Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northeast -

Gunflint Lake holds a special spot in the hearts of outdoors fans in Minnesota’s Northeastern Region. Almost 30 miles northwest of Grand Marais ‘as the crow flies’, Gunflint Lake calls out ‘Northwoods Adventure’ loud and clear. This large lake forms part of the boundary between the United States and Canada and is connected to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area’s Magnetic Lake entry point by a narrow channel (Note: those entering Canada this way must obtain a Remote Area Border Crossing permit in advance).

Much of the southern lakeshore is within the Superior National Forest, while the northern Canadian shoreline is public lands. This isn’t the usual northern resort lake, and there are few private residences along the lakeshore. The lake is hardly deserted, however; a strong, long-term community of tourism-related services share the area along the southwestern edge. They are a part of an entire 57-mile group of small businesses serving adventurers who drive, hike and bike along one of Minnesota’s Scenic Byways, the Gunflint Trail.

Gunflint Lake stretches across over 4,000 acres and has a depth of up to 200 feet. A few swimming beaches are available along the shoreline in spots where a shoreline ledge has provided shallows. Most of these are only accessible to hikers, unless they are guests of one of the resort properties at the south and west sides. More visitors hike around the lake and fish the deep waters. The big lake holds sizable numbers of walleye, lake trout, smallmouth bass, yellow perch and northern pike. A public access boat launch is operated by the U.S.Forest Service. Outfitters along the shore are ready to arrange fishing trip packages to direct anglers to the best spots among the underwater ledges. Many of the lakes in the area are no-motors lakes, but Gunflint Lake allows motorized craft. Fishing boats and pontoons can be rented from the largest lodge at the lake. Because the border passes through the middle of the lake, fishing licenses for both Minnesota and Canada are required. Ice fishing for lake trout is a special treat, and the camps are open year-round to accommodate winter fishermen and snow sportsmen. A sea-plane base at the lake serves to bring in guests by air much of the year. Other visitors drive the scenic Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais.

The area around Gunflint Lake is rich in wildlife, and one of the resort camps specializes in nature hikes, berry-picking excursions and moose viewing. There are many moose in the area, and visitors are more likely to see moose in the wild here than most other places in Minnesota. Outfitters take guests on canoe and kayak trips, overnight camping treks, and to the hidden spots where they can take the best photographs. Gunflint Lake connects to several other lakes, and the passages are usually accessible by canoe with short portages. One of the camps rents camping spaces and cabins where reservations are usually necessary due to their popularity. Another operates a small general store, the only nearby convenience store. Lake businesses provide services and amenities, so few visitors will find it necessary to drive the 45 miles to Grand Marais once they arrive.

Lodgings at Gunflint Lake range from rustic to ‘northwoods elegant’. There are rental cottages available that sleep six with hot tubs on the decks. These facilities have become a favorite for corporate retreats and weddings. The lodge has developed wedding planning into a fine art, and several cottages are reserved for honeymooners. Amenities offered at these resorts range from on-site riding stables to zip lining among the tall pines. Outfitters lead hikes to nearby waterfalls or act as guides for multi-day canoeing treks among the many lakes. Mountain biking and nature observing on the many old logging trails in the area are favorite pastimes, particularly in spring and early summer when wildflowers bloom.

The lake is home a wide variety of waterfowl, including loons, herons and various ducks. Bald Eagles often soar above the lake, fishing. In winter, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling and sleigh rides are popular. Equipment for all of them can be rented at the lake. Lodges make it a point of pride to offer children’s educational activities, discussions on local history and informative talks about the ecology of the region.

The Gunflint Trail is more than just great scenery. The entire trail covers over 50 miles and is accessible by car. Every few miles feature the trailhead of yet another hiking trail to view lakes, waterfalls and overlooks. Also along the trail are hotels, motels guest cottages, and plenty of places to stop for a meal. Multiple places to access the Boundary Waters Canoe Area are along the Trail, which ends in a loop around a historic campground and waterfall just beyond Sea Gull Lake. Much of the trail parallels the old voyageur water route of long-ago fur trappers. Although now a good paved road, the original trail was completed over many years around 1900. Some parts were private ‘toll roads’ built by property owners across their own land. The Civilian Conservation Corps worked on the trail during the Depression.

The Gunflint Trail even has its own historical society dedicated to preserving the rich history of mining, logging and settlement in the area. Operating out of a 1930’s resort lodge, the building that the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center occupies is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unusual rocks found in the area of Gunflint Lake-and even used in building one lodge fireplace-were determined to be remnants of the explosion of the super-meteor that formed the Sudbury Basin over two billion years ago. The Basin is over 150 miles to the east, giving some indication of the power of the explosion.

Visiting Gunflint Lake is an adventure waiting to happen. The resorts and camps are mostly family-friendly and have thought of everything to make your visit rewarding and complete. A few private homes in the area may rent their properties from time to time, and real estate can be found on the limited amount of non-public land in the area. This is one wilderness area where you can count on finding a comfy bed in a modernized motel, camp or hotel-or a primitive campsite far from human habitation. Plan your visit and make reservations before summer fills up most of the resorts.

Things to do at Gunflint Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Museum

Fish species found at Gunflint Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Gunflint Lake Photo Gallery

Gunflint Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 4,009 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,533 feet

Maximum Depth: 200 feet

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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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