Cut Foot Sioux Lakes, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northeast -

Also known as:  Big Cut Foot Sioux Lake, Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake

Few people have heard of the Northeast Minnesota destination of Cut Foot Sioux Lakes. Connected to neighboring Lake Winnibigoshish, the Cut Foot Sioux Lakes share in all of the fun and attract less of a crowd than their larger neighbor. This makes the lakes an ideal place for a vacation filled with fun, sun, fishing and solitude. Big Cut Foot Sioux is connected to Little Cut Foot Sioux by an easily navigated channel called Williams Narrows. The Narrows is one of several features of the large, joined lakes that meander into bays, channels and backwaters. Numerous points jutting into the lake form hidden coves of quiet water. Over 100 miles of shoreline are perfect for exploring the watery margins of Chippewa National Forest. This is the stuff vacation dreams are made of-for both fishermen and paddle sports fans.

Cut Foot Sioux Lakes was a resort destination before higher water levels joined it to Lake Winnibigoshish. The area was home to a tribe of Ojibway Native Americans until their village was flooded by the dam built in 1884. The lakes gained their unusual name from a battle that occurred here between two warring Native American tribes about 1750 AD. While being pursued by the currently victorious Ojibwa, the fleeing Sioux warriors paused temporarily on one of the small islands that used to exist at the ‘First River’ outlet to Lake Winnibigoshish. Curious, the Ojibwa went to the island when the Sioux left and found there a dead Sioux warrior with shortened feet that had apparently been severely damaged by frostbite sometime in the past. In retelling of the battle, he was called the cut-foot Sioux. The name stuck-and is forever attached to both the battle and the lake.

A natural lake, the surface area has been enlarged by the Lake Winnie Dam trapping Mississippi River water to stabilize the flow of the river for navigation. Today, a wide passage allows free access to Lake Winnibigoshish. Fur traders and loggers found the area highly attractive even before the dam enlarged the lakes. Walleye fishing was found to be superb, and fishing resorts soon followed. Some of the several resorts still doing business on the lakes have been in operation for nearly a hundred years. Many downstate families have rented a cabin or camped along the shores for multiple generations. There are few private homes at the water’s edge, and the area is fully enveloped by the Chippewa National Forest.

The US Forest Service provides three campgrounds for eager visitors. Most standard amenities are provided, and reservations may be necessary. Most have boat ramps, fishing docks and swimming beaches. Primitive campsites are offered along Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake and are often used by kayak and canoe campers. Because much of the shoreline is wetland, long stretches of the irregular lakefront hold stunning views of nature. All of the animals and bird life that inhabit the Chippewa National Forest may be seen near the lake and along the many miles of hiking trails that meander through the heavily-wooded area. Loons, osprey, herons, pelicans, ducks and geese are often seen on the water. Songbirds are numerous along the wooded shoreline. And deer, black bear, moose, wolves, small mammals and woodland rodents all live in the surrounding woods. The area holds one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the Midwest, which are often seen fishing in the lakes. Chippewa National Forest is considered prime hunting area for grouse, allowed in some areas with proper license.

The 25-mile Cut Foot Sioux National Recreational Area Trail can be accessed directly from the Deer Lake Campground on Little Cut Foot. This and other trails provide many miles for hiking, mountain biking and bird watching. There is an equestrian camp nearby with facilities to accommodate horses with miles of riding paths. Certain areas are open to snowmobiles, and cross-country skiers frequent the trails near the campgrounds. Several privately-owned resort camps and lodges await guests on the shores of Big Cut Foot Sioux.

The resorts are suited for family fun, with a variety of cabins and cottages, motel-style rooms and large lodges located near the water’s edge. Some of the resorts have marina facilities which rent fishing boats and motors, pontoons, canoes, kayaks and water sports equipment. Most allow private boat launching from their facilities, but charge a fee for those who are not resort guests. Six public boat launches on the 2800-acre Big Cut Foot Sioux Lake provide plenty of access. All boats must be legally registered. Water skiing is permitted, as are most water sports. All of Lake Winnibigoshish’s attractions, including a water park and an amusement park, are only a boat ride away.

Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake is appreciably smaller (619 acres) but stretches out into several lobes of water most suitable for fishing. This smaller lake is the site of walleye egg harvesting by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) each spring. The eggs are transferred to a nearby state hatchery, and the young fry are used to stock surrounding lakes, with a portion returned to the Cut Foot Sioux chain. The spring walleye run is a magnet for walleye fishermen who arrive each year to try their angling luck. Spring and early fall are best for walleye, but other seasons all have their fans for other species. The lakes hold crappie, bluegill, sunfish, cisco, jumbo perch, northern pike and many large muskies. The perch are usually the target of ice fishermen; several resorts stay open to cater to winter sports fans. Because of the lakes’ importance as a walleye collection point, special fishing regulations are often put in place. Special rules will be provided wherever fishing licenses are sold. Guides can also be engaged to help newcomers find the best fishing holes and catch a trophy fish their first trip to Cut Foot Sioux Lakes.

Off-water attractions are located nearby. A casino offers gaming at the nearby town of Deer Lake. Grand Rapids is 35 miles to the south and is close enough for a round of golf, a visit to one of the arts centers or the many historical and educational venues in the area. The last three weekends in July, the Mississippi Melodie Showboat performs dockside with a show reminiscent of the days of floating entertainment. The Forest History Center is a living history logging camp with exhibits on forestry and its past and current practices. The Children’s Discovery Museum provides hours of fun on a rainy day with science experiments, art projects and just plain fun. And Judy Garland fans won’t want to miss the Judy Garland Birthplace Historic House and Museum. The White Oak Fur Post interprets the fur trade era in yet another ‘living history’ setting. And the City of Grand Rapids has all kinds of lodgings, including hotels, motels and bed & breakfast establishments, along with shopping and plenty of restaurants.

So whether it’s muskie or moose, walleye or wolves, there is something to hold every family member’s interest at Cut Foot Sioux Lakes. You can be there in less than four hours from the Twin Cities.

*Statistics are for Big Cut Foot Sioux Lake.

Things to do at Cut Foot Sioux Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Amusement Park
  • Shopping
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Cut Foot Sioux Lakes

  • Bluegill
  • Cisco
  • Crappie
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Cut Foot Sioux Lakes Photo Gallery

Cut Foot Sioux Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 2,808 acres

Shoreline Length: 100 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,297 feet

Maximum Depth: 78 feet

Completion Year: 1884

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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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