Big Birch Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Central -

Big Birch Lake lies at the heart of Minnesota. With sparkling water spread across Todd and Stearns County lines, Big Birch Lake is at the geographic center of the “land of 10,000 lakes.” Stearns County, located in Minnesota’s Central tourism region, is also the “home” of Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Located just off Highway 94, Big Birch Lake is a pleasant 100-mile drive northwest of the Twin Cities.

Big Birch Lake was created by glacial movement during the Wisconsin Ice Age, approximately 35,000 years ago. The Plains Indians — Ojibwe, Sioux, Chippewa and Dakota — lived on this land for centuries. The Native American name given to Big Birch Lake translated to the “Place of Little Birches.” Traces of an ancient fort were discovered along the shores of Big Birch Lake in the mid-19th century; during this time the lake went through several name changes including: Birch Bark Fort Lake, Fort Lake, Birch Lake and finally Big Birch Lake.

Big Birch Lake is formed from two basins separated by a rocky sandbar. Once rising above the surface, rocks have been removed from the sandbar to accommodate boating. At 1,362 acres, the lower (main) basin is almost twice the size and volume of the upper (northeast) basin. Big Birch Lake is fed by Fish Creek, Calahan Creek and Bass Creek, among other small streams generally found in the upper basin. Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources controls an outlet dam located along the western shore. This outlet was originally constructed during the Great Depression. A permanent replacement dam, built in 1973, controls Big Birch Lake water levels by draining water into adjacent Little Birch Lake.

Fishing has long been an attraction to Big Birch Lake. With a maximum depth of 81 feet in the lower basin and total surface area of 2,112 acres, Big Birch Lake’s expansive surface remains a welcome sight to fishermen. Several boat ramps provide public access to Big Birch Lake. Two concrete ramps, as well as parking for 20 trailers, lie on the northwest shore on Angler Drive. A third unpaved ramp is located on the north end of Big Birch Lake on County Road 2. Fish species found in Big Birch Lake include walleye measuring up to 30 inches, two-pound northern pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass between 11 and 14 inches, bluegills up to 10 inches, crappie up to 15 inches, pumpkinseeds, hybrid sunfish, bowfin, common carp, shorthead redhorse and yellow bullheads.

Additional access to Big Birch Lake can be found on the eastern shore in the community of Grey Eagle. Big Birch Lake Park is located on 102nd Street. The park’s family-friendly amenities include a picnic area, swimming area, dock, beach and lawn areas and bath house. On the southwest side of the lake, Birch Lakes State Forest offers 200 yards of shoreline that attracts swimmers and picnickers. Campers may choose from 24 drive-in campsites, five walk-in campsites or a primitive group campsite. A hiking trail through the 637-acre forest provides wildlife viewing in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter.

If you choose to leave the tranquility of Big Birch Lake, you can enjoy golfing at area courses, mountain biking at 643-acre Quarry Park, hiking the Lake Wobegon Trail, touring Sauk Centre, the boyhood home of Sinclair Lewis and setting for his novel, “Main Street,” or shopping in downtown St. Cloud, 50 miles to the southeast.

Winters can be long in central Minnesota, so when the snow falls and Big Birch Lake freezes over, it’s time for winter sports and attractions. Snowmobiling tops the list, followed by ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter festivals.

The majority of shoreline development lies at the southern end of Big Birch Lake. Over 425 residences have been built with approximately two-thirds being seasonal cottages and homes. Whether you select a vacation rental or purchase real estate property, Big Birch Lake and the heartland of Minnesota will lure you back again and again. After the summer clouds stop rolling across the prairie, hike through the woodland’s blaze of fall color. Then watch winter settle into the landscape. Now is the time to sit by the fire, listen to the soft, fragile silence after a snowfall and plan for the coming of spring and a new season on Big Birch Lake.

Things to do at Big Birch Lake

  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Big Birch Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Bowfin
  • Carp
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Redhorse
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Big Birch Lake Photo Gallery

    Big Birch Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

    Surface Area: 2,112 acres

    Shoreline Length: 13 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,185 feet

    Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

    Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,186 feet

    Average Depth: 28 feet

    Maximum Depth: 81 feet

    Water Volume: 57,900 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1937

    Drainage Area: 15 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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