Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Central -

Also known as:  Blackhoof Lake, Mahnomen Lake, Little Mahnomen Lake, Pascoe Lake, June Lake, Portage Lake, Serpent Lake, Sagamore Mine Lake, Huntington Mine Lake, Pennington Mine Lake, Portsmouth Mine Lake, Mahnomen Mine Lakes #1 and #2 and other small lakes

Little known but extra special are the many lakes within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in central Minnesota. Nature lovers and recreational activity fans, particularly those who enjoy mountain biking, are hearing more and more about this group of lakes and their beautiful scenic setting. One of the 5000-acre Recreation Area’s major features is the 25 miles of world-class, IMBA certified mountain bike trails. Located 15 miles northeast of Brainerd, the mountain bike trails weave in among the over 20 Cuyuna Lakes, the ridges of the Cuyuna Iron Range, and past several scenic overlooks in a wilderness setting. Unless visitors check the history of the lakes and the area, they would not be aware that most of these lakes are abandoned iron mines filled with crystal-clear water.

Natural lakes are prevalent in this area of glacial pothole lakes near the Upper Mississippi River. Blackhoof Lake, Mahnomen Lake, Little Mahnomen Lake, Pascoe Lake, June Lake, Portage Lake and nearby Serpent Lake are all natural lakes, some of considerable size. Sagamore Mine Lake, Huntington Mine Lake, Pennington Mine Lake, Portsmouth Mine Lake, Armour #2 Mine Lake, Yawkey Mine Lake, Manuel Mine Lake, Mahnomen Mine Lakes #1 and #2, Hopkins Mine Lake, Louise Mine Lake, Arco Mine Lake, Mangan Mine Lake, Joan Mine Lake, Moroco Mine Lake, Virginia Mine Lake and Alstead Mine Lake are all relatively new additions to the landscape, created when the local iron mining industry collapsed around 1960. Together, they have produced over 25 miles of scenic shoreline supplied by many trails. Officially, there are six natural lakes and 16 mine lakes, but several other lakes are partially within the recreation area’s borders, bringing the total to more than 22 lakes.

After mining ended, the Cuyuna Lakes area was allowed to produce natural regrowth forests, and the remaining mine pits soon filled with water up to 525 feet deep. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources designated several of them trout lakes and stocked them with rainbow trout and brook trout. Wildlife, including nesting bald eagles, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, raccoon, red fox, coyote, mink, muskrat and beaver all inhabit the recreation area. Great blue heron, kingfishers, loons, turkey vultures, ruffed grouse, and red-tailed hawks live here. The waters are a refuge for many waterfowl species including redhead ducks, northern shoveler ducks, mallard ducks, ring-necked ducks, blue and green-winged teal, wood duck, several types of mergansers, snow geese, Canada geese and white-fronted geese. It is truly a natural paradise, much of which is the result of human utilization of natural resources coupled with the recovery processes evoked by nature.

Fishermen can enjoy angling for bass, crappie or sunfish. Some lakes hold walleye and northern pike. Those who enjoy fly fishing will find the rainbow and brook trout eager and plentiful. A trout stamp is required, along with the usual Minnesota fishing license. Several of the lakes have shoreline fishing spots, and the larger lakes have concrete boat ramps. Other areas are suitable for carried boats only. Boaters are limited to a 10 mile-per-hour speed limit, keeping the lakes placid enough to be enjoyed by those with canoes and kayaks. A channel between Mahnomen Mine Lake #1 and Pennington Mine Lake opens up 267 acres of continuous water surface, including six mine lakes for pleasurable paddling and fishing. Bird watching by canoe is a favorite pastime during the summer months, with a short hike from the lakeshore to one of several look-out points a special treat.

One small campground is located on Portsmouth Mine Lake with limited amenities; 18 campsites have electricity while another seven do not. Reservations are accepted only for group camping. Minnesota State Park passes are required within the recreation area, and camping fees are reasonable. There is no designated swimming area; mine pit lakes are usually considered too dangerous for swimming, as the walls of the former pits are often nearly vertical with little or no shallow water. Other campgrounds can be found on nearby natural lakes outside of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area which offer safe swimming beaches. The recreation area abuts sections of the Crow Wing State Forest on the north, opening up even more area for recreation. The mine pit lakes are favorites among scuba divers; historic remnants of the mining industry remain beneath hundreds of feet of clear water and include railroads, mining machinery and building foundations.

The mountain bike trails are among a number of trail systems developed within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. A paved, nearly seven-mile trail winds along the shore of several lakes and is suitable for walking or beginner cycling. In winter, some of these are groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while a main snowmobile trail crosses the area to connect with other central Minnesota trails. The BMX-certified trails are divided into easy, intermediate and difficult trails, some of which are considered extremely difficult for experienced riders only. The trails have marked GPS locations and access for emergency vehicles in case of accident. Over 30 geocache locations are found within the recreation area.

The growing popularity of the mountain bike trails has generated a Mountain Bike Festival in June at nearby Crosby Memorial Park on the shore of Serpent Lake. The full weekend festival features the Trailblazer Bike’s Cross Country Mountain Bike Race with beginner, sport and advanced divisions, an Easy Rider Bike’s $250 Poker Ride, children’s bike races, live music, spaghetti dinner, Fantasy Factory BMX Show, rock climbing wall and a variety of entertaining activities focusing on mountain biking. Proceeds go to groups involved in developing the sport of mountain biking in the area and maintenance of the trails.

Cuyuna Lakes gain their title from the Cuyuna Iron Range, in turn named for the man who first discovered iron ore here. The name is a contraction of Cuyker Adams and his St. Bernard dog, Una. Several small cities and towns in the area share their pride in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Crosby, Ironton and Deerwood all hug the shoreline of Serpent Lake, and all work hard to make visitors’ stay here enjoyable. A Tourist Information Center at Deerwood is open May to September. Numerous campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts, motels, hotels, resorts and guest cottages offer a variety of lodgings to vacationers. Restaurants, artists’ shops and eclectic shopping join several annual festivals, historical points of interest and beautiful scenery to make any visit complete.

One not-to-be-missed attraction is the Croft Mine Historical Park just outside Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. This historic mine closed in 1936 and is now offering guided simulated underground mining tours. The on-site museum has mining artifacts of interest to history buffs. The nearby upper reaches of the Mississippi River are good for canoeing. A number of entertainment venues, including a nearby casino, golf course and local sports teams mean there is always something for every family member to do. Real estate can even be found for sale locally, sometimes with lake frontage on nearby lakes. Only two hours from the Twin Cities area, Cuyuna Lakes area is the ideal spot for the annual vacation, a winter ski-cation, or even a year-round home.

* Few statistics are available for most of the lakes. Those listed are Mahnomen Lake, one of the natural lakes.

Things to do at Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • State Forest
  • Museum
  • Shopping
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

  • Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Photo Gallery

Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Statistics & Helpful Links

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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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