Leech Lake, Minnesota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Minnesota - Northwest -

With over 120,000 acres of water and 316 miles of shoreline, Leech Lake is the third largest lake located entirely in Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. Leech Lake is nestled in the Northwest Region of Minnesota in Cass County with most of its boundaries in the Chippewa National Forest and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Not only is Leech Lake a nationally recognized game fish lake, it is also a recreational paradise. There is so much to do at Leech Lake that visitors will want to come time and time again.

It is believed that over thousands of years ago a melting glacier formed the basin of Leech Lake. In 1882 the US Army Corps of Engineers started the construction on Leech Lake Dam along the Leech Lake River. The Headwater Reservoir project was completed in 1884 causing the waters of Leech Lake to rise between four to seven feet, and connected several other natural lakes forming what is now Leech Lake. In the early 1900s the dam was renovated replacing the timber abutments with concrete. Lake visitors may enjoy visiting the Leech Lake Dam’s original tender’s house that was also built in the early 1900s. In 2002, the tender’s house was relocated to a site just south of the recreation area.

Leech Lake is a great place to unwind and relax. Lakefront vacation rentals are abundant on Leech Lake as well as real estate for sale for those who would rather own their own getaway or permanent residence. Camping is also possible on Leech Lake and can be found at the Leech Lake Campground operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bordered by the beautiful and serene Chippewa National Forest, camping visitors may have an opportunity to view wildlife and may even spot nesting Bald Eagles. The Leech Lake Campground offers electric, non- electric, and pull-through campsites as well as a dump station.

As a national game fish lake, Leech Lake is regularly stocked by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. There is an abundance of Northern Pike, Bass, Walleye, Perch, Crappies, Blue Gills and Panfish. Each year a Walleye Tournament is held at Leech Lake, and many eager anglers come from all over the country to participate. In an effort to protect the quality of walleye fishery, there is a voluntary catch and release program in effect.

Although fishing is a very popular pastime at Leech Lake, there are a host of other waterside activities awaiting lake visitors. When the leaves begin to turn their autumn hues, hunters will enjoy pursuing deer, duck and grouse. Water craft enthusiasts will enjoy the vast waters of Leech Lake, whether they choose waterskiing, sailing, or boating. The Leech Lake Sailing Regatta is held every August. For visitors who prefer a leisurely stroll or brisk hike will enjoy having the choice of two paved trail systems, the Heartland Trail and the Paul Bunyan Trail. These trails offer areas for biking, hiking, cycling, and in-line skating.

With Leech Lake being located in the colder northern climate of the United States, lake visitors will have ample opportunity for winter activities. With miles of trails offered by Heartland Trail and Paul Bunyan Trail systems, and the million+ acres of the Chippewa National Forest, there is ample space for snowmobiling as well as cross-country and downhill skiing. When Leech Lake freezes over, lake visitors can enjoy ice fishing.

The enormity and the woodland splendor of Leech Lake will invite lake visitors to unwind and soak in all the beauty around them. With all Leech Lake has to offer it is no wonder that visitors return time and time again. Leech Lake is a vacation destination that will not leave anyone disappointed.

Things to do at Leech Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Leech Lake

  • Bass
  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye

Leech Lake Photo Gallery

Leech Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 102,948 acres

Shoreline Length: 316 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,295 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,292 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,297 feet

Average Depth: 14 feet

Maximum Depth: 150 feet

Water Volume: 621,640 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1884

Drainage Area: 1,163 sq. miles

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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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