Green Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Central -

Minnesota’s moniker is the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes,’ and 5,560-acre Green Lake became known as the ‘Gem of 10,000 Lakes’ during its development in the early 1900s. This glacial lake, with a shoreline ringed with hardwoods, wild grapes and chokecherries, was so pure that the Great Northern Railroad used its ice for water in its dining cars.

Although the railroad through west-central Minnesota was built to transport wheat and other grains to eastern mills, it was also largely responsible for developing Green Lake into a tourist destination throughout the Midwest. Tourists wanting to escape the summer heat in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sioux Falls, St. Louis, and Omaha took excursions trains to Green Lake’s clear, refreshing waters. These were the days when milk, fresh eggs, groceries, home-baked breads and sweet corn were delivered right to the doors of lake residents. Lazy summer days were spent swimming, tubing, row-boating, and fishing; nights were spent reading by kerosene lamps, listening to the loons, gazing at the constellations, or watching heat lightning zigzag across the sky.

Lakeside cottages and large resorts hotels were built along Green Lake’s shoreline during the early 20th century. However, the Great Depression and the drought of the 1930s took its toll on the large resorts, with most closing their doors by the end of the decade. Green Lake’s cottage-building boom occurred after World War II. Electricity became available in Kandiyohi County in 1939, extending to Green Lake over the next 10 to 15 years. Many of these cottages remain with their original owners’ families, passed down through generations. Today, Green Lake’s shoreline is fully developed with a mixture of cottages, luxury homes, and condominiums. The wild grapes and chokecherries have given way to docks and boathouses. Sailboats share the lake with speedboats zipping around the lake.

Green Lake is located less than 100 miles west of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Kandiyohi County. The town of Spicer, on the lake’s southwest shore, is named after developer John Spicer who founded the town. Spicer also built lakeside ‘Spicer Castle’ in 1895, which is still in the family today as a bed-and-breakfast. The town of New London is five miles north of Spicer, and Willmar, the county seat, is 10 miles southwest of town. Covering about 5,560 acres, Green Lake is the largest of 15 lakes within a 10-mile radius of Spicer. New London brags that it has access to “17 lakes in 15 minutes.” Retreating glaciers during the Ice Age created these abundant natural resources.

The Dakota Sioux named the lake ‘Mdeto” for its distinctive blue-green color. ‘Mde’ is the Dakota word for lake, and ‘to’ refers to various shades of blue-green. Pronounced Me-day-to, the Dakota heritage lives on in names such as Medayto Beach and Medayto Cottage. Green Lake is about 90 percent spring-fed. Various inlets also flow into Green Lake; the largest inlet is Ye Olde Mill Inn Dam on the north shore at the outlet of Nest Lake. Water exits Green Lake from an outlet on the east shore into Lake Calhoun. These three lakes are part of the Middle Fork of the Crow River Watershed.

Green Lake’s sandy bottom makes it a great swimming lake. The sand often has a reddish-purple hue due to carnelian indigenous to the area, leading some early settlers to call the lake “Lake Carnelian.” Carnelian is a type of quartz that has a milky or waxy appearance, ranging in color from peach to vivid orange to deep brownish red. Today, lucky explorers still find pieces of carnelian along the shoreline. Even rarer are relics from Native American tribes that inhabited the Green Lake area for thousands of years before the white settlers. The east shore of Green Lake is the site of one of the largest Indian Mound complexes in Minnesota. Only five of the 69 known mounds remain in the vicinity of a marker, barely visible now from natural erosion, construction, and cultivation.

Green Lake visitors can launch their boats from six public access sites. Anglers without a boat can test their skill at the shore fishing site located at the eastern shore outlet. Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) manages Green Lake primarily for walleye and secondarily for northern pike, yellow perch, tullibee (cisco), smallmouth bass, and bluegill. Kandiyohi County manages two parks on Green Lake. County Park 4 is located on the southern shore in Spicer and provides a swimming beach, shady picnic area, changing rooms, and sanitary facilities. Boat access is adjacent to the park. County Park 5 is located on the northeastern shore and provides 50+ paved camping sites with electricity and fishing guide services.

Take time to appreciate Green Lake’s wildlife. Listen for the haunting calls of loons and owls and the melodious songs of orioles and wrens. Watch great blue herons patiently stalking their next meal and the aerial grace of swallows and purple martins. Ducks, geese, and swans continue their annual migrations to and from Green Lake. Don’t miss summertime performances of the Little Crow Ski Team which has garnered regional and national championships. Stunts include tiered pyramid skiing, barefoot skiing, swivel skiing, and ramp jumping. And when winter’s chill arrives, winter sports take center stage. Kandiyohi County provides about 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Strap on some cross-country skis or snowshoes and set out on fresh blankets of snow. Local farms offer horse-drawn sleigh rides. Spicer’s Winter Fest runs from January through mid-February, featuring vintage snowmobile races, ice sculptures, a radar run and polar bear plunge.

Although modern amenities have replaced Green Lake’s rustic charm, it remains the ‘Jewel of West-Central Minnesota.’ Vacation rentals, homes and cabins, are available for your visit, so start planning your next vacation. And if you find it hard to leave, check out real estate for sale. Today’s Green Lake population is a mixture of part-time and full-time residents.

Things to do at Green Lake MN

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Green Lake MN

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Cisco
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Green Lake MN Photo Gallery

  • some relaxing would be nice.... but it's not in my future...

Green Lake MN Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 5,560 acres

Shoreline Length: 13 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,154 feet

Average Depth: 48 feet

Maximum Depth: 110 feet

Water Residence Time: 4 years

Lake Area-Population: 1,200

Drainage Area: 130 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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