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Lake of the Woods
Location North America
Coordinates 49°9′N 94°50′W / 49.15°N 94.833°W / 49.15; -94.833Coordinates: 49°9′N 94°50′W / 49.15°N 94.833°W / 49.15; -94.833
Lake type remnant of former glacial Lake Agassiz
Primary inflows Rainy River
Shoal Lake
Kakagi Lake
Primary outflows Winnipeg River
Basin countries Canada, United States
Max. length 68 mi (109 km)
Max. width 59 mi (95 km)
Surface area 1,679 sq mi (4,348.6 km2)
Max. depth 210 ft (64 m)
Shore length1 25,000 mi (40,000 km) (65,000 mi (105,000 km) with islands)
Surface elevation 1,056 ft (322 m)
Islands 14,552
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake of the Woods (French: lac des Bois) is a lake occupying parts of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and the U.S. state of Minnesota.[1] It separates a small land area of Minnesota from the rest of the United States. The Northwest Angle and the town of Angle Inlet can only be reached from the rest of Minnesota by crossing the lake or by traveling through Canada. The Northwest Angle is the northernmost part of the contiguous United States.

Lake of the Woods is fed by the Rainy River, Shoal Lake, Kakagi Lake, and other smaller rivers. The lake drains into the Winnipeg River and then into Lake Winnipeg. Ultimately, its outflow goes north through the Nelson River to Hudson Bay.

Lake of the Woods is over seventy miles long and wide, and contains more than 14,552 islands and 65,000 miles (105,000 km) of shoreline. It would amount to the longest coastline of any Canadian lake, except that the lake is not entirely within Canada. Lake of the Woods is also the 6th largest freshwater lake located (at least partially) in the United States- after the five Great Lakes.

The lake's islands provide nesting habitat for the piping plover and large numbers of American white pelicans. There are also several hundred nesting pairs of bald eagles in this area.



As it is an international body of water, the lake's water levels are regulated and controlled by the International Lake of the Woods Control Board, part of the International Joint Commission. As early as 1912, water levels were a matter of concern. The governments of Ontario and Canada formed a board of control in 1919.

A treaty between Canada and the United States, known as the "Lake of the Woods Convention and Protocol", was signed in 1925. It established elevation and discharge requirements for regulating Lake of the Woods based on the IJC recommendations. The joint Canada-Ontario Board of Control continues and retains responsibility for regulating normal water levels (maximum 1,061¼ ft or 323.5 m, minimum 1,056 ft or 321.9 m). Only when water levels exceed these levels are they referred to the international board, which consists of two engineers, one Canadian and one American.

Communities near Lake of the Woods



Lake of the Woods from space, May 1998



Lands within Lake of the Woods

The Aulneau Peninsula

The largest land feature in Lake of the Woods is the Aulneau Peninsula. It is connected to the mainland with a tiny neck of land at its southeast corner, but a canal (Turtle Portage) was cut through at this point, effectively making the Aulneau an island. The canal has now been filled back in. A manually run portage for small- to medium-sized boats is in its place. The Aulneau is approximately twenty miles long (32 km) and ten miles (16 km) wide. It contains within it over eighty lakes, the largest of which is Arrow Lake.

The Aulneau Peninsula was named after the Jesuit Father Jean-Pierre Aulneau, a French Catholic priest, who was killed by natives on 6 June 1736 on Lake of the Woods. The Catholic Church in Warroad, Minnesota, is named Father Aulneau Memorial Church in his honor.

Other islands

  • Big Island
  • Bigsby Island
  • Brush Island, Minnesota
  • Copeland Island, otherwise known as Camp Stephens. A Winnipeg YM-YWCA summer camp.
  • Flag Island, Minnesota
  • Garden Island, Minnesota
  • Little Oak Island, Minnesota
  • Magnuson's Island, site of the restored Fort St. Charles
  • Massacre Island, a small island in the middle of the lake where 20 French men as well as a group of Cree traders were beheaded in the mid 1700s by Sioux. The site is marked by a large wooden cross at the shore of the island. This incident sparked decades of war between the Sioux and the Ojibway, allies of both the French and the Cree.
  • Oak Island, Minnesota
  • Penasse Island, site of American Point, formerly the most northern post office in the United States

Recreation on Lake of the Woods

Tourism is a large part of the local economy of Lake of the Woods, and there are many recreational opportunities available on the lake and in the surrounding countryside. Much of the lake is fairly remote, but resorts and equipment outfitters offer options for those who do not have access to their own boats and equipment.


Minnesota's Zippel Bay State Park offers a wide variety of services including campsites, toilet facilities, a marina with access to the Zippel River, and a beach. Minnesota and Ontario both offer state sanctioned parks and campsites, which can be located through the respective governments. Backcountry campers can locate a prospective campsite on Lake of the Woods by boat, landing and examining the site in person. There is abundant wildlife even on the small islands on the lake, so it is a good idea to take precautions against bear and biting insects as well.

Numerous marinas and resorts on the lake provide accommodation and dining, houseboat rentals, nautical charts, camping and fishing advice, and expert knowledge on how to most enjoy the lake.


The vast size and terrain of Lake of the Woods provides many fishing environments and opportunities. The lake is best known for its walleye population, but pike and lake perch can also be caught, as can bass, and muskellunge.


  1. ^ Priddle, George B. "Lake of the Woods." World Book Online Reference Center. 2008. 12 Jan. 2008 <>

See also


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