track, training machines, exercise classes and children's play area, serving as a community center. An ice arena and ball diamonds join playgrounds and local walking paths to provide exercise venues. Regularly-scheduled annual events bring many to the Lake Waconia area. A 4th of July fireworks display over the lake is hugely popular and attracts viewers from many miles around. A half-marathon and a triathlon are held here each summer, bringing in large numbers of runners and athletes. A lake association is active and works toward improving water quality and solving any problems that arise. They are actively working on plans with the DNR to rid Coney Island of a flock of cormorants, recent interlopers who degrade the lake environment and eat huge numbers of fish.
Originally called Clearwater Lake, Lake Waconia has a long history of pleasing guests. Only 30 miles west of the busy Twin Cities, Lake Waconia is one of the largest lakes in the area, and for many years received daily visitors during the heyday of large lakeside resorts. Beginning in 1886, a developer plotted cottage lots, a large resort hotel, dance hall, boat house, swim beach and marina on the island he named Coney Island of The West. Lake Waconia ferried visitors from the shore to nearby Coney Island with steamships. As the popularity of lakeside resorts diminished with personal vehicle travel, Coney Island began to fade, and the cottages and amusements fell to ruin. The island is now privately owned and likely will become a wildlife refuge as part of the Lake Waconia Regional Park when land acquisitions are finished. The former ballroom recently annexed into the park was the last of those popular lakeside attractions and served as nightclub and ballroom until the 1960s. A maritime historical group recently began surveying the lake bottom to search for possible shipwreck sites. Lake Waconia has reinvented itself into a more modern era, much loved and appreciated by residents.
Although there are no resorts along Lake Waconia, some of the local private owners rent their lakefront homes to vacationers. A few rental cottages exist in the City of Waconia, along with a bed-and-breakfast. Two larger chain hotels also provide lodging. Real estate is available, some with lake frontage or lake views. Waconia offers all of the services a visitor would desire, including movie theaters, many restaurants and cafes, including a very nice waterfront restaurant at one of the marinas. The City of Waconia and Lake Waconia have a forward-looking vision. That vision is to create a highly enjoyable water-based playground serving everyone's needs. And it's well on its way to getting there. Come to Lake Waconia and see what all the excitement is about.
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