Lake Shetek, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Southern -

Located near the southwestern corner of the state, Lake Shetek is one of the best known of Minnesota Southern Region Lakes. Shetek means pelican in the Ojibway language; indeed, lakes named for some variation of the word are found across the migratory flyway of these majestic birds. One of a group of prairie pothole lakes, Lake Shetek figures prominently in early Minnesota history. The area was certainly home to many members of the various tribes of Native Americans inhabiting the prairie before the advent of white settlers. White settlement here was likely the result of a hoax in the effort to attain statehood-sized population numbers for Minnesota; settlers arrived to find the village of Shetek did not exist except as a fictitious population center on paper. The hardy pioneers decided to stay anyway and built their cabins just east of the lake. The Dakota Uprising of 1862, which occurred because of government failure to provide promised food for local tribes, caused the settlement to come under surprise attack. Some were killed, others taken prisoner. The resultant military action to quell the widespread attacks drove the majority of Dakota out of Minnesota forever. A monument to the lives lost stands at the entrance to the Lake Shetek State Park on the eastern shore.

Lake Shetek is generally considered the headwaters basin for the Des Moines River. However, the river does not start at Lake Shetek but nearly 30 miles to the northeast where it flows out of Long Lake to what is known as the Lake Shetek Inlet. In fact, Lake Shetek is connected to several small lakes around its perimeter, including Bloody Lake, Armstrong Slough, Webster Slough, Park Lake, Smith Lake and Fremont Lake. Two of these lakes were dug by WPA workers as rearing ponds for state fisheries in the 1930s. Others are more accurately termed flooded marsh lands. Lake Shetek itself is only 10 feet deep at it’s deepest spot and sports several islands – now all connected to the main shore by causeways. Downstream, a small dam originally built by early settlers to the area for milling purposes has been repaired and is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. The dam does little except regulate water levels; during the 1993 flooding of the Des Moines River, water from downstream backed up and over-topped the dam releasing channel catfish into Lake Shetek for the first time.

Lake Shetek State Park on the east shore also holds early Minnesota history. During the Great Depression, the US Government brought 200 homeless and transient men to Lake Shetek to build one of the earliest state parks in the Minnesota system. Originally planned as a future group camp for the underprivileged, the original WPA buildings present an excellent example of rustic-style split stone architecture and are some of the finest in Minnesota. Some of the group buildings are still in use by the State park system; others were eventually sold, along with the land and function as a church camp. The causeways built at that time are still in use. The State Park has expanded the historical exhibits to include several cabins from the time of the original settlers. Facilities for boat launch, swimming, wildlife viewing, birding and fishing docks have been constructed for the enjoyment of park visitors. Canoes are available for rent at the park. Loon Island, a 45-acre bird sanctuary, is accessible on foot via a causeway and includes an interpretive trail. Camping facilities are available also.

The area within and around the park is supplied with many trails for hiking and cycling, Some allow horseback riding. One popular trail meanders along the Des Moines River past the dam to the Village of Currie where an historic railroading museum has been developed, complete with engine turn style, old engines, depot and exhibits of early railroad history in the area. This portion of the Casey Jones Trail is not available for horseback riding, unfortunately.

Fishing is always popular at Lake Shetek. Although the original stocking ponds at the park are no longer in use, except as small fishing ponds, the Minnesota DNR regularly stocks the most popular gamefish. A mechanical aeration system was installed in the northern portion of the lake in the winter of 1974-75. Murray County keeps the system in operation during winter months in order to keep oxygen levels at a high enough rate to avoid winter-kill. Walleyes, northern pike, bullheads, bluegill, perch and crappies are among the more popular fish at Lake Shetek and ice fishing season nearly as popular as summer boat fishing.

The lake is popular for all types of water sports, with water skiing, sailing, pontooning, tubing, kayaking and personal water craft sharing the lake on sunny summer week-ends. Lake Shetek has been a popular vacation destination for nearly a century and much of the shoreline is dotted with summer cottages and year-round homes. Several resorts have operated along the shoreline form many years and repeat visitors often reserve their favorite vacation rentals a year in advance. The shallow waters and sandy beaches make Lake Shetek a favorite vacation destination among those with children: they will find miles of trails and quiet roads here upon which to ride their bicycles and skateboard. Murray County hosts 78 Wildlife Management Areas, some within sight of Lake Shetek. Here can be found white-tailed deer, pheasant, ducks and geese, Hungarian partridge, crow, squirrels, rabbits, raccoon, fox and coyotes. The State DNR provides a down-loadable booklet as a bird-watching checklist for the convenience of birders.

Hunters often arrive during the fall to find lodgings for deer season or the pheasant hunt. The many trails provide winter fun for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Lake Shetek guarantees four seasons of sport and fun for the visitor.

The small village of The Lakes at the north end of the lake provides such necessities as groceries and gas. Several restaurants and drinking establishments around the lake assure the lonely hunter or fisherman can find a warm fire and new friends in the evening. The town of Currie is only six miles away, with more shops and regularly scheduled festivals and events to delight visitors. Eight miles to the south of Lake Shetek, the county seat of Slayton has a small racetrack where stock car races are held weekly. Other events are always going on for the first-time visitor to discover.

Real estate listing show a variety of properties available in the area, from lakefront cottages to small farms. Vacation rentals and lodgings are plentiful but reservations are recommended in advance of popular holiday week-ends. Every possible type of vacation lodging is found in the area, from bed-and-breakfast establishments to privately-owned vacation homes. At 170 miles from Minneapolis-St Paul and 270 miles from Des Moines, the area is at the perfect distance to make a week-end get-away as feasible as a week-long break. Lake Shetek is waiting for your visit. Come soon!

Things to do at Lake Shetek

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Shetek

  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Lake Shetek Photo Gallery

Lake Shetek Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 3,598 acres

Shoreline Length: 32 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,482 feet

Average Depth: 3 feet

Maximum Depth: 10 feet

Water Residence Time: 55 yrs

Drainage Area: 134 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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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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