Deer Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northeast -

Also known as:  Lake of Changing Colors

Often called the “Lake of Changing Colors,” Deer Lake is a jewel in Minnesota’s northwoods country. Located northwest of Grand Rapids in south-central Itasca County, this Deer Lake is not to be confused with a smaller Deer Lake located in northern Itasca County. Part of Minnesota’s Northeast tourism region, Itasca County is home to over an astounding 1,000 lakes and acres of forest that lend themselves to a variety of outdoor activities.

For thousands of years, Deer Lake and Minnesota’s northwoods have been home to Chippewa, or Ojibwe, people. As early as the 1600s, rich, natural resources attracted explorers and fur traders to the lakes and rivers of northern Minnesota. During the 1800s, the lumber industry began to drastically alter forest landscapes from Michigan to Minnesota. By 1872, a logging camp was established off the northwest shore of Deer Lake. Area logging continued until 1902, when a preservation effort forced the creation of Chippewa National Forest, the country’s first congressionally mandated national forest. During the 1890s, railroads appeared and communities around Deer Lake began to grow. Today the lumber industry remains, harvesting and reforesting the landscape to preserve the region’s sensitive ecosystems.

The solitude of Minnesota’s deep woods and Deer Lake’s crystal-clear water have combined to create a unique setting where wildlife, scenery and visitors can intersect. Mineral content of Deer Lake turns the water into a prism of blue and green colors that stand in stunning contrast to the deep evergreen of surrounding forests. The clear water of this 4,032-acre lake is an impediment to daytime fishing. However, it does allow boaters a better view of the many rock hazards lying beneath the surface of Deer Lake.

Boaters, canoers and kayakers enjoy “island hopping.” The Lake of Changing Colors has 25 islands scattered throughout its five-mile length. Bear Island was purchased by the Deer Lake Association and Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources for a Wildlife Management Area. Here, birdwatchers may spy eagles perched among the white pines or loons, ducks, and geese nesting along the shore of this 25-acre island.

An additional Aquatic Management Area is found along Deer Lake’s Kocemba’s Bay. This area of marsh, rocks and bogs makes Deer Lake one of the few natural Muskie-spawning lakes in Minnesota. Additional fish species found in Deer Lake include northern pike, walleye, perch, bluegills, crappie and largemouth and smallmouth bass. After fishing, wildlife watchers can pack their gear and head into the trees for an opportunity to glimpse wolf, coyote, bobcat, lynx or fox that frequent the area.

Deer Lake’s sparkling water comes from rainwater, surface and underground springs. Deer River provides the outlet to the Lake of Changing Colors. Part of Dear Lake’s rich history can be found in the ruins of an old logging dam located near the current dam site along the northwestern shore. Constructed in 1938 and modified in 1983, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources manages Deer Lake’s dam, creating an average depth of 42 feet and maximum depth of 120 feet.

Deer Lake’s public access is limited to Comfort Cove near the southwestern shore. Here, weekend fishermen find a concrete boat ramp and parking for 15 trailers. For those who have the good fortune of an extended stay, the majority of Deer Lake’s shoreline is occupied by a few resorts and an estimated 400 cabins and homes.

Beyond Deer Lake, new scenery unfolds around every corner. Only five miles to the southwest, the community of Deer River lies at an entrance to Chippewa National Forest. This 666,542-acre forest contains over 400,000 acres of lakes and wetlands. Approximately three-fourths of the forest lies within Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The Ojibwe and US Forest Service work together to protect the fragile ecosystems unique to the forest while continuing to provide recreational activities. The Forest Service maintains “21 developed campgrounds, 160 miles of hiking trails, 315 miles of snowmobile trails, 280 dispersed camping sites” and opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding and snowmobiling.

When you need a touch of “urban life,” Grand Rapids and Deer River are less than 15 miles from Deer Lake. Take a break from cookouts and dine in local restaurants, enjoy a day of sightseeing and shopping, play a round of golf, or try your luck at the casinos run by Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Whether you stay for a weekend or a lifetime, it is the water that draws you to Deer Lake. Select your vacation rental or real estate property, then rest under the shade of the pines as you watch daylight dance across the blue water. Launch your canoe and ride the gentle waves to where eagles fly. Watch the sunset turn Deer Lake to liquid gold. Whether you visit or stay, experience Deer Lake — it’s all about the water.

Things to do at Deer Lake MN

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Ruins
  • Shopping
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Deer Lake MN

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Walleye

Deer Lake MN Photo Gallery

Deer Lake MN Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Surface Area: 4,032 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,309 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,308 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,309 feet

Average Depth: 42 feet

Maximum Depth: 120 feet

Water Volume: 168,811 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1938

Drainage Area: 36 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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