Bay Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Central -

Also known as:  Sisabagama Lake

Located in the Brainerd Lakes area of Minnesota’s Central Region, Bay Lake has been the summer home of generations of Mid-westerners since early in the last century. Noted for fishing and boating, Bay Lake entertains residents and visitors alike as it clothes itself in the shifting patterns of the seasons. Mille Lacs Lake, a mere ten minutes away, is more widely known, but Bay Lake has developed a culture of neighborliness and inter-generational involvement that makes the lake a true ‘hometown’. The small village of Bay Lake is simply the hub of the larger lake community, with a dozen neighborhoods sprawled along the shore. Some residents spend the entire year here while others come only for the summer months or for vacations.

Irregularly-shaped Bay Lake covers 2,393 acres in Crow Wing County. The Ojibway called the lake Ses-sa-beg-a-mah, which has been translated as “lake of many bays” or “lake of many arms.” The bays and the three islands provide over 20 miles of shoreline, much of it heavily developed with private homes. The wooded shoreline still provides excellent habitat for the common loon – a sure sign the lake is not over-crowded. Proof that the developed areas blend into the natural landscape is the fact that white-tailed deer are often a problem in local gardens. As is common with well-loved residential lakes, an active Bay Lake Improvement Association monitors the water for clarity and purity, works to eradicate invasive species and sponsors activities and special events to bring lakeshore neighbors together to meet common goals. Some of the annual activities sponsored by the Bay Lake Improvement Association are an annual 5K ‘Runtilla’ (which allows any method of non-motorized wheels along with serious runners), fishing derbies, swim relays, community picnics, activities and fundraisers.

An added attraction on Bay Lake is Sisabagama Island – more commonly known as Church Island. The Lutheran Church has owned the island for over 100 years, using it for church retreats and youth camp. In an effort to engage the local community, the Lutheran Church operates a boat shuttle to provide transportation to the island for public church services every Sunday during the summer months. Regular summer activities are held on the island with which the wider Bay Lake community is involved, including children’s activities at Bay Lake Camp. Bay Lake Camp also hosts such events as the Youth Performance Company’s performing arts camp, 4-H Camp, and other activities geared toward providing a camping experience to urban youth.

The natural lake is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 22 feet. Two un-named inlet streams bring water into the lake from nearby Crooked and Coffee Lakes. The only outlet is the beginning of the Ripple River leading through Tame Fish Lake to Farm Island Lake. The Ripple River eventually passes through several more lakes before it adds its waters to the Mississippi River. A small dam placed at the outlet in the 1900s to improve a temporary low water level has since been removed. The shallow lake is ideal for swimming and paddle sports, motoring slowly along the shore on a pontoon or casting into the shallows for pan fish. Large expanses of open water are ideally suited to sailing, power boating and enjoying personal watercraft. It’s the kind of lake where most lakefront properties have their own swim dock and boat landing facility, truly a residential North Country lake.

Walleye, largemouth bass and northern pike lead the list of desirable sport fishing targets, while yellow perch, rock bass, pumpkinseed, hybrid sunfish, bluegill and black crappie keep the still-fishing crowd (and kids) happy. Efforts are underway to reduce the high numbers of small northern pike in the lake so that more will grow to trophy size. The local lake association is hard at work eradicating invasive Eurasian milfoil so more suitable natural plants can provide even better fish spawning habitat. Fishing isn’t limited to the summer months, of course; ice fishing begins as soon as the ice is thick enough to support anglers and their pop-up shanties.

Several resorts around the lake have been in business for nearly 100 years. Generations of lakelubbers who don’t own property here come back to the same resort cabin every summer. Brainerd is only 15 miles away, making it a convenient commute. The area is well-supplied with conveniences, including country-store-type shops that have been in business in the area for many years and supply everything a cottager would want. Nearby, the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail System provides plentiful opportunities for hiking and cycling, with snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in winter. Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area holds the remnants of the historic Cuyuna Iron Range mines that populated the area and caused lakes such as Bay Lake to become resort destinations. Closer to Bay Lake, the Cuyogqa Lakes Trail Association has provided biking trails leading to scenic look-outs around the lake. Two state parks on Mille Lacs Lake provide recreation on the big popular walleye lake, while Crow Wing State Park at the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers offers historical interpretive exhibits of old Crow Wing – one of northern Minnesota’s largest towns in 1850. Add the casino near Mille Lacs Lake, golf courses, shopping, movies, museums and restaurants all within a short distance,and you find that there is never a shortage of places to go and sights to see in the Bay Lake area.

Bay Lake’s modern history began with the discovery of iron ore in the nearby Cuyuga area. Railroads necessary for transporting the ore opened up the then-wilderness area to travelers from far afield who arrived by ship in Duluth. The visitors soon discovered Bay Lake and other area lakes to be ideal places to spend the hot summer months. Resorts were soon built and cottage communities grew along the shore. Many families can trace their ownership of lakefront property here back at least as far as the Depression. There is sometimes real estate for sale – usually existing homes. Very little lakefront property is still available for development. Some private homes are available for summer rental, and the resorts are often open year-round to serve the hunting and winter sports crowd. Many real estate buyers begin their adventures at Bay Lake with a stay at a local vacation rental and decide to make their residency permanent. So, bring the fishing gear, the kids and the sun screen to Bay Lake for a week’s visit. You may soon decide to check those real estate ads and make Bay Lake home!

Things to do at Bay Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Shopping
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Bay Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Bay Lake Photo Gallery

Bay Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 2,394 acres

Shoreline Length: 19 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,261 feet

Average Depth: 22 feet

Maximum Depth: 74 feet

Water Residence Time: 4-7 years

Drainage Area: 23 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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